cover image Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era

Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era

Elizabeth Pepin, Lewis Watts, . . Chronicle, $24.95 (191pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-4548-9

Mellow memories emerge in this consummate, tightly edited look back at an exuberant way of life in San Francisco's Fillmore District during the 1940s and '50s, when dozens of blues, R&B and jazz joints flourished amid businesses run by African-Americans, Japanese-Americans and Filipino-Americans. "The entire neighborhood was a giant multicultural party throbbing with excitement and music," remembers former Fillmore Auditorium manager Pepin. Art professor Watts and TV producer Pepin faced a difficult task when they set out to document the Fillmore's musical heyday. Few photos were known, and 1960s redevelopment left vacant lots. During a 15-year period, they explored city files and tracked former residents, and the resulting oral accounts by musicians and clubgoers make these pages an evocative echo of the past. Interviews led to photographic treasure troves, and although some pictures had "aged badly," Watts repaired damaged images with digital restorations. Researching newspapers, books and magazines, the authors stockpiled a mountain of memorabilia—including a map of neighborhood landmarks, 200 b&w archival photographs, ads, clippings, handbills and posters—presented here in a 9 1/4 x 7 3/4" format. The enthusiasm of the era bubbles forth, and fold-out endpapers of long-ago logos and signs provide a nostalgic closing coda. (Feb.)