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Harlem of the West

A picture of the book Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era

Elizabeth Pepin (B.A., '94) and Lewis Watts trace the musical heyday of San Francisco's Fillmore District in "Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era" (Chronicle Books, '06). The collection of archival photos and oral histories sheds light on the Fillmore of the 1940s and '50s, when it was one of the few neighborhoods in the Bay Area where African Americans could both perform and seek out musical entertainment.

The book highlights the important musical contributions of the late bassist Vernon Alley (attended '39 - '40) and pianist Jerome Richardson (attended '40 - '41). SF State's other distinguished jazz greats of the era, saxophonist John Handy (seen at far left next to Pony Poindexter, John Coltrane and Frank Fisher), trombonist Wayne Wallace (attended '70 - '73) and trumpeter Allen Smith (B.A., '51), share memories of playing on Fillmore bandstands.

Handy started performing at the legendary club Bop City when he was still in high school: "For me, the music was everything," he offers, recalling how his intense focus during one gig led him to forget he had arrived with a date: "By the time I remembered, she had left ... needless to say, I never dated her again."

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