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Silicon Valley Summer Jazz Events Guide

In Culture, Music
Terence Blanchard performs Aug. 8 at Jazz on the Plazz, Los Gatos Town Plaza

Terence Blanchard performs Aug. 8 at Jazz on the Plazz, Los Gatos Town Plaza

Whether one’s proclivities run toward Afro-Caribbean grooves, straight-ahead swing, rockin’ fusion or sultry singers, there’s a wealth of jazz talent on tap in the South Bay this summer. Best of all, there’s no shortage of free concerts, with just about every city in the valley offering a free outdoor concert series. Here are a dozen recommend gigs, but I could easily double that number.

Wally Schnalle
May 25, 7pm, $15; Theatre on San Pedro Square, San Jose
No one on the South Bay scene has done more to overthrow the tired notion that jazz/rock fusion is a spent creative force than drummer/composer Wally Schnalle. Celebrating the release of his potent new CD, Live at Yoshi’s, he performs with the album’s stellar cast, featuring tenor saxophonist Dann Zinn, guitarist Jeff Massanari, keyboardist Murray Low, and bassist Jason Muscat. Expect muscular beats, intricately constructed tunes, rapidly shifting time signatures and searing solos, all delivered with unfussy precision.

Kat Parra
June 13, 7:30pm, free; Affinity Restaurant and Bar, Hilton San Jose
San Jose jazz vocalist Kat Parra is in the midst of a fascinating creative quest that has taken her from fronting salsa bands to excavating centuries-old Sephardic songs and setting them to an array of enticing Latin grooves. With her supple sense of time and light, silvery tone, she puts her distinctive stamp on every piece she sings. Parra performs as part of San Jose Jazz’s free Wednesday concert series with her regular cats, including pianist Murray Low, bassist Chris Lopes, drummer Dan Foltz and Masaru Koga on woodwinds. She also performs at the 23rd Annual San Jose Jazz Summer Fest.

Anton Schwartz Quartet
June 24, 4pm, $12 in advance and $14 at the door; City Lights Theater, San Jose
Though he moved to Seattle a few years ago, tenor saxophonist Anton Schwartz is still a regular presence on Bay Area stages. A highly lyrical player whose solos unfurl in long graceful arcs, Schwartz is an expert at building and releasing tension with subtle rhythmic shifts. He also swings like hell. The City Lights show is the first of half a dozen South Bay gigs, including Sunnyvale’s Jazz & Beyond series (July 14), the Hedley Club (July 27), Redwood City’s Mondays on Main series (July 30) and the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest (Aug. 11).

Spider Saloff
June 27, 6:30pm, free; Jazz on the Plazz, Los Gatos Town Plaza
Far too little heard on the West Coast, Chicago jazz singer Spider Saloff is a connoisseur of the American Songbook, an original stylist who specializes in the witty repartee of Cole Porter and the exquisite music of Billy Strayhorn. A dynamic performer who arrives in the Bay Area after premiering her one-woman musical The Roar of the Butterfly, Saloff performs as part of Los Gatos’s Jazz on the Plazz concert series with a band led by pianist Ken Muir featuring the prodigious trumpeter Erik Jekabson.

Peggy Stern Quintet
July 1, 4:30pm, $35; Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society, Douglas Beach House, Half Moon Bay
Pianist/composer Peggy Stern first gained national attention in the early ’90s through a series of gorgeous recordings with legendary alto saxophonist Lee Konitz. Equally at home playing with straight ahead masters like Gerry Mulligan and Stanley Turrentine or progressive explorers like Barry Altschul and Julian Priester, Stern has steadily developed into a distinctive composer in her own right whose music draws deeply on classical training, love of Afro-Caribbean rhythms and idiosyncratic harmonic sensibility. For this gig, she performs with alto saxophonist “Sweet” Sue Terry, trumpeter Chuck MacKinnon, bassist Peter Barshay and the brilliant drummer Allison Miller.

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