It's an interesting time for jazz in Northern California. You've got the mega-events and institutions: i.e. the Monterey Jazz Festival and SFJazz. You've also got an expanding network of small clubs and alternative venues. Put it all together, and the jazz scene here has a hopeful feeling about it, despite the miserable arts-averse economy.

Heading into the fall season, let's start with the mother ship:

  • Monterey Jazz Festival. Its 56th annual edition runs Sept. 20 to 22 at the Monterey County Fairgrounds -- brand-name acts in the arena, dozens of bands on smaller stages around the grounds. The most significant event could be Sunday's arena performance by saxophonist Wayne Shorter, who, at age 80, remains one of jazz's great composers and paradigm shakers.

    But beyond Shorter and other brand-namers (Diana Krall, Bobby McFerrin, the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club), Monterey offers a smorgasbord of saxophonists (Joe Lovano, Ravi Coltrane, Lou Donaldson), bassists (Dave Holland, Charnett Moffett), singers (Gregory Porter, Mary Stallings) and pianists (Uri Caine, Roberto Fonseca, Orrin Evans, Marc Cary, Craig Taborn). I'm already wondering what to do Saturday night (short of shooting myself) when Lovano, Coltrane, Cary, Evans and Taborn all perform at the same time.

    Tickets: Various daily deals (starting at $40) and full-weekend packages (starting at $125 on the grounds, $225 in the arena), plus discounts for youths. Tickets: 888-248-6499 or www.montereyjazzfestival.org (prices increase Sept. 16).


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  • SFJazz. The presenting organization has moved into the national spotlight with its $65 million SFJazz Center -- a concert hall/club hybrid, where headliners move in for four-night runs. The season's first arrival is trumpeter Terence Blanchard who lately has added saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and guitarist Lionel Loueke to his formidable band (Sept. 5-8).

    The fall season almost has too many options. Try these: the SFJazz Collective, a sleek all-star octet performing tunes by John Coltrane, Stevie Wonder and its own members (Oct. 10 to 13), as well as pianist Jason Moran, one of SFJazz's artists-in-residence (Nov. 21 to 24). His first night features a nail-hard quartet with trumpeter Ralph Alessi, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Nasheet Waits. His second offers duets; his piano, plus singer Cassandra Wilson. His third features comedians (Faizon Love and Marina Franklin) alongside his trio, the Bandwagon. His last night matches his piano with two legends: pianist Randy Weston and saxophonist Billy Harper. (Most tickets $15-$65; 866-920-5299, www.sfjazz.org.)

  • In the clubs. Yoshi's, long the region's keystone (with clubs in Oakland and San Francisco) has backed off its jazz offerings. But a growing roster of venues is taking up some of the slack.

    That roster includes unshakable Kuumbwa Jazz in Santa Cruz (www.kuumbwajazz.org), where you can see bassist Christian McBride (Oct. 7), drummer Jaimeo Brown (Oct. 21) and saxophonist Joshua Redman (Nov. 15). Try the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society in Half Moon Bay (www.bachddsoc.org), presenting a solo show by Charnett Moffett, an astonishing double-bass virtuoso (Sept. 15). And to be fair to Yoshi's (www.yoshis.com), its jazz offerings haven't altogether vanished. In Oakland, they include singer José James (Sept. 17) and drummer Dafnis Prieto (Oct. 15); in San Francisco, vibraphonist/drummer Jason Marsalis (Sept. 25) and saxophonist Dayna Stephens (Oct. 1).

    But the real story lies with new and lesser-known venues. In Oakland they include Duende (www. duendeoakland.com), whose cutting-edge bookings include the Charlie Hunter-Scott Amendola duo (Sept. 22), Kneebody (Nov. 6) and grand avant-gardist Peter Brötzmann (Nov. 15); Piedmont Piano (www.piedmontpiano.com), presenting a solo recital by master pianist Orrin Evans (Sept. 22) and a show by excellent trumpeter Erik Jekabson (Oct. 18); and the 57th Street Gallery (www.57thstreetgallery.com), where guitar great Calvin Keys holds forth on Mondays, pianist Glen Pearson on Thursdays.

    In San Jose, too, jazz suddenly is bubbling up. The Blackbird Tavern (www.theblackbirdtavern.com) presents Cuban saxophonist Yosvany Terry, a mesmerizing musician (Oct. 8). Cafe Stritch offers the Brubeck Brothers (Sept. 20), as well as Italian drummer Peppe Merolla, whose band features Vincent Herring, a blazing alto saxophonist (Nov. 21-23).

    (Prices vary by show and venue; check the websites for details.)

  • Mix and match. Stanford Live presents the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at Bing Concert Hall: "A Night in Treme" (Sept. 29) with guests Ivan Neville (of Dumpstaphunk), Leo Nocentelli (of the Meters) and Stanton Moore (of Galactic). $25-$60; 650-725-ARTS, http://live.stanford.edu. Cal Performances offers jazz's most famous trio: Keith Jarrett is at the helm, assisted by bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette (Oct. 4). $30-$95; 510-642-9988.

    Contact Richard Scheinin at 408-920-5069. Follow him at Twitter.com/richardscheinin.