SFJAZZ Collective: The Music of Michael Jackson 2016 Tour

Sources: SFJazz | All Things Michael


An all-star ensemble comprising eight of the finest performer/composers at work in jazz today, the SFJAZZ Collective’s mission each year is to perform fresh arrangements of works by a modern master and newly commissioned pieces by each Collective member. Launched in 2004 by SFJAZZ, a not-for-profit institution in San Francisco, the Collective has cultivated jazz-education programs for youth and adults while crafting its own innovative approach to repertoire.

Each year, the group balances its own originals with the work of post-1960 composers—honoring recent jazz history while championing its in-the-now presence as a living art form. After exploring the works of John Coltrane, Horace Silver, and Stevie Wonder, the SFJAZZ Collective continues its foray into popular R&B with Michael Jackson.

As the undisputed King of Pop, Jackson forever changed the face of modern music—inspiring and influencing artists in all genres and nations.  The Collective’s arrangements of Michael Jackson’s timeless music include the hits Rock With You, Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin, ThrillerSmooth Criminal, among others.


The groups members include: Miguel Zenón alto saxophone, David Sánchez tenor saxophone, Sean Jones trumpet, Robin Eubanks trombone,
Warren Wolf vibraphone, Edward Simon piano, Matt Penman bass, and Obed Calvaire on the drums.

Wolf says there’s great jazz influence in Michael Jackson’s music:

Do you consider Michael Jackson’s music jazz?

We would all definitely consider it pop music. But if you really listen closely to his music, specifically from “Off the Wall” and “Thriller,” and even from the Jackson Five days, a lot of that stuff has jazz movement, chords. In later days, not so much. But the earlier records had a lot more movement as far as chords go. It gives us a lot of openings to experiment. It’s a lot about how we interpret things.

His songs are part of the zeitgeist now. Does that make it difficult to arrange for an audience that is already so familiar with the music?

It’s not hard for us to take on. The only thing that might be hard is for the average listener to get ahold of what we’re playing. When you have classic songs, like “Thriller” or “The Girl Is Mine,” most people, 90 percent of his fans, will want to hear that song just how it is. But when you’re listening to what we’re doing, you’ll still hear flashes of those songs, sometimes the entire song. People will definitely recognize the songs. But we’re doing jazz, we’re going to mess around with it. We’ll slip the beat around. It won’t be the regular song how most people would expect it.

The people who will really enjoy this are MJ fans, fans of SFJAZZ Collective and just fans of jazz. If you have an open mind, you’ll enjoy this.

For ticket purchases and to view more upcoming tours debuting new compositions and fresh arrangements of the music of Michael Jackson, see calendar.

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