Closing day of the 27th Annual San Jose Jazz Summer Fest, Sunday Aug. 14 was a celebration of world music and a joyous weekend for Streetwise Radio.
The streets of downtown San Jose, as well hotels, cafes and restaurants hosted legendary musicians and emerging artists, attracting thousands of fans to the largest city in the Bay Area.
Our first stop on a warm south bay afternoon was the Jade Leaf Lounge, where Cuban pianist Harold Lopez Nussa, joined by Ruy Adrián López-Nussa, (drums/percussion) and Alune Wade (bass/vocals) were creating elegant, tropical soundscapes.
Harold Lopez Nussa
While children in swim suits danced through the fountains at Cezar Chavez Plaza in the heart of downtown San Jose,
2015 Grammy nominee--saxophonist Miguel Zenon, and his band --Alex Brown (piano), Hans Glawischnig (bass) and Henry Cole (drums)-- showcased rhythms and melodies inspired by Zenon’s native Puerto Rico. The quartet played original compositions and arrangements from Zenon’s albums, “Esta Plena” and “Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook.”
“It feels great to be here,” said Zenon, who was nominated for a 2015 Grammy in the Best Latin Jazz Album category for “Identities Are Changeable.”
“This is our second time here. The first time was maybe, five years ago. Last time, we played in a theater, so it’s nice to play outside; it’s so pretty here and people are enjoying themselves. “It’s a really nice vibe.”
Saxophonist Miguel Zenon
Zenon comes from a fine tradition of Puerto Rican jazz greats including trombonist/composer Juan Tizol, who played with Duke Ellington’s orchestra. Incidentally, as a member of the SFJAZZ Collective, Zenon cop-produced and arranged the album “The Music of Michael Jackson & Original Compositions,” recorded live at SFJAZZ Center in 2015.
Rick & Russ Show
The World Famous Rick & Russ Show spun classic R&B on the main stage as Grammy winning vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant, currently one of the hottest performers on the touring circuit, prepared for her set the main stage. Accompanied by pianist Aaron Diehl, bassist Paul Sikivie and drummer Lawrence Leathers, the bespectacled jazz goddess opened with her original ballad, “Fog.”
Cecile McLorin Salvant
In February, I watched Salvant accept her Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album, “For One to Love” at the Premiere Ceremony at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles. Salvant is a pure, articulate singer whose voice can emulate everything from an elegant violin refrain to the sassy wa-wa of a trombone. Salvant delighted the audience with a string of jazz standards and Broadway show tunes including “The Trolly Song,” made popular by Judy Garland, “Wives and Lovers,” by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, “Something’s Coming” by Leonard Bernstein, “What a Little Moonlight Can Do,” made popular by Billie Holiday and the whimsical “Sam Jones Blues” by Bessie Smith.
“I was lucky to have been raised in a household where music was a very important part of our upbringing,” said Salvant, in an interview after the show. “We listened to music from all over the world including, but not only jazz. We listened to folk music from South America, from Africa, from Europe and all kinds of American popular music and folk music from Appalachian to funk and R&B to disco and classical music. When I moved to France and met my jazz teacher, I started perusing jazz as an option for a career. I never really thought I would do it professionally.”
Salvant said she has not read her extensive Wikipedia page and said she hates to google herself. The artistically inclined singer wore a colorful patterned Issey Miyake dress that fluttered in the wind and complemented the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest mural on the main stage. Miyake is Salvant’s favorite designer; she loves his vivid colors and his clothes are light weight and are easy to travel with, she said.
“I don’t like to look at myself or watch myself or be in that spirit, because I don’t think it is very enriching as a musician,” said Salvant. “It’s not very enriching to be constantly scrutinizing yourself in that way or looking at what other people think of you. Something people may not know about me is that I really love visual art and I draw a lot. I’m actually preparing a show in New York at a gallery in November. Mostly water colors and ink drawings. It’s really a fun thing to do when I’m on tour. We have a lot of moments where we wait. You know, people come to the shows and they see us perform and they think that’s what it is. But a lot of it is traveling to the performance and waiting for the plane or the train or being in a car for a long time. There are a lot of hours like that where we can’t really work on music. I can read, I guess, but I feel like drawing is a wonderful activity that’s also creative. I started doing it about five years ago and it’s been enriching to me. I’ve done a few of my album covers.”
I asked Salvant how it felt to perform at the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest.
“It feels great,” said Salvant. “The audience was warm and wonderful. I’m having a wonderful time, and I’m actually seeing a line form at the CD table.
As Salvant graciously signed CDs for fans, a New Orleans style parade made its way around the main stage, warming up the for the evening’s headliner, Sergio Mendes and Brasil 2016.
Shelah Moody, Sergio Mendes and Radio host Safi Wa Narobi of KPFA FM
The 75-year-old, Grammy-winning Bossa Nova singer/songwriter/composer and his multicultural band performed “A Celebration of 50 Years of Brasil ’66.”
My father was a jazz pianist who was heavily influence by Samba and Bossa Nova. As a child, Mendes’ iconic “Herb Alpert Presents Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66” and other albums were constantly played in our home, and songs such as “Fool On the Hill,” “One Note Samba” and “Look of Love” became the soundtrack of my life.
Oakland rapper H20 led the intro to Mendes’ signature tune, “Mas, que Nada,” and oh, how we danced and sang along to the “O, o-o-o-oh ari-ah, rayoh...Obah, obah, obah!” chorus!
Greg Bridges of KCSM FM and Albert “Tootie” Heath
In a late Sunday night set at downtown San Jose’s Café Stritch, radio host Greg Bridges of KCSM FM San Francisco introduced the legendary drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath, joined by Richard Sears on piano and Martin Nevin on bass https://youtu.be/M5OFxodGLUQ.
Albert “Tootie” Heath
“This cat has been a big part of my life through listening for many, many years,” said Bridges said of Heath. “I learned rhythm from him and cats like him. So many musicians have learned from him; he is a part of the foundation of this music that we call jazz.”
Hailing from one of the first families of jazz, Heath and his musical siblings—Jimmy Heath (saxophone), and the late Percy Heath (bass) formed the Heath Brothers in Philadelphia, PA in 1975 and produced modern jazz recordings such as “Marchin’ On,” “Brothers and Others” and “In Motion. At 81, the gracious Heath packed Café Stritch, and captivated the audience with his stamina and his polyrhythmic drumming technique.
For info on the 2017 San Jose Jazz Winter Fest, go to sanjosejazz.org.