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REVIEW by Christopher J. Walker

The San Jose Jazz Summer Fest hasn’t been around quite as long as the neighboring Monterey Jazz Festival,

which began in 1958 or the SF Jazz Festival that started in 1983 as “Jazz in the City.” Nonetheless, the annual

San Jose event is on the same par as the other festivals. It also has warmer weather and offers over 120

performances at Plaza de César Chavez Park and 11 other locations and venues all within walking distance

around the downtown area.

Unlike Monterey and SF the San Jose outing is broader in scope. Jazz with offshoots of cabaret/vocal,

contemporary, funk, fusion, swing/big band, and youth and high school bands, homegrown bands (has a dedicated stage) avant-garde, along with blues (has a dedicated stage) are well represented with some Grammy winning artists included.

Mainstream jazz lovers looking to see some familiar and/or fast rising musicians will enjoy Denise Donatelli and Friends, The Karrin Allyson Trio, Chico Freeman Plus+tet, Will Calhoun “Celebrating Elvin Jones,” The Miguel Zenón Quartet, Cécile McLorin Salvant and The Aaron Diehl Trio, The Tessa Souter Quartet, Jane Bunnett & Maqueque, and The Tootie Heath Trio featuring Richard Sears and Martin Nevin.

World music encompassing many manifestations from around the world is celebrated, while Latin and salsa music sometimes extending into jazz has become one of the largest showcases of its type in U.S. at the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest. Those who lean more toward soul, R&B, hip-hop and pop, rather than mainstream jazz will find many appealing artists as well. Some of the appearing artists fitting that description are Galactic, Ron Scott & Friends, Dirty Cello, Goapele, Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom, Bobby Caldwell & His R&B Band, Lizz Wright, Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir and Sergio Mendes & Brasil 2016 – A Celebration of 50 Years of Brasil ’66, which includes Bloco Del Sol leading a Brazilian Carnival style procession beforehand on Sunday.

Complimenting those groups while also having a strong jazz heritage is New Orleans music. It, in fact will have its own venue—“The Big Easy Stage.” Featured artists representing the truly unique city are The New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars, Vaud & the Villains, Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers, The Iguanas, Polyrhythmics and The Honey Island Swamp Band. Additionally, those who really want to get into “the spirit” of New Orleans can participate in a second line parade after Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers set on Saturday. Furthermore, partying late into night continues by way of the Friday and Saturday late programming, along with a “Club Crawl” at venues such as Deluxe Eatery Drinkery, Chacho's and Scott's Seafood.

Supplementing the far reaching range of music and artists at SJJSF are ancillary activities such as: Jazz Mass at Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph, a community mural painting project by artist Will Moran curated by Empire Seven Studios and a screening of inspirational Song of Lahore with a Q&A by producer Vijay Vaidyanathan. Not to be overlooked is an award-winning, interactive art project combining physical exercise, music and the activation of public spaces. The Swings: An Exercise in Musical Cooperation will be located close to the festival. The Swings emit musical notes and when users coordinate their swinging, melodies emerge. The touring Musical Swings have visited selected cities and most recently Manhattan's Financial District, before ending its tour in San Jose, its only West Coast appearance.

Whether a seasoned jazz lover, a curious newbie or someone just looking for something interesting or different to do, SJJSF has a wealth of music to experience, a variety of venues and plenty of food and beverages to enjoy and sample.  Brendan Rawson, Executive Director at San Jose Jazz summed up its growth, "Each year we partner with new restaurants, bars, and cafes that are moving into downtown and are helping building a great nightlife and music scene here. The Continental Bar, Cafe Stritch, Jade Leaf Lounge, Chacho's restaurant are all new venues we have partnered with to present a wide variety of music styles, along with our longstanding partnership with Poor House Bistro to present great New Orleans musicians. These places are establishing themselves as exciting venues for live music and paying gigs for local and touring musicians."

Plaza de César Chavez Park, Downtown San Jose, CA

Optional Nearby Points of Interest in San Jose:

Winchester Mystery House

The Winchester Mystery House is an eccentric Victorian mansion on six acres

that was once the personal residence of Sarah Winchester, the widow of gun magnate

William Wirt Winchester. Mrs. Winchester believed that spirits killed by her deceased

husband’s rifles haunted the house, resulting in her building odd rooms and staircases

to keep them at bay.
525 S Winchester Blvd, San Jose, CA 95128

Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and Planetarium
The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum is a theosophical museum devoted to Ancient Egypt

with the largest collection of ancient artifacts and exhibits in the Western U.S. 

It’s located at the Rosicrucian Park in the Rose Garden neighborhood of San Jose

and was founded by the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis.
1660 Park Ave, San Jose, CA 95191  (408) 947-3635

The Tech Museum of Innovation
Considered more than a museum and casually called “The Tech” it is a “must”

for techies and definitely not a traditional museum. Significantly, the museum

has three different levels and is devoted to four themes: Communication,

Exploration, Innovation and Life Tech
201 S Market St, San Jose, CA 95113   (408) 294-8324

San Jose Museum of Art
Founded in 1969 in a building that was once a post office and the San Jose Main Library

for 30 years. It was named a California Landmark and also added to the National Register

of Historic Places, with a large collection 20th and 21st century West Coast artists.
110 S Market St, San Jose, CA 95110  (408) 271-6840

Japanese American Resource Center/Museum
This the result of a research project on Japanese American Farmers in the San Francisco

Bay Area’s Santa Clara Valley that developed into courses on Japanese American History

and established as an institute in 1987. Included in its 6400 sq. ft. hub located in the

Japantown section of San Jose are artifacts, exhibits, film screenings and lectures related

to the Japanese American Experience.
535 N 5th St, San Jose, CA 95112   (408) 294-3138

Children's Discovery Museum
Apple Computer Co-Founder Steve Wozniak was the largest private donor

when this top rated museum and science center opened in 1990. This 52,000 sq. ft.

facility is a mecca for interactive exhibits and open-ended explorations oriented to children.
180 Woz Way, San Jose, CA 95110   (408) 298-5437

Municipal Rose Garden
A little over two miles from Downtown San Jose, the 5.5 acre, almost 90 year-old park

(est. 1927) is a relaxing delight for rose lovers. Visitors can leisurely peruse the grounds,

dine or just relax among 3,500 shrubs representing 189 rose varieties.
Dana Ave, San Jose, CA 95112   (408) 794-7274

J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines
1000 Lenzen Ave., San Jose, CA 95126
(408) 288-5057

Sherman Cellars
40 Post St., San Jose, CA 95113
408) 288-9463

Coterie Cellars
885 W Julian St. San Jose, CA 95126
(408) 288-5553
Mission Creek Brewing Co.
 777 The Alameda
San Jose, CA 95126
 (408) 207-1126