Friday, October 1, 2021
Contact: Nancy Bertossa
(415) 677-0328 or

San Francisco Performances Presents
PIVOT Festival 2021—7th Season
Ghost Stories
Theo Bleckmann. vocals

Wednesday, October 20, 2021 | 7:30pm | $65/$55/$45
Herbst Theatre

Shai Maestro, piano John Hollenbeck, drums
Chris Tordini, bass
Ben Monder, guitar

Program: Elegy

The performance will be followed by dialogue with artists moderated by KALW radio host and pianist Sarah Cahill.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA—October 1, 2021—Now in its seventh year, San Francisco Performances (SFP) presents PIVOT, created for adventurous audiences interested in unique arts experiences. The 2021 PIVOT Festival will present four programs over the span of October 20-24 at Herbst Theatre and Taube Atrium Theater beginning with singer/composer Theo Bleckmann on Wed, October 20, 7:30pm in Herbst Theatre. SF Performances presents Bleckmann for the second time. He made his SFP debut in January 2020 with the Telegraph Quartet and also performed as one of SFP’s Front Row online concert series in Spring 2021.

“More than anything, this collection of compositions, which was released on CD by ECM Records in 2017, is my meditation on death and transcendence. I chose to open that record with a slow and meditative arrangement of Com¬edy Tonight, a tribute to my mother, who had managed to retain her sense of great humor and acceptance through her 91 years on earth.

Throughout Elegy, I wanted to bring a certain atmosphere of transparency, without losing a sense of urgency in the music. A lot of this music is wordless for that reason. Words can only reach so far, but sound and the human voice can touch on places hidden underneath. A lot of the more ethereal sounds float over active and percolating backdrops provided by Shai Maestro (piano) and Chris Tordini (bass), as well as John Hollenbeck (drums) and Ben Monder (gui¬tar), both of whom are long-time collaborators of mine. The choice of musicians is always paramount in the music I make, as it requires a balance of outstanding musicianship along with flexibility and curiosity. Everyone in this group has a sound and universe all their own. Each of them is an accomplished composer, but they understand improvisation as deeply as they do compositional forms.

The title piece, Elegy, speaks to a yearning for those I have lost. At the same time, it’s a celebration of life’s circle, and it would not exist without everyone’s contribution in sound, texture, and harmony.

I was extremely moved by an ancient Chinese text by Chiao Jan called To Be Shown to Monks at a Certain Temple, which encourages the living to “keep on moving” as “it’s silly to be sad.” In fact, I think it’s silly to be sad over one’s own mortality. I think we are better off accepting the inevitability of what’s to come.

Take My Life was inspired by two Bach Cantatas (“Ich habe genug” BWV 82 and “Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen” BWV 56) which revel in a joyful anticipation of the afterlife. Here, I envision relinquishing my body parts, one by one, in order to transcend into a new dimension. What if the last moment on earth is not marred with pain, but with an ecstatic flash of bliss? Perhaps that’s a wishful fantasy, but if so, it’s a fantasy that I want to sing about. “ —Theo Bleckmann (NYC, 2021)

About Theo Bleckmann

A jazz singer and new music composer of eclectic tastes and prodigious gifts, Grammy® nominated Theo Bleckmann makes music that is accessibly sophisticated, unsentimentally emotional, and seriously playful, leading his work to be described as “from another planet” (New York Times), as “magical, futuristic,” (AllAboutJazz), “limitless” (Citypaper, Philadelphia) “transcendent” (Village Voice) and “brilliant” (New York Magazine).

Bleckmann, who has been residing in New York City since 1989, has released a series of gorgeous and irreverent albums, including his highly acclaimed Hello Earth—The Music of Kate Bush. In recent years, he has appeared as a special guest on recordings by Ambrose Akinmusire for Blue Note Records and Julia Hülsmann’s trio for ECM, and in 2017, ECM released Theo’s recording with his Elegy Quintet, produced by Manfred Eicher. In their album review of Elegy, the Wall Street Journal called Bleckmann “a jazz vocalist for the 21st Century.” His most recent release is This Land, a direct and unflinchingly socially conscious songs, written and recorded in collaboration with celebrated bass quartet The Westerlies.

Bleckmann has collaborated with musicians, artists, actors and composers, including Laurie Anderson, Uri Caine, Philip Glass, Ann Hamilton, Sheila Jordan, Frances McDormand, Ben Monder, Michael Tilson Thomas, Kenny Wheeler, John Zorn, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, and, most prominently, Meredith Monk, with whom Bleckmann worked as a core ensemble member for over 15 years. He has been interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air and appeared on the David Letterman Show with Laurie Anderson. In 2015, Bleckmann premiered his commission for the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, and 2016 brought the premieres of two new works to the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics.

Bleckmann has been a regular presence in “Best of…” polls, from DownBeat, Rhapsody, and WQXR. In 2010, Bleckmann received the prestigious JAZZ ECHO award in his native Germany, and in 2019 was voted Jazz Vocalist of the Year in the El Intruso Jazz Poll in Argentina.

About Shai Maestro

Since his debut with his own trio in 2011, Shai Maestro has shaped a strong and unique personal identity and has portrayed an incredible musical fluidity, making Shai and his band one of the most powerful and harmonious groups in the jazz today. His most recent record for ECM, following The Dream Thief, his 2018 debut for that label, is Human, recorded at Studios la Buissonne in the South of France in February 2020, and produced by Manfred Eicher. Following several years and several albums playing in bassist Avishai Cohen’s trio with drummer Mark Guiliana, Maestro toured the world, playing up to 80 concerts a year, sharing stages with groups led by Chick Corea, Tigran Hamasyan, Esperanza Spalding, and Diana Krall. Most recently, Shai record¬ed on saxophonist Ben Wendel’s album High Heart (Edition Records, 2020), and was invited to perform his own compositions with Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Keitaro Harada at Tokyo Metropolitan Theater.

About Christopher Tordini

Christopher Tordini is an in-demand bassist in the international music scene, where he performs with established jazz icons as well as a diverse range of emerging musicians. A graduate of the New School for Jazz and Contempo¬rary music, he has toured and recorded with Andy Milne’s Dapp Theory for over 11 years and has also played in bands led by other renowned artists such as Greg Osby and Jeremy Pelt. Tordini is a founding member of the Becca Stevens Band and is a key collaborator in projects led by drummer/composer Tyshawn Sorey and trombonist/composer Michael Dessen. Recently, Tordi¬ni has performed and recorded with prominent bandleaders such as Steve Lehman, Okkyung Lee, Tigran Hamasyan, Theo Bleckmann, Anna Webber, Matt Mitchell, Caroline Davis, Lee Konitz, Andrew D’Angelo, Jim Black, Chris Speed, and John Hollenbeck. He has written two method books on the bass for Mel Bay Publications.

About John Hollenbeck

Genre-crossing composer/percussionist John Hollenbeck, renowned in both the jazz and new-music worlds, has gained widespread recognition as the driving force behind the unclassifiable Claudia Quintet and the ambitious John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, groups with roots in jazz, world music, and contemporary composition. He integrates his deep interest in contemporary composition and spiritual practice into a musical language that is as accessi¬ble and expressive as it is advanced.

He has earned six Grammy nominations and has worked with many of the world’s leading musicians in jazz including Bob Brookmeyer, Fred Hersch, and Tony Malaby, and is well known in new-music circles for his longtime collaboration with Meredith Monk and for his work with Ensemble Cairn of France.

About Ben Monder

A musician in the New York City area for over 35 years, Ben Monder has performed with a wide variety of artists, including Jack McDuff, Marc Johnson, Lee Konitz, Billy Childs, Andrew Cyrille, Paul Motian, Maria Schneider, Louis Cole, Marshall Crenshaw, and Jandek. He also contributed guitar parts to the last David Bowie album, Blackstar. He continues to perform original music internationally in solo and trio settings, and in a long-standing duo project with vocalist Theo Bleckmann. Ben has appeared on over 200 CDs as a sideman, and has released seven as a leader: Day After Day (Sunnyside, 2019), Amorphae (ECM, 2015), Hydra (Sunnyside, 2013), Oceana (Sunnyside, 2005), Excavation (Arabesque, 2000), Dust (Arabesque, 1997), and Flux (Songlines,1995).


Tickets are $65/$55/$45 and can be purchased at or by calling 415.392.2545. Tickets can also be purchased at the door as available including 50% off student rush tickets and 20% off senior rush tickets.

Please note our current health and safety protocols: Per San Francisco city guidelines, SF Performances requires all patrons ages 12 years and older, to show proof of full vaccination with a photo ID to attend performances. Masks will still be required at concerts until further notice. Full details of our safety protocols and practices are available here. Also note that social distanced seating is no longer required at SFP events.

About San Francisco Performances

San Francisco Performances has been a leader in the Bay Area cultural scene since our founding in 1979. With a strong curatorial vision and adventurous programming, we are the city’s premier presenter of intimate concerts and solo performances.

We have introduced hundreds of established and emerging classical music, jazz and dance artists to audiences, including Yo-Yo Ma, the Juilliard String Quartet, Philip Glass, Wendy Whelan, and the Paul Taylor Dance Company. We also champion a new generation, committed to building a contemporary and equitable repertoire. Performers like violinist Jennifer Koh, tenor Lawrence Brownlee and pianist/composer Vijay Iyer are moving their art into the present and future, making it accessible to younger audiences while converting many traditionalists to new possibilities. They represent the path forward.

Quality, intimacy and connection are the hallmarks of San Francisco Performances. We nurture unique relationships with today’s best artists to create an accessible, warm, and engaging arts experience.

Calendar Editors, Please Note:

(Please include our name as the presenter—many thanks!)

Theo Bleckmann, vocals
Shai Maestro, piano
John Hollenbeck, drums
Chris Tordini, bass
Ben Monder, guitar

WHEN: Wednesday, October 20, 2021, 7:30pm
WHERE: Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Avenue (at McAllister), San Francisco
CONCERT TICKETS: $65/$55/$45
CONTACT: (415) 392.2545;

For high-resolution images, contact Nancy Bertossa at or go to

# # #