Here are the bands I managed to squeeze in during my visits to the Summer Jazz Fest. I’m so lucky to live in this city, more so because I’m just out of downtown. I’ll be putting Youtube videos up if and as they appear, and meanwhile you can read some basic info and my irrelevant opinions. This list is in the opposite order in which I saw the acts, and is NOT in a rated order! Visit SJ Jazz for more.
Rumbaché – this is the youth salsa outfit from San Francisco. There was lots of room for people to dance. I appreciated, among other things, how the Jazz Fest made use of so many student and nonprofessional acts, showing how the jazz community, particularly in the bay area, is working hard at its lifecycle. The whole fest was really about looking back and forward, totally right on.
Eddie Palmieri – Eddie’s band was in full heavy noise-salsa mode. His trumpet player earned his keep. The act that convinced me to go this year. Thanks Eddie!
Brian Wolfe Quartet – some competent kids who held down the Beat Box all Sunday long. They did a lot of charts. I heard them for a second while I was talking to this dude William who went to CSUMB and started the public art piece upon which the youth were painting their additions.
Kamasi Washington – his band totally killed it. His bassist Miles Mosley did a Primus bass solo and a Primus guitar solo on upright bass with his nasty auto-wah so that was rad. Kamasi played tunes written by his bandmates, and I was really impressed by the tune from pianist and Meshuggah fan, whose name I’ve forgotten, ‘Adam and Eve.’ Really syncopated horn beats.
Ernesto Oviedo with John Santos Sextet – Ernesto Oviedo was in the US for the second time in his life, celebrating his 80th birthday. Guy is a walking piece of history, an encyclopedia of boleros. We were so lucky to see him. Think about it, he was born in 1935 and has therefore seen the entire epoch leading to and following the Castro revolution. Someone needs to put a microphone in front of him hooked up to a terabyte of memory and get him talking and singing while he still can. John Santos was behind the whole thing, as he’s behind so much in music. They also had this bitchin guitarist from México but I forgot his name.
Bombay Jazz – a flautist with a long bassy bamboo flute and a killer tabla player (lesser tabla players aren’t really found in the wild) had themselves accompanied by these two louies, one with a Paul Reed Smith and one with a saxophone. Every tune that I saw had the major-seventh sigh major scale that sounded Indian enough. It wasn’t really for me, too silly.
Etienne Charles – he premiered his San José Suite, with songs about St Joseph in his native Trinidad, San José, Costa Rica, where he evidently spends a lot of time, and about San José, California. Totally brilliant. When he started his first song about our little town, he played an old-sounding recording of native San Joseans singing some deep native Californian blues, and then played a chart over it. The songs were about native peoples of each place as well as stories from their 500-year survival of imperialism under European invaders like this writer.
La Sonex – As I gushed earlier, the most energetic and exciting band of the whole fest. Their sounds had me thinking about Jaivas, Mahavishnu Orchestra and all kinds of wonderful things. Their one requinto player tapdanced on two occasions. They’re playing in SF on 16 August, so go!
Jesús Díaz y Rumba cubana – these dudes were the real thing. Straight out of Cuba, they ran a couple congas, some long handmade drums, what looked like a sugarcane or bamboo clave, and harmonized call and response. What the hell else can you do with music, really? Brilliant.
The Internet – evidently these cats are up for a major award for R & B recording. Does Hollywood still make R & B? Their sound was about playing what sounded like samples or references of old soul recordings, like in hip hop beats, only with live instrumentation. It was cool, but it wasn’t really my thing. The singer was all over it, however.