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SJ Jazz’s Winter Fest Features Classic, Cutting Edge Artists

In Music
TROPICAL SOUNDS: Oakland-based La Misa Negra meld Afro-Latin textures with a modern sensibility.

TROPICAL SOUNDS: Oakland-based La Misa Negra meld Afro-Latin textures with a modern sensibility.

San Jose Jazz Winter Fest returns this month with a lineup of jazz luminaries, rising local talent and boundary pushing young artists, who aim to blend the line between the classic and the cutting edge. Here is just a sampling of some of the great shows in store at this year’s festival.

Ronnie Foster Trio
Feb 16, 8pm | Cafe Stritch
Organist Ronnie Foster released a string of well-regarded soul-jazz albums on Blue Note and Columbia in the 1970s. His 1972 debut, The Two Headed Freap established his approach: building on the pioneering jazz organ sound of Jimmy Smith, Foster added a funky edge in keeping with the sounds of action films of the time (think of Isaac Hayes’ work on the Shaft soundtrack, as well as Lalo Schifrin and Don Ellis). Because Foster didn’t improvise on record as did many of his contemporaries, he’s sometimes overlooked. But with the benefit of hindsight, his style is more accessible and timeless. Foster’s influence upon the acid-jazz scene of the mid-1980s and beyond cannot be overstated. And his work with the Jacksons, Stevie Wonder and even Chet Atkins shows that Foster’s musical vision is all-encompassing.

La Misa Negra
Feb 17, 8pm | Art Boutiki
Hailing from Oakland, this seven-piece group specializes in a blend of Afro-Latin sounds and rhythms. The high-energy outfit features traditional jazz instrumentation (two sax players, upright bass, drums) but adds guitar, vocals and a modern sensibility that draws as much upon hip-hop and metal as it does from older, more established musical forms. While the music is decidedly upbeat, in its lyrics La Misa Negra does not shy away from topical themes like gender equality and gun violence. The group has released two albums to date—the 2013 debut Misa de Medianoche, and a self-titled album released last fall.

Jacob Jolliff Band
Feb 18, 4pm | Cafe Stritch
Oregon-born mandolinist Jacob Jolliff has a foundation in bluegrass and gospel. He attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston and undertook a musical apprenticeship under John McGann. Jolliff went on to win a number of competitive awards and began releasing albums with Joy Kills Sorrow. In 2014 he left that group to join acclaimed jam-grass outfit Yonder Mountain String Band, becoming an official member the next year. Also in 2015, he launched the Jacob Jolliff Band; the new group starts with a bluegrass foundation but adds elements of other styles into its own take on American roots music.

Dee Dee Bridgewater
Feb 18, 7pm | Hammer Theatre Center
Three-time Grammy Award-winning vocalist Bridgewater began her musical career in Michigan as a teenager. She rocketed to prominence as lead singer in the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, and began a solo career of her own by the mid 1970s. After a brief flirtation with disco, Bridgewater worked mostly in the jazz idiom. Bridgewater has guested on albums by many other artists, including Stanley Clarke, Roy Ayers and Christian McBride. Her 2015 release, Dee Dee’s Feathers, is steeped in New Orleans jazz traditions. The versatile Bridgewater’s most recent album, 2017’s Memphis… Yes, I’m Ready features members of the city’s Hi Rhythm Section and finds Bridgewater lending her talents to readings of classic Southern soul. At Winter Fest, Bridgewater will be backed by the SJSU Jazz Orchestra.

SJZ Collective
Feb 22, 7pm | Cafe Stritch
Drawing from the top jazz players in Silicon Valley, the SJZ Collective features Brian Ho on organ, Oscar Pangilinan on saxophone, Saúl Sierra on bass, drummer Wally Schnalle, guitarist Hristo Vitchev and John L. Worley Jr. on trumpet and flugelhorn. Led by Schnalle—but basing its live work on arrangements created by each of its members—the new collective will pay tribute to the life and work of Thelonious Monk. All of the players in the SJZ Collective are also core instructors at the annual Summer Jazz Camp.

Masters of Hawaiian Music
Feb 23, 7pm | Cafe Stritch
Hawaiian music is characterized by its distinctive slack key guitar work. Three virtuosos in the style—George Kahumoku Jr., Led Kaapana and Jeff Peterson—come together to showcase the indigenous folk style that has its origins in 19th century paniolo (cowboy) culture. Each musician is well-established on his own, working with big names well outside the genre and earning awards and accolades.

Feb 23, 8pm | Art Boutiki
This Los Angeles duo working in the indie electronica idiom puts the “beyond” in this year’s Jazz Beyond lineup. Louis Cole and Genevieve Artadi began the project in 2009. Knower’s music folds in jazz textures (especially in the form of Artadi’s vocal work) into its electro-pop style. Cole and Artadi collaborate often with other artists, and work in film scoring as well. While they mostly create original music, Knower have also produce a number of intriguing covers of works by Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and Daft Punk.

Kuumbwa Jazz Honor Band
Feb 24, 2pm | Cafe Stritch
One key component of the San Jose Jazz festivals—summer and winter—is the organization’s focus on emerging talent. That focus takes the form of music from youthful ensembles such as the Kuumbwa Jazz Honor Band. This year’s band features top youth talent from Santa Cruz and nearby communities; each member of the group has been personally selected by school band directors for their ability, ambition and dedication. Director Terrell Eaton leads the band in performances that hone the young musicians’ skills, and the Honor Band wraps up its season with a headlining slot at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz.

International Guitar Night
Feb 24, 7:30pm | Oshman Family JCC
The long-running International Guitar Night has been a touring entity for nearly 20 years. This year’s lineup sees the return of Lulo Reinhardt; the grand-nephew of iconic guitarist Django Reinhardt serves as guest host for the performance. Also on the program are 24-year-old Calum Graham of Canada; Marek Pasieczny from Poland; and American classical/fingerstyle guitarist Michael Chapdelaine.

Orquesta Latin Heat
Feb 25, 7pm | Gordon Biersch
No roundup of jazz styles would be complete without a Latin jazz orchestra. And Bay Area OLH is an exemplar of the style. With a sound and energy that moves audiences to dance, Orquesta Latin Heat serves up a kinetic array of music in cumbia, merengue and salsa styles, with a repertoire that mixes classic tunes with OLH originals. Instructor Robert Santana will be on hand 90 minutes before the show, offering salsa dance lessons.

Veronica Swift w/ Benny Green Trio
Feb 28, 7pm | Cafe Stritch
At only 23, New York City-based Veronica Swift has already managed to make a name for herself. She appeared onstage at Jazz at Lincoln Center more than a decade ago, and in 2015 Swift won second place at the Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition. She works in a variety of styles ranging from 1920s and ’30 jazz to swing, bebop and material from the Great American Songbook. Swift appears at Winter Fest backed by hard bop pianist Benny Green (formerly of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers); the vocalist is currently recording an album with Green and his Trio.

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