Bay Area Jazz Society

Bay Area Jazz Society Mission Statement

BAJAZZS is a 501(C)3 non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing and promoting the historical contributions Jazz Music has made to American Society. We fulfill our mission by promoting programs and projects which educate the public about this rich musical history and how it has impacted our country in positive ways. We are also committed to presenting a wide range of indigenous music reflecting the variety of music forms here in the Bay Area including, Cool Jazz, Latin Jazz, New Orleans Jazz, Smooth Jazz, Zydeco, Blues, R&B and spoken word.It is our goal to work hand in hand with our Schools and Community Colleges to create educational programs that feature teaching workshops and performances by some of our wonderful local artists. In today's economic climate it is crucial that we help our local artists find steady employment as teachers and performing musicians. BAJAZZS is also dedicated to providing music development opportunities for under-served youth. We are currently in a partnership with Oakland Schools and have co-sponsored the purchasing of musical instruments for Frick Middle School students in East Oakland and also purchased a top tier Mackie 32 channel mixing board to help kick off their planned recording studio. Bajazzs has also donated sound equipment and music instruments to the historical Prescott Elementary School, the first African American publicnschool in West Oakland. Lastly Bajazzs looks forward to creating a fund to help send professional musicians that are recording engineers into the schools to work with the students, many who are eager to learn about the music business. Our music in the school's program is designed to enhance self-esteem and character, teach student discipline, promote independent learning skills, e.g., computer skills, studio recording and performing techniques, while developing and meeting student personal goals.

Corporate Sponsors

The Sounds of Oakland presents: “Music from the Streets” A Music Documentary: and the Bay Area Jazz Society presents, “The Higher Power Project”.

We are lovingly looking for co-sponsors for our event based on our two new album releases this 2022 entitled “The Sounds of Oakland”, “Music from The Streets” and the Bay Area Jazz Society presents “The Higher Power Project”. With this event we are trying to raise money for struggling musicians and other artists over the age of sixty who have been performing all of their lives and don’t have a pension or social security.

One hundred percent of the proceeds from this event go into a special fund for these musicians. We are currently pursuing the backing of the Mayor of Oakland and The Oakland Black Chamber of Commerce among others. It would be a blessing for you to join us as a financial sponsor. Below are some of our needs. Thank You for your consideration. Your company comes highly recommended. Most importantly we just hope you enjoy the music from both the Oakland and Higher Power CD’s that we sent to you. Yours truly, Paul Tillman Smith, Executive Director, BAJAZZS.

Here are my budget items for the project.

Artists fees including riders

Office expenses

General operating expenses

Marketing (including newspapers, flyers, and design and layout etc.)

Equipment rental (including stage, fencing, chairs, tables, audio equipment etc.)

City permit cost

County environmental health permit cost for food distribution

Advertisement cost

Portable toilet cost

Covid-19 PPE cost

Insurance cost

Accounting Cost

Legal cost

EMT- medical cost

Miscellaneous cost

Yours truly,

Paul Tillman Smith, Executive director

Bay Area Jazz Society, a non-profit


On the average 60,000  American souls perish each year from a drug overdose. We are talking about  human beings that were once beloved little babies held in the loving arms of caring mothers, fathers and their families.

The Higher Power Project CD has taken a long time coming to fruition. I can’t believe God has allowed me after all these years to create this beautiful CD consisting of fourteen truly meaningful songs. I am 73 years old. Usually by this time most artists are relaxing in a rocking chair, if they are lucky, and definitely not on the road still trying to make a living. This is why I have decided to give the rights to this music to the  Bay Area Jazz Society to use to raise money to help my  fellow musicians and other artists young and old that find themselves unmercifully struggling in today’s economic climate.

I started my career  as an 18 year old Black Hippie in Berkeley in a band that also included Rock & Roll legend Steve Miller. The band was called the Second Coming and two of its members lost their minds taking LSD, that scared me to death. I tried LSD once and cut the tab in half when nobody was looking. It was already emotionally challenging  enough for me being the only Black man in the band and living in a completely White environment for the first time. All my friends before that were Black and grew up in East Oakland. After that experience I left for New York where I starved for half a year as an Avant Garde Jazz musician. I did get to play with a lot of famous New York Cats. I then came back home and started my songwriting career , playing Jazz on the side with anyone who would hire me including John Handy & Bobby Hutcherson and  attending U.C. Berkeley. 

My career has been filled with many nearly successful experiences. I have done a lot of writing and performing but was never able to make a  sizable amount of money. That has not stopped me from pursuing my craft even into my seventies. I guess I qualify to be called a true artist and God knows I have been lucky enough to be able to continue recording on a level that under any other circumstance would be financially out of reach for most. This has been made possible through the help of many loving musicians and vocalist whom have performed for me way  under


The Higher Power Project: I've lost a father, a brother and a nephew over time to alcohol and or drug addiction. Many of us especially from minority communities know people including loved ones who have experienced a similar fate. Over seventy thousand people have already died this year from a chemical overdose, also partly due to the Corona Virus. What has been left out of this equation is all the thousands of people who have died or whose health has been impacted because of tobacco addiction. My father was a musician, a hard drinker and Chesterfield cigarette smoker. Musicians have always been exposed to the party life a possible disadvantage. They also mostly have no job security and often have had no control of their monthly income, yet many remain dedicated to their craft and to making people happy through music. A pension and social security have been unattainable for most Artists who have spent a life time making people happy through music.100% of the sales of the Higher Power Project CD go into a special fund in support of Musicians & Artists that find themselves seriously struggling in today's economic climate. Thanks to a signed & notarized agreement with Chump Change Records BAJAZZS, a nonprofit 501-C-3, has been provided complete authority over the promotion, publication, dissemination and profits of the Higher Power Project CD. We'd like to thank each and every individual who receives this CD, listens to it , loves it and who understands the goal of the Bay Area Jazz Society's effort to create a special fund for our musicians & artists as something you would like to support. If you are able please consider contributing at least a twenty dollar minimun or more to our special BAJAZZS fund, especially if you have received the Higher Power Project CD for free. Because of the Corona Virus it is more difficult to purchase physical copies of the CD at this time. You can email us at or call 510-697-7130 to purchase a physical copy. You can also make a donation by going to PayPal using The address to mail a loving contribution is P.O box 3578 Berkeley Ca, 94703. Please tell your friends that they can purchase the CD on line digitally at CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon, etc.


Executive Producer


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100% of the sales of the Higher Power Project CD go into a special fund in support of Musicians & Artists that find themselves seriously struggling in today’s economic climate.

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The Board of Directors

Paul Tillman-Smith Executive Director

When your father hands you a set of drumsticks at the age of four, chances are you’ll wind up a drummer. Paul Tillman Smith's father, George Smith (Kansas City Smitty)

played drums during the big band era with many well-known bands including Count

Basie, Trummer Young and the Harlem Aces. He was also a mentor to singer Pearl Bailey's husband drummer Louie Bellson. At age fifteen at the urging of his mother Della, Paul began playing the piano. It was soon after that he began to write simple three chord songs like the ones he would hear on the radio. This love has lasted a lifetime. Paul has published over a hundred songs to date including the Pharaoh Sanders and Phyllis Hyman jazz pop classic "As You Are", the Norman Connors and Jean Carne hit "Stella" featuring guitarist Lee Ritenour, and the tender love ballad "Heavenly", recorded by pianist Webster Lewis featuring vocalist DJ Rogers,

saxophonist Benny Maupin. "Heavenly" also featured strings by Herbie Hancock and was performed by the Boston Pop Symphony for nationally syndicated TV. Paul’s album "Sharing" from his middle seventies Buddha Records recording group Vitamin E., featured the Sly Stone & Frank Zappa vocalist Lady Bianca and saxophonist Jules Broussard's vocalist David Gardener. The "Sharing" album was produced by Norman Connors and the single from that album with a special guest appearance by vocal legend Freddie Hughes and composed by Paul, became a number one hit in over twelve cities across the nation. In the ninety's, the Vitamin E. CD was reissued in Japan as a double CD which also featured vocalist Melba Moore's biggest selling CD "This is It". Paul's CD "Crying for Love" was voted record of the year by Blues and Soul magazines in England in 2001. The CD featured never released demos recorded at Fantasy Studio's by his early eighty's Bang CBS recording group "Bridge". The CD was released by the U.K. record label "First Experience Records" and featured fourteen original songs by Paul with co-arrangements by Ronnie Laws keyboardist Michael "Spiderman" Robinson. Also featured were former Motown recording artists Derrick Hughes and Debra Von Lewis. The European critic's called the Bridge CD a brilliant rare American discovery. Paul song "Higher Power" recently won a national contest sponsored by Tyler Perry, Lions Gate. Paul considers his biggest contribution to the Bay Area music scene as being the co- founder along with South Berkeley Merchants R.D. Bonds and Sam Dykes of the Berkeley Juneteenth Festival, the longest running African American Arts and Music festival in Northern California history. Upwards of twenty thousand people attend annually. He was also the first to promote free music concerts in Berkeley's Provo Park and Oakland’s Mosswood Park in the seventies and eighties when he was a music and concert supervisor for "ACNAP", the Alameda County Neighborhood Arts Program. Paul's band "Bridge" is the only band in Bay Area history to be on the county pay roll other than the Oakland Symphony. Paul has been the stage manager for the Richmond Juneteenth, the Oakland Port Festival. the Laurel District World Music Festival, and the Vallejo 4th of July Festival. He also put the music program together for the city of Emeryville's Appreciation Day Festival and helped put the city of Berkeley's Artspark Festival and 100th Anniversary Arts and Music Celebration music program together and managed both stages.

Paul also is no stranger to theater and film. He has been musical director for Melvin Van Peeple's "Ain't Supposed To Die A Natural Death" directed by Ted Lange of “Love Boat" and Band Director for "America More Or Less", the Bi-Centennial Play of San Francisco, featuring works by playwrighters Imamu Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones), Frank Chin and American Indian playwright Leslie Silko. While a senior in the Rhetoric Department at U.C. Berkeley,

Paul made the Oakland Tribune's front-page headlines for songs he and the late Lonnie Hewitt (Cal Tjader's pianist) wrote for the Off Broadway play "Dunbar" based on the writings of poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar. "Dunbar" later won Paul the prestigious New York Audelco Theater Award, the highest honor in African American theater.

Barbara Taylor Secretary

Barbara Taylor has been working in the music industry and with small black businesses since 1985. Beginning with working at Ivey's in Jack London Square where she was able to give local artists an opportunity to showcase. During that period she also managed a number of young local groups. In the early 1990's she worked for the Mandela Institute, an African Arts Organization as the event coordinator for 11 events For six African Dance companies in the bay area and Los Angeles. She also joined the Bay Area Blues Society as a board member and helped to produce their blues festivals. In 1994 she joined the Black Business Listings/Black Expo and began coordinating the Vendors and volunteers. She formed her business called "Rhythms" a special event support for black business.

Currently supporting such business as the , CDA Consulting Group ( 100 Black Women events), African American Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame, Oakland Black Board of Trade and Commerce, Black Comedy Competition, City of Oakland Thanksgiving Dinner. Previously supported the Wiley Manual Law Foundation. Served as the Bay Area Urban Leagues special programs director. Past President, Lend A Hand Foundation, Block Captain of her street, Special Consultant to the Rev. Gregg Brown, Miracles of Faith Community Church assisting with special projects. Currently has over fifty volunteers in her company. Co-coordinated Berkeley Juneteenth Festival for 20 years, supplying volunteers and booking entertainment and managing backstage.

Taylor has received numerous awards and certificates from the agencies she has supported including Community Award from the 100 Black Women Bay Area Chapter 2016. Volunteer of the Year from Women of Excellence in 2000 and Community Activisim 2009 from Black Comedy Competition. Local

Hero from District 4, Oakland City Council, Thank You Proclamation from Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks. Certificate of Appreciation from McDonald's and Community Activist Award from theMulti-Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame. 3 Certificates from the office of Barbara Lee for Community activities.Married for over 59 years, Husband, Richard, two sons, Rick & Ken and two grandsons, Yavair & Kris.


Seeking to be entertained? Look to the stage ..Recording artist Yolandra Rhodes appears as a fresh, sultry and engaging woman, prepared to do exactly that. As a Jazz songstress, she possesses an earthiness and willingness to share her good music with the world! Watch Yolandra's stage presence, listen to her gift of song as she lovingly engages her audience with her dry wit and humor.Recently nominated as Best Jazz Vocalist by the Northern California Entertainer Music Awards and Semi-Finalist in Jazz Search West 2018, Yolandra is able to uplift spirits and stir the emotions of her listening audience with an easy grace and a subtle confidence. Her selections of tunes previously performed by jazz visionaries, such as Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson or even Rachelle Farrell, often likens favorable comparisons.

This professional has honed her skills with both local and nationally-known performers, which includes Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (performed at Kimball's East), and "showed-out” when she performed her interpretation of Sharon Paige's "I Hope That We Can Be Together Soon", equally challenging the memory of this always-popular tune. She was also invited to perform on Clifford Brown Jr's (formerly with KBLX) "Jazz Cruise to the Caribbean", which also featured Gerald Albright and Alex Bugnon. Talk about luminaries!!

Jim Collins Tresurer

Before joining the Bay Area Jazz Society in 2016, Jim served as CFO for Gastinnels TLC, a group home for adolescents in foster care in San Francisco for a number of years. From 1997 ton2001, Jim held the office of secretary-treasurer for the Labor Temple Association of Alameda County, which consist of over (12) labor unions in the Bay Area. from1996 to 2000 Jim served as Secretary-treasurer for the National Industry Pension Fund, located in the Bay Area.

Jim retired after 25 years as the dispatcher and secretary-treasurer of laborers local 886 before retirement he became a member of the Lend A Hand Foundation an Oakland based non profit organization which serves the vulnerable youth in Oakland Schools and is currently is on the advisory board of the LAHF.C

Rhonda Benin Jazz, Blues & Soul Vocalist

“Benin’s got a coolly hip vocal, with a bit of hush and sugar and an undercurrent of big booming power. She can bend notes with a bass, talk serenade with a piano and steam the kettle from the drums”.

Ran Pacifica Tribune

San Francisco Bay Area vocalist, Rhonda Benin has earned a reputation for not just a good voice but showmanship, magnetic stage personality, humor, and of course her great dancing. Rhonda’s impressive resume includes performances at SF Jazz, Yoshi’s, MOAD, The Healdsburg, Sonoma, Burlingame, Sausalito, Filmore, and Calistoga Jazz Festivals. In the summer of 2012 Rhonda traveled to Hangzhou, China for a 3 month engagement at the JZ Jazz Club and was 2014 USA headliner for The Kigali Up Music Festival in Kigali, Rwanda. In addition to singing, Rhonda is producer and founder of the Women’s History Month’s show “Just Like A Woman” a tribute to Bay Area Women In Music and the entertaining, informative piece, “Jazz Ain’t Nothing But The Blues”.

Benin is a 22 year member of The GRAMMY nominated vocal ensemble Linda Tillery and The Cultural Heritage. She appears on the CHC’s 7 Cd’s and has toured 30 countries performing and recording with legendary artists such as Taj Mahal, Wilson Pickett, Richie Havens, Odetta. Al Green, Keb Mo, Santana, Patti Austin, Janis Ian, Jackson Brown, Hugh Masekela & Sweet Honey In The Rock.

In 2006 Rhonda produced her first solo CD, A Matter of the Heart a classic mix of jazz, blues, and soul and is currently working on her 2nd CD.

Rhonda is on the teaching staff of Healdsburg Jazz ‘s Operation Jazz Band, San Francisco Arts Project, LEAP, Cal Performances, Youth In Arts, The Bay Area Jazz Society and conducts her own school assemblies and workshops, “The Voice, The Hands The Feet” “Twist and Shout” and “Love Letters Make Me Misty Blue”.

For booking information: call 510 302-5096 or email Or check the website @

“If you can’t sing a song, let BeninSing It!”

Dada Azuri/Azuri Whitlock

Principal Dancer Of the Gumbo band

Dada Azuri is passionate about serving her community through education and dance.She has been supporting Oakland Unified School district for 9 years as a regular substitute, STIP substitute, and even full time teacher. Her favorite subjects are Health and Physical Education. Dada, or Ms. Whitlock on campus, believes in the slogan that "Health is Wealth" and wants to see students be in abundance of it.

As a dancer, Dada enjoys dancing all the dances of Africa and the African Diaspora. However, she especially loves to dance Second Line. Not only does she feel that she connecting to her own Louisiana heritage through it, but also to the community. Dada Azuri has performed Second Lines to celebrate life events, holidays, and protest since 2019. She believes it is an amazing feeling and bond to feel when someone has received a positive experience from a performance. Maya Angelou says, people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they remember how you make them feel.

Talita Long

Vocalist and Songwriter  

A talented composer for many years to Talita Long has recorded her music and performed in venues of all sizes.She wrote and released her first CD in 2006 called back to you, the music was produced and arranged by Kevin Tony the song “Boys will be Boys” was produced in the range by Larry Mizel Talita Long has worked with many music greats as a featured vocalist she has mesmerized audience across the nation with her sweet tone and five octave ranges in 2009, she released a a single originally written by herself and Yul Lynn Hawkins but was recently produced again by Mike Hyde, the video was directed by her daughter Nia Long and 2014 Talita Long made the Grammy ballot for the category of best traditional R&B performance artist for the song I’  hey single originally written by herself and you all live in Hawkins but was recently produced again by mike hide the video was directed by her daughter Nia long and 2014 Talita Long made the Grammy ballot for the category of best traditional R&B performance artist for the song “I'll be fine” produced by Marvin Dino Vice. 

Kev Choice

Kev Choice is a pianist, M.C., producer, composer, educator, band-leader, and activist,

hailing from Oakland, CA. He started playing piano and rapping at age 11 at Oakland's

Westlake Junior High. He graduated high school from Oakland’sSkyline High School, and went on to study music and obtain a Bachelor's Degree from Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans and a Master's Degree from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, both in Piano Performance.

Kev has worked and toured the world with artists such as Ms. Lauryn Hill, Michael Franti,

Goapele, Too Short, Ledisi, The Coup, Zion I, and more. In 2010, he began to focus on his

own music and band, Kev Choice Ensemble, He has produced 5 solo albums, including

Social Distancing (2020). He has also independently released Oakland Riviera (2014), Love and Revolution(2015), 88 Steps to Eternity(2016), Social Distancing (2020), and collaboration projects with producer DJ Fresh, The Lush and Luxurious Vibes (2020),

SEEDS 22: Truths & Roses (2021) with DJ Basta, and Tatu: The Trio Sessions (2021).

He was commissioned to compose a work for the Oakland Symphony, Soul Restoration

Suite(2018), under the direction and guidance of conductor Michael Morgan. In 2020 he

collaborated with the San Francisco Symphony for their online series Currents, on a piece he wrote and composed entitled “Movements”. This work was featured on their virtual season opening concert and was released on the SF Symphony SF MEDIA label in September of 202. He performed the piece with them in 2022 and has also arranged for Oakland Symphony.

Outside of performing and creating, Kev was co-chair of the Instrumental Music Department

at Oakland School For The Arts from 2016-2022. He currently serves on and is vice-chair of the City of Oakland's Cultural Affairs Commission. He also is a Culture Strategist with the City of Oakland’s CityWide Communications Department. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Oakland Symphony. In 2023, he will be adjunct professor at Santa ClaraUniversity teaching a Hip-Hop Production Lab and Analysis course.