In partnership with Nob Hill Gazette
What started as a humble idea between a trio of friends (Kaz Kajimura, Yoshie Akiba, Hugh “Hiro” Hori) has become a true testament to the American dream. In 1972, they decided to create a dining experience introducing cool seasonal Japanese cuisine to the Berkeley community. Chef Hiro’s menu has cemented Japanese cuisine in the company’s DNA, making the 27-seat restaurant a popular dining destination for East Bay residents.
In 1979 Yoshi moved to Claremont Avenue in Oakland. This move provided greater catering capacity and opened up the possibility of introducing live music into the business. The excitement of the restaurant’s new menu and frequent performances by many contemporary jazz greats quickly earned Yoshi a reputation as one of the best jazz clubs on the West Coast. The tight confines of the Claremont location created a dynamic environment and generated a buzz among diners and jazz enthusiasts.
It was apparent by 1997 that Yoshi’s was overrunning its 130-seat space, leading to the company’s second and current Oakland home at Jack London Square. The 310-seat club, 250-seat restaurant, and 60-seat lounge bar have accommodated some of the biggest names in jazz while continuing to celebrate the founders’ Japanese culture through cuisine and décor. The new club resulted in successful runs by many jazz greats, including such luminaries as Chick Correa, Wynton Marsalis and Pharoah Sanders.
In 2007, Yoshi’s looked across the bridge to create a second branch on Fillmore St. in San Francisco. The welcoming city supported the many jazz and R&B bands, but the business was eventually sold in 2014 to focus more on tightening up Oakland’s mothership.
In 2010, Hal Campos was brought in to run a restaurant and private events business and raised the bar with a new style of service. This ultimately led to him becoming the General Manager, who, with the help of veteran Artistic Director Michael Pritchard, set a new standard for Oakland nightlife. In 2019 and after 10 years at Yoshi’s, Daniel Grujic takes over as artistic director. As before, Yoshi’s continues to be a venue for a wide array of world-class artists to showcase their talents live for the Bay Area community.
Although founders Yoshie and Kaz have moved away from the daily hustle and bustle of operations, they are still the fabric of the company’s soul. Don’t be surprised to see Yoshie dancing enthusiastically at shows like Carlos Reyes or listening to one of Kaz’s colorful stories while watching a standout performance by Victor Wooten.
Talented executive chef Victor Reyes and sushi chef Lolo Gonzales now hold the reins of the kitchen. The current menu offers a range of delicious dishes and mouth-watering sushi.
It really is a unique place; there are shows every day of the week!
While primarily known internationally as a jazz haven, the acts that are booked are quite diverse. In the approximately 500 shows presented each year, you will also see popular R&B, soul, comedy and rock. Although the club remains loyal to jazz fans, worldwide.
Latin jazz titans such as Pete Escovedo and Arturo Sandoval are seemingly constant fixtures on the Yoshi scene, and longtime fans couldn’t be happier.
What’s jazz if you can’t incorporate a little fusion?
Living legends like bassist extraordinaire Stanley Clarke often bring back fond memories of longtime guests. Clarke has made quite a career of wowing audiences and will continue to do so with her series of shows from May 27-29.
Smooth jazz icons also frequently grace the stage, such as saxophone slingers Michael Lington and Paul Taylor, who are due to perform on June 16.
Jazz’s new mavericks have also been well represented in bands like Chief Adjuah (formerly Christian Scott) who often contacts local jazz favorite Elena Pinderhughes to join him for sessions that seemingly transport listeners to the colorful streets of New Orleans. The 5-time GRAMMY© nominated trumpeter/multi-instrumentalist will be on stage June 23-24.
The company is currently planning for the next 50 years, starting with a new sound system to be installed in mid-2022, as well as a range of fresh and creative acts which are constantly being introduced into the club schedule.
For schedule, tickets or dinner reservations, please visit www.Yoshis.com.