Bay Area jazz icon Larry Vuckovich celebrates 80th birthday gigging with old pals (via Mercury News)

Jazz pianist Larry Vukovich, 79, an amiable entertainer who gladly performs in major concert halls or small venues, takes time out to be photographed at home in Calistoga, Calif., on Thursday, March 10, 2016. Vuckovich will play at his 80th Birthday Bash featuring Bay Area All-Stars celebrating his associations with Jon Hendricks, Dexter Gordon, Mel Torme & Vince Guaraldi at the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society in Half Moon Bay. (Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group)

Larry Vuckovich isn’t just Bay Area jazz royalty. With his exquisite touch, encyclopedic command of modern jazz keyboard idioms and uncommon rhythmic facility, the pianist is one of the few active players on the scene with direct ties to bebop’s founding generation.

As his 80th birthday approaches on Dec. 8, the popular, amiable musician is marking the milestone with concerts that pay homage to the masters who mentored and inspired him as a jazz-besotted young refugee from Communist Yugoslavia. He arrived with his family in San Francisco in the early 1950s, a moment when the city’s nightlife rivaled any spot east of New York City. He eagerly took it all in.

“When I started going out in high school, we’d sit in the special teenage section of the Black Hawk, and the music was unbelievable,” says Vuckovich, who kicks off his birthday gigs Nov. 20 with a sold-out show at the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society, featuring vocalist Jackie Ryan, reed master Noel Jewkes and guest percussionist John Santos.

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