Market exigencies forced Yoshi's to diversify its programming, but shrewd artistic direction led it to make choices that went far beyond what a mere business plan demanded. Most exciting of all was the venue's recent foray into comedy — not just the setup-punchline kind, but veritable performance art. That impulse led Oakland booker David Lloyd to join forces with SF Sketchfest, the annual three-week festival that draws sizable crowds to San Francisco venues. Lloyd convinced the festival organizers to trek across the bay this year for two shows at Yoshi's Oakland location, both featuring high-profile acts. Ann Magnuson did her modern spin-off of "Victorian drawing room entertainment," while comedian/beatboxer/loop-machine artist Reggie Watts shared a stage with Blue Note pianist Robert Glasper. The latter show had the feel of a jam session, and most likely it was entirely improvised — Watts said he'd only met Glasper a couple times, and they didn't have time to rehearse. But that didn't matter. The two artists matched each other in talent and sensibility, and their preferences seemed to overlap. Watts vocalized a snare and high hat over Glasper's gospel chord changes, and the pianist answered with a near-perfect Jay-Z impersonation. Clearly, jazz has a new face.
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