San Jose Jazz Summer Fest, 2016

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Cecile McLorin Salvant and the Aaron Diehl Trio

The “e” in 2016’s San Jose Jazz Summer Fest most definitely stood for eclectic.

Case in point: Within earshot of Grammy award-winning vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant on the festival’s main stage, one could stumble upon the straight ahead jazz of Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun’s tribute to Elvin Jones held in a venue normally reserved for customers of an Asian fusion cuisine restaurant. It was standing room only there. This was not the only time standing was the only option!

One could then make a quick detour and catch a groove straight out of “My Big Fat South Asian Wedding” where Red Baraat pumped out their unique blend of Bhangra beats, jazz, funk and all manner of other tasty aural spices. A few blocks away, one could grab some guacamole, salsa and chips at a sidewalk table and take in the New Orleans sounds of trumpeter Kermit Ruffins and his BBQ Swingers or the The Iguanas. Back on the main quad, the very danceable Friday night Fat City funk fest featured Galactic and the Funky Meters.

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Kermit Ruffins

Other headliners over the weekend included the deeply soulful Lizz Wright along with Brazil ’66s creator Sergio Mendes. The sounds of the latter’s “Mas Que Nada” and “Fool On The Hill” wafting over the crowd never sounded better.

One of the festival’s semi-secret hot spots, the KCSM Music Lounge, was located deep inside festival ground zero – the luxurious Fairmont Hotel where the intimate Pagoda Lounge played host to straight ahead sets by drummer Tootie Heath’s band, English/Trinidadian jazz vocalist Tessa Souter, along with a sizzling solo set by Chilean saxophone sensation Melissa Aldana.

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Melissa Aldana

Add to those performances, the outlying Cafe Stritch and California Theatre venues (located right across the street from one another) that played host to the Royal Bopsters, Melissa Aldana’s trio and Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom ensembles, to name a few.

In our opinion, this year’s Silicon Valley festival served notice that San Jose is a jazz festival city to be seriously reckoned with in summer’s to come. Be sure to bring your walking shoes though. There’s plenty to hear over several city blocks.

Check our select festival photo album, here.

Photographs copyright Ken Hunt and Whole Earth Images.

By the way, if you’re interested in jazz and blues, please check out and “like” our JAZZ WIRE page on Facebook, here. Don’t be shy! Share with your friends.

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