Don’t know why it took me a week to publish this. The Jazz Fest this year will remain in my memory as starting with a raging, vacant-lot-squatting Friday, and as plagued by music-killing hour-late starts, but there were still several acts that I really liked. Here are the ones of whose sets I saw at least the majority proportion. See videos of all of them at SJ Jazz.
On Friday the standouts were Howard Wiley/Extra Nappy at the tiny boombox stage, and The Seshen at Stritch, where the drinks are overpriced and the ambience is perfect. What did we do downtown after Cactus Club and before Stritch?? It was great to have the Seshen to turn to when George Clinton’s band turned out not to be present. I don’t know what I expected, other than that they’d put some fire under it.
This below is the College Fund Street Band, as the sign says. From very little sister to dad, on bass, were singing pop songs. They had two gigs that I know of, this one Saturday in front of the Chinatown monument and one Sunday on the corner of San Fernando outside the art museum.
They weren’t at all as thrilling, nevertheless, as the stumbling drunk guy sitting on the history table fifty paces away. His buddy says that it’s like babysitting today, they’re both drinking Mike’s God Damn White San José Men’s Obsession Lemonade, and he’s got a guitar on his belly. So I sez do a song about Mike’s Lemonade. He asks me for seventeen cents, or a dollar fifty nine or any amount within that, and I find a dollar for his drunk ass.
He stands up on the history table, almost falls on his face, slams down on his ass to play the guitar, still can’t hold steady, and then gets down on the paseo. He gives his buddy the guitar like, PLAY, and DON’T BREAK A STRING, then stops him tells him to play softer, and his buddy is mad and hisses never make me stop. Later I thought that’s not what she said. Finally with his friend holding the guitar he does the Homer Simpson pose, knees bent, ass out, huge belly forward, head back and belting the words MIKE’S HARD LEMONADE, and he picks up the pop tune that the College Fund Band are playing. I sez thanks and walk away and he calls after me (reading my shirt) EYY!! GET BACK HERE GIZDICH!!!
Saturday felt like kind of a wash because the damned shows kept going on late. But Ray Obiedo was awesome. He had fusiony unison heads on clean texmex guitar, soprano sax and steel pans. Hip! Also at the hotel was Kalil Wilson, whose standard croons put lots of young children to sleep. And of course half the fest is just the Salsa Stage, where I saw, amongst others, Conjunto Karabali and Carlitos Medrano y Sabor de mi Cuba. Never miss Cubans playing in your town! I wanted to see a lot more people, such as Millennium Sounds, but again the gad damn late starts killed it. Standout of Saturday Night was vocalist Kavita Shah and her bassist Francois, who were so good that we missed Chris Botti entirely. Darn!
Above: Junior Dixieland Czech Republic, directed by Bedřich Smrčka. These kids got dragged all the way out in their school uniforms from the Czech Republic and made to play their stuff for us, and were incredulous when I told them how great it was and how much I loved the whole notion. I sed, it’s a shame when the Czech Republic across the world cares more about our awesome historical music than we do. The singer/washboard is probably 11 and the low banjo is probably 16, 17.
Above: Crowds were very warm for Jackie Gage, just happy to see a San José native making it and singing songs. Her bassist was very good. She did a shuffle version of Afro Blue, which was alright. Maceo Parker’s band was also pretty straight-ahead, but not as mechanical as George Clinton’s. Below is Sunday night’s Allan Harris, photographed as above at Jade Leaf, which remains way too small for the kinds of crowds at the Fest as long as they insist on seating, but sounds great. Harris’ high string licks were spot-on.
Lastly, can’t forget the “jazz noir” put on by Dmitri Matheny, who was so stoked to be there with his “bay area Wrecking Crew” of Ron Belcher, Leon Joyce and Matt Clark, that it was infectious.
I didn’t really see any acts that redefined my sense of music, such as Sonex ’15 and Miguel Zenón ’16, but it was still fun. I hope the organizers read this and crack down on the late starts. For those of you reading this out of town, the Fest is setup so you hear 2 different bands constantly, so late starts or false starts, like the band that never started at San Pedro on Friday, are a major buzzkill. Still it’s a hundred bucks for three days of music. That’s an investment, kids!
All photos by the author on a piece of shit Samsung shart phone.