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San Jose Jazz Summer Fest 2023

San Jose Jazz Summer Fest 2023

Courtesy Walter Atkins

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With a flawless line up of incredible artists, performers and crafts, the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest 2023 version produced an exemplary weekend of invigorating diverse music forms, big fun and community.
César Chávez Square
San Jose Jazz Summer Fest 2023
San Jose, CA
August 11-13 2023

This year's 2023 edition of the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest was a magnificent presentation of different musical genres, ranging from local to international artists. Each day of SJZSF 2023 offered a robust and extensively varied program of: jazz, world music, Hip hop, salsa, soul, blues, NOLA, swing and so much more. The Fest's rich programming featured: Marcus Miller, Gregory Porter, Patrice Rushen, Anthony Hamilton, Veronica Swift, Big Daddy Kane, CIMAFUNK, The Bad Plus, Vanessa Collier, Billy Childs, The Vocal Gentlemen of Jazz, Isaiah Collier & The Chosen Few, Marcus Shelby Orchestra with Tiffany Austin, Los Tacoyos, Telmary & Friends and Gabriel Gonzalez Y La Verdad.

Friday's opening night reception was held at Urban Catalyst in the bustling downtown area. Keynote speakers acknowledged and celebrated the many years of support and energy from the community and sponsors including the Sobrato Organization, Park 200, Amazon, PG&E, the City of San José, Metro, Meriwest, KCSM FM and media outlets. With the late afternoon weather in the 80s, it was just a short walk to the lively festival grounds and the fantastic sounds.

On the Sobrato Main Stage, The brass centric Soul Rebels galvanized the crowd with their eclectic gumbo of soul, Hip hop and jazz heavily spiced New Orleans style. Their setlist covered "Kicking," "Paid Up," and their killer medley that included "Good Time," "Turn It Up,""Curious,""504" and "Slide Back." The band thanked San Jose and commented it was a "super engagement with the fun crowd and a beautiful night." Independent Hip hop artist MURS' set closed out the Park 200 Stage. Five time Grammy winning pianist /composer Billy Childs held court at the Montgomery Theater Stage. He performed music from his latest LP "Winds Of Change" and a song dedicated to his young son born with large inquisitive eyes.

It was only fitting that legendary Big Daddy Kane should officially ignite the 50th Anniversary of Hip hop on SJZSF's Sobrato Organization main stage, dedicated to Cesar Chavez. Kane's suave session included "Ain't No Half Steppin," "I Get The Job Done," "Smooth Operator" and his other hits. The enthralled audience clearly thought he was a smooth operator with their euphoric responses to his calls. Along with band solos , Kane provided ample time for his first rate vocalist Vanessa Ferguson's singing. His numerous accolades included a Grammy award for Best Rap performance on Quincy Jones' album title track "Back on The Block." Towards the end of the historic day, Kane talked about surrounding yourself with positive people, and he hoped that resonated with the overflowing venue.Stage host Greg Bridges, the popular KCSM & KPFA radio personality, shared his thoughts on the scintillating 50th Anniversary celebration of Hip hop. "Big Daddy Kane is still the Smooth Operator, and he provided plenty of soulful and funky memories on the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop. In addition to his outstanding performance, he introduced many to his stellar vocalist Vanessa Ferguson, a talent to be aware of."

On Saturday, the comfortable air conditioned PG&E Hammer Stage was the appropriate venue for Isaiah Collier & The Chosen Few. This indoor venue was the ideal setting for the group to provide a meditative set that chilled the body and warmed the spirit. The enthusiastic listeners responded with relish. Sybil, a first time SJZSF attendee was amazed with the group. " I cannot believe how good that show was with those musicians! It was a really spiritual experience. I was moved to tears in the second to the last song. I'm so glad I got a chance to experience that." Returning to the main stage, the vocalist/musician Vanessa Collier was captivating with her wicked blues singing and saxophone work. As she was finishing the notes on her sax, the crowd was euphoric. A nearby listener was in awe. "She just feathered the notes on the songs and the crowd went wild! Collier was equally impressed playing at SJZSF 2023. " Oh man! Yeah it was incredible! It was amazing to play for this crowd and such an honor to be here on the main stage and getting to play the blues stage.. and yeah it's amazing."

Still at the main outdoor stage, vocalist /saxophonist Vanessa Collier served up her blend of blues and soul to an engaged house. The two time Blues Awards winner also opined how much she enjoyed playing at SJZSF 2023. Teresa also liked the set. "Oh! Just saw Vanessa Collier on the main stage... wicked blues singer and saxophonist. The San Jose Jazz Festival is a fun enjoyable community of people appreciating the beauty of what music and art does to bring all of us together!" Cimafunk from Cuba had the main stage rocking to their Afro Cuban rhythms. Their infectious vigor was reminiscent of a young James Brown and The Famous Fames. Throughout the set, people responded with emphatic applause and supportive yells. Helen was also complimentary. "San Jose Jazz was amazing. Loved the expanded VIP area and all of the amazing artists. We will be back as sponsors (Meriwest CU) of this amazing high energy event!"

The hot weather in the low 90s did not deter the large crowns over the three day festival. Bassist extraordinaire Marcus Miller was one of the numerous highlights at SJZSF 2023.Miller's fans were mesmerized during his riveting performance on the main stage. His extended bass explorations, along with strong support from his supremely confident band, generated effusive responses from the full venue. Miller provided generous amounts of time for his band members to solo and "show out." Dedicated Marcus Miller supporters included two young women who drove up from Los Angeles that morning for his late afternoon set. While waiting for Anthony Hamilton during a music break, dancers improvised an exciting Soul Train Line to the DJ's funky music. Don Cornelius, the late creator/producer of Soul Train, was definitely smiling this day. Hamilton's evening set was overflowing with women swooning and absorbing every minute of his stage time. Another fulll day at SJZMF concluded with people pleased with the music.

On Sunday, Marcel Smith represented the blues on the Blues Big Easy Stage. The Sacramento based vocalist walked causally through the festive crowd, stopping to serenade a few lucky listeners and dancers on the grass.Veronica Swift's stirring mix of jazz, blues, rock and classical proved popular at the Sobrato Stage. Three time Grammy nominated pianist/vocalist Patrice Rushen had the house tingling with her appealing compositions that included the massive hit " Forget Me Nots," sampled for the 1997 blockbuster movie Men in Black. Rushen's effervescent set opened with "#1," "Hump," "Hang It Up, "Kickin' Back," "Music of the Earth," "You Remind Me," "Arrival," "Haven't You Heard," and closed with "Roll With The Punches." The air was filled with warm applause for her performance.

Returning to the PG&E Hammer Stage, the distinguished Vocal Gents of Jazz consisted of Bay Area favorites Nicolas Bearde, Kenny Washington, and Jamie Davis. Their classic repertoire included covers of jazz standards by Duke Ellington and Billy Eckstine. VGJ's stylish jazz arrangements covered the Ellington compositions "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "Satin Doll" and "It Don't Mean A Thing." Bearde sang Eckstine's "I Want To Talk About You" and Jamie Davis contributed Duke's signature song "Sophisticated, Lady." The admiring listeners savored every memorable track. Returning to the main stage, the incomparable baritone Gregory Porter's packed session featured "Take Me To The Alley," "I Do Not Agree," "Holding On" and a Motown medley with a serious bass intro from the Temptations classic "My Girl." Porter, a two time Grammy winner, sang with a quiet power that suggested a gospel like peace. The pleasure was evident in the beaming faces engulfing the stage. Like many of the performing artists this weekend, Porter provided plenty of time for his band to stretch out.

The Latin Tropical Stage, one of three popular Free Community Stages, showcased Telmary & Friends, an Afro Cuban trio. Dynamic and loud, the three women had couples dancing for blocks at this huge street stage. Local resident Kim provided her insightful comments. "I discovered San Jose Jazz Summer Fest 25+ years ago, and couldn't believe such a quality music event was so close by in San Jose. I love the easy walk to outdoor and indoor stages in a lively, welcoming, real downtown—beats a large fairground or racetrack experience for me. The line-up always expands my knowledge of jazz, and exposes me to both legendary musicians and much emerging talent." This was a great way to close out the special weekend.

With a flawless line up of incredible artists, performers and crafts, the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest 2023 version produced an exemplary weekend of invigorating diverse music forms, big fun and community.

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