Starting this Valentine’s Day, San Jose Jazz kicks off its annual Winter Fest, a concert series that grants music fans the chance to see world-class musicians in some of the South Bay’s more intimate spaces.
Compared to the organization’s flagship Summer Fest, which transforms downtown San Jose into a hub for live music every August, Winter Fest hones in on the more intimate side of the live experience. Winter Fest programming often showcases jazz’s leading innovators. It also places a focus on San Jose Jazz’s educational efforts by providing space and exposure for the next generation of jazz talent to be heard. This year, student ensembles will be playing all afternoon on February 18 and 19 at Cafe Stritch.
Saxophonist Donny McCaslin, a Santa Cruz native, opens Winter Fest on February 14. He arrives at Cafe Stritch with a quartet that represents some of New York’s leading modern jazz talents. There’s a rock connection here, too—McCaslin and his bandmates were David Bowie’s backing band on Blackstar, which sadly turned out to be his final album. That experience greatly informed Beyond Now, McCaslin’s latest. The energy these four bring to the bandstand is certainly a must-see at Cafe Stritch, which in recent years has become one of the best rooms in the Bay Area to see live jazz in.
There’s also plenty of history to soak up for jazz nerds. Roy Ayers, a vibes player and fusion pioneer best known for his hit “Everybody Loves the Sunshine,” headlines Winter Fest with his performance on February 24 at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto. Former Miles Davis protégé Wallace Roney comes to town on February 23. However, for audiences wanting to witness decades of jazz chops in one night, they would be hard-pressed to find a better ticket than The Cookers on February 16. This septet is a super group of jazz veterans who have played alongside titans like Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins, and Art Blakey.
There will also be opportunities for dancing. For a dose of soulful oldies, check out Ron E. Beck Soul Revue at Poor House Studio, Poor House Bistro’s new concert space. For soul with a modern spin, pop into The Changing Same (TCS), a weekly dance party at the Continental, on February 23 to see Portland songstress Reva DeVito. She has collaborated with recent electronic music darling Kaytranada, and her debut EP, The Move/i>, recently surpassed one million plays on Spotify. TCS always provides a good excuse to move, and this special Winter Fest edition should be no different.
Much of Winter Fest includes ticketed events, but there are also great free options for those on a budget. Enjoy a whole evening of free live music on February 17, when the Winter Fest club crawl presents local artists at various venues throughout downtown San Jose. Artists include Mason Razavi Duo, the Bad Ones, Feelosophy, and more.
Whether looking to listen to some jazz giants or to discover where jazz is headed next, Winter Fest’s series has something for everyone. For the full line-up and to buy tickets, visit: San Jose Jazz Winter Fest Presented by Kaiser Permanente and Metro.
Written by Brandon Roos
Photo courtesy of Kim Nalley