There’s simply nothing like a song by Kitty Margolis.
Every artist is concerned about emotional freedom, and Kitty’s apparently easy access to it comes as a great pleasure to the listener. But no artist just gets there. The work that’s needed to achieve graceful, artistic self-expression is more than most people are up to, ever. But when you listen to Kitty, you know how hard she has worked to do what she does, because she does it with such seeming effortlessness.
The consummate jazz musician, Kitty has performed in some of the most important venues in the world, including The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Sydney International Festival of the Arts, the Monterey Jazz Festival, London's Royal Festival Hall, Gstaad’s Yehudi Menuhin Festival, the Tel Aviv Opera House, the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, Hamburg’s Schleswig-Holstein Festival, the San Francisco Jazz Festival, and with The Boston Pops. She's also sung at many of the world's top jazz clubs.
But her favorite place — at least, in memory — remains Keystone Korner in San Francisco, sadly now defunct. It was a very small club on Vallejo Street that was directly across an alley from a police station. There were very few fights or other eruptions of anger around Keystone Korner, no doubt because so many men in blue were so close.
The place was frequently in debt, and Miles Davis, who had appeared at Keystone Korner a number of times, played a benefit for the club that I also attended. This was when Miles was at the height of his Bitches Brew period and had long been a world figure. The music was Miles at his best, and his appearance saved the day for Barkan, although only temporarily. The club was to close in 1983, despite the efforts of so many musicians and fans, including Kitty herself who was a marquee attraction to a Keystone Korner “rent party” in 1983, with the superb pianist George Cables.
Today the space in the building where the club was located is occupied by a T-Mobile store. Probably more peaceful for the cops, more relaxing for the cell phone devotees who go there in need of an earpiece or whatever, but surely not the vital jazz powerhouse that it was for so many years.
The last person I saw perform there was Flora Purim.
Kitty and her husband Alfonso Montuori recently invited me and my amor, writer and storyteller Beatrice Bowles, to sit down together for a glass of wine at their home in San Francisco. It happens that they live a half-block from the old Keystone Korner. When we were talking about the jazz scene of that time, Kitty smiled broadly at my mention of Flora.