San Jose Jazz Summer Fest Off to a Strong Start

August 13, 2016

Couples danced to funky New Orleans music. Kids played on nearby swings. The beer was pouring. The smiles were showing. And the weather was pretty much perfect.

Yes, the 27th annual San Jose Jazz Summer Fest got off to a strong start on Friday, drawing throngs of music fans to downtown see Fat City favorites Galactic and the Funky Meters as well as other artists perform.

The three-day festival continues through Sunday, with such attractions as rising star Cecile McLorin Salvant, Brazilian bossa nova icon Sergio Mendes and acclaimed saxophonist Miguel Zenon still on tap.

Overall, the festival is expected to draw some 40,000 fans.

Part of the appeal, of course, is the jam-packed lineup, which features over 120 acts performing on 13 stages over the three-day weekend. It’s an electric and electric bill, featuring plenty of jazz as well as over a dozen other musical styles/genres.

“We’re thrilled to get to program a wide range of artists and I think that is a reflection of Silicon Valley today,” says Brendan Rawson, executive director of San Jose Jazz. “We have a really diverse audience base and they love to explore all kinds of jazz and jazz-influenced genres.”

That’s certainly true of Diane Johansen, who says she never fails to make new musical discoveries at Summer Fest.

“I’ve been introduced to so many artists at this festival, who I now follow,” the Sunnyvale resident says.

At the time, she was watching Grammy-winning Santana vocalist Tony Lindsay and the Soul Soldiers perform on the festival’s main stage erected at Plaza de Cesar Chavez. Yet, her plan was to later move over to Cafe Stritch, aka, arguably the most-happening spot for live music in San Jose.

“I always go to Cafe Stritch they’ve got great performers,” she says. “Cafe Stritch is hot.”

It certainly was on Friday, especially once the ValLimar Jensen Blues Band took the stage and scorched its way through such classic cuts as “Kansas City.”

As per usual, the festival boasted a heavy New Orleans flavor. It began on Friday with the one-two punch of the Funky Meters and Galactic on the main stage, and was expected to grow even stronger once the New Orleans Stage opened for business on Saturday.

Yet it’s more than just the music that draws people to this festival. It’s also the mellow, friendly vibe and atmosphere. Just ask Stephanie De La Rosa of San Jose.

“I’ve been coming here for like 15 years,” she says. “It’s a family event — I’m here with my parents (Beatrice and Felix).”

For more information on this festival, visit sanjosejazz.org .