Best Jazz Club That Isn't Yoshi's: An intimate space that highlights locals
Anna's Jazz Island
Launched by accomplished jazz vocalist Anna de Leon, who has established herself as a major figurehead in the East Bay she has presided over the Berkeley School Board, but is better known as the mother of spoken-word poet Aya de Leon Anna's Jazz Island fulfills a need for on-the-cheap jazz shows (most of which cost between $5 and $7), jam sessions, and vocalist open mics in a city that boasts one of the most concentrated populations of jazzheads on the West Coast. Since relocating to a chic, tropical-themed venue on Berkeley's Allston Way two years ago, de Leon brought several innovations to the community jazz club template, including a weekly Brazilian band showcase and happy hour screenings of vintage jazz movies. Decked out with mahogany and rattan furniture, the 88-capacity venue doesn't afford enough space for exhibitionist dance moves, but it's small enough for audience members to chitchat with the musicians between sets. And that's the point: While de Leon occasionally brings an international artist to her stage (in January, fortune graced the Jazz Island with two performances by saxophonist and former James Brown collaborator Pee Wee Ellis), she's mostly concerned with highlighting local talent such as trumpeter Khalil Shaheed, vocalist Ellen Hoffman, guitar great Calvin Keys, and drummer Donald "Duck" Bailey, who don't always get their due. After all, she isn't out to turn a huge profit; she does it for the love.