The sound of jazz—a melody, harmony, rhythm, or timbre—hadn’t filled the lobby of the California Hotel, just off San Pablo Avenue, for more than a decade. And as over a hundred people filled into the hotel on Wednesday—Billy Strayhorn numbers setting the mood—for a groundbreaking marking the city’s decision to revitalize the historic hotel, passersby, many of them with iPods, didn’t know the hotel was a venue for the most preeminent figures on their playlists: James Brown, Ray Charles, Billie Holiday, Sly Stone, Aretha Franklin and Big Mama Thornton.

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