Best Place to Hear Live Jazz 

Yoshis

There's not even a close runner-up in this category. Yoshi's is not only the best in the Bay Area, but, in the considered opinion of vocal vet Nancy Wilson, is "the nicest club in the country." The Japanese restaurant's jazz room, opened four years back at its present location across from Jack London Square, is a jazz lover's -- and jazz musician's -- dream, specially built to enhance the listening and performing experience, thanks to its custom-designed sound system and nine-foot Steinway piano, among other aural amenities. And tiered seating allows for good sightlines, even from the back row. Yoshi's enjoys an international reputation, due in part to albums cut on its stage by such artists as Poncho Sanchez and Dee Dee Bridgewater (whose recent Blue Note CD, recorded there with Joey DeFrancesco, burns!). Another cool thing is that kids are always allowed, though Sunday matinees are geared especially for youngsters, who are charged only $5 (Mom and Pop pay more). And unlike San Francisco's legendary Blackhawk, there's no chicken wire between the audience and the bandstand.

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