Listen Up

Andrew Gilbert | August 7, 2017 | Lifestyle Story Culture

Think local and book global. San Jose Jazz Summer Fest has become one of the West Coast’s premier music festivals by following this directive. By drawing primarily on the region’s wealth of talent, while cherry picking big-name touring acts from around the world, the event has earned pride of place as an urban alternative to its older sibling down the road in Monterey. Running from Aug. 11 to 13 on 10 downtown stages, Summer Fest offers myriad listening experiences. It’s an R&B street party and a salsa scene, a blues joint, a nu groove proving ground and, of course, a jazz oasis.

With more than 100 shows, there are far too many to list, but the highlights include trumpet great Eddie Henderson and funk patriarch George Clinton. The vocal lineup features sensational French/Dominican jazz singer Cyrille Aimée, rising Oakland crooner Kalil Wilson and incandescent Brazilian jazz explorer Claudia Villela.

For instrumental prowess, you can’t beat Cuban rumba maestro Pedrito Martinez, the Grammy-winning Pacific Mambo Orchestra and an all-star quintet featuring drum legend Jimmy Cobb. Even pop trumpet star Chris Botti’s band is stocked with brilliant improvisers like pianist/keyboardist Geoffrey Keezer, who earned his stripes as a teenager with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. “I go to see a lot of shows where the bandleader seems uninterested in their bands,” Botti says. “When you’ve got someone like Keezer, you better shine that spotlight and let the audience in on what they’re seeing.”

Originally published in the July/August issue of
Silicon Valley

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