A few weeks ago I got to hear at the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest. Summer Fest covers all forms of jazz, blues, R&B, funk, New Orleans, zydeco and more. As I wandered from stage to stage I was able to hear Jessica Johnson, Chihiro Yamanaka, Etienne Charles, Eddie Palmieri, John Pizzarelli, Bria Skonberg, Kim Nally, Kenny Washington, and many others.
I wanted to take a moment to talk about why go to jazz festivals and how they differ from concerts. I go to a festival is to discover new music and new artists. As I went through the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest lineup there were a few artists I knew but there were many I didn’t know. Since I was free to roam all the stages this let me sample and find new artists that were new to me. Even for the artists I recognized the jazz festival gave me a chance to catch up with them and hear what they are playing now. The other thing that happened were all the chats I had with the other attendees. Lots of times we were swapping tips, comments and recommendations on who we just saw, who we are seeing next and who we should go see tomorrow. I got to meet a lot of jazz fans. If you have not been to a jazz festival you owe it to yourself to come next time!
Chihiro Yamanaka was playing on the Umpqua Bank stage on South 1st St. This stage was indoors at a theatre stage that sat around 200 people and it was full. Chihiro is a very talented and highly proficient pianist. She was playing with her trio Yoshi Waki on bass and Eric Garland on drums. She opened with her own composition and played several original compositions from her recordings. I think she had the most fun with her version of Beethoven’s Fur Elise. It was a great way to start the afternoon.
Next up was Kim Nally and Kenny Washington. The group was rounded out by local pianist, Tammy Hall, Marcus Shelby on base and Kent Bryson on drums. Kim opened with a acoustic performance of Summertime accompanied by just Tammy Hall. She and Kenny did “Didn’t Know What Time It Was” and “Teach Me Tonight” which were great. Kim, Kenny and the rest of the musicians were have a lot of fun on stage.
Etienne Charles and his Creole Soul group delivered on Caribbean influenced jazz. He did a great version of Bob Marley’s Turn Your Lights Down Low. A lot of Eienne’s music drew from the different rhythms and style of the isalnds in the Caribbean.
My favorite artist on Sunday was Charenee Wade at the Cafe Stritch. She performed pieces from her current recording of the music and poetry of Gil Scott-Heron. She had a great group with her, Lakecia Benjamin on sax, Brandon McCune on piano, Paul Beaudry on bass and Alvester Garnett on drums. Appropriately her opening was Offering from the CD. She also did Superman. Lakecia Benjamin, the sax player, was hot. She did several stellar solos and she leads her own group.
I really appreciated the ability to go from stage to stage. I caught a couple of songs with John Pizzarelli and Bria Skonberg at the California theatre. Roamed in and out of the blues stage and got to hear a lot of music that I would not normally hear. Jazz festivals are just great for finding new music!