Dobson plays sax in a club
Smith Dobson V at Club Deluxe in San Francisco. Credit: Dennis Hearne

Window shopping on Fourth Street isn’t where you expect to run into royalty, but perk up your ears Saturday afternoon and you’re likely to encounter a scion of Bay Area jazz aristocracy.

Tenor saxophonist Smith Dobson V is part of a musical clan that goes back at least four generations, and it’s often an unexpected delight to catch his trio with guitarist Luke Westbrook and bassist Matt Montgomery playing jazz standards and American Songbook gems in front of Peet’s. 

He’s made a name for himself over the past 25 years as a gifted multi-instrumentalist on vibraphone, drums, and saxophone. 

And what a name!

His late father was Santa Cruz pianist Smith Dobson, a treasured accompanist who played with a succession of jazz legends. His mother, beloved vocalist and music educator Gail Dobson, taught children’s vocals for decades at La Peña and Starry Plough. And his sister is New York vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Sasha Dobson (who’s performing Oct. 7 at the SFJAZZ Center with Kim Nalley and Sean Mason as part of the Disney centennial tribute tour When You Wish Upon a Star). 

Strangely absent from East Bay stages though he’s lived on this side of the Bay for years, Dobson has been part of the regular rotation of acts sponsored by Fourth Street patriarch Denny Abrams, a noted jazz fan.

He’ll play from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday, July 15. The 3 Elements will perform from 10:30 a.m. -1 p.m. and Ruben Hurtado y su Descarga from 1:30-3:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 22, and the Mayer Duo will play on Sunday, July 23.

Freelancer Andrew Gilbert writes a weekly music column for Berkeleyside. Andy, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, covers a wide range of musical cultures, from Brazil and Mali to India and Ireland....