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Winter Fest Essential Picks

Five Winter Fest shows you can't miss

Intro | Essential Picks | Marc Cary | Youth Jazz Ensembles

Mads Tolling Quartet and Tierney Sutton

Mads Tolling Quartet and Tierney Sutton

Cafe Stritch

Thu, Mar 5, 7:30pm

Bay Area jazz violinist Mads Tolling often straddles the classical and jazz worlds—represented in one instance by his past work with the Turtle Island String Quartet, which netted him two Grammys. Hailing originally from Denmark, Tolling emigrated to the US to attend Berklee College of Music, eventually making his way to the Bay to join Turtle Island. Since leaving the group in 2007, he's headed up his own fusion-inflected quartet and bounced around the Bay playing various gigs, from sitting in with gypsy jazz players to collaborating with the Oakland East Bay Symphony just last month, where he appeared as a soloist, performing one of his own compositions.

At Winter Fest, he and his quartet will be playing with vocalist Tierney Sutton, a fellow Berklee College of Music alumna who currently teaches voice at The Los Angeles Music Academy. Over her roughly 20-year career, Sutton has been nominated for six Grammys, for both performance and arrangement. Tolling and Sutton have worked together frequently since their meeting in 2011 while collaborating with Turtle Island.

Les Yeux NoirsLes Yeux Noirs Photograph by Laurent Prost

Les Yeux Noirs

Cafe Stritch

Fri, Mar 6 8pm

Before Gogol Bordello started popularizing gypsy fusion music in the States, there was the French band Les Yeux Noirs (The Dark Eyes), who began experimenting in the early '90s with their fusion of jazz, Klezmer music, gypsy jazz and a smattering of electronics. Fronted by violin-playing brothers Eric and Olivier Slabiak, the band can, in quick succession, tear through foot-stomping dance tunes and traditional Eastern European lullabies, all the while maintaining their trademark intensity and technical prowess. Their live shows are well known for these traits, as the Slabiak brothers are showmen as well virtuoso violin players.

It's been four years since their last album, but the band keeps up a rigorous touring schedule. They come to San Jose as part of a one-month, 17-date North American tour. For those who'd like a dash of world music to their Winter Fest lineup, Les Yeux Noirs is worth checking out. (SL)

Jaranon y Bochinche

Afro-Peruvian Dance Party

MACLA

Fri, Mar 6, 7pm

Jaranon y Bochinche Dance and Music Performance Company celebrates Afro-Peruvian culture, sharing their wide variety of Afro-Peruvian dance and music around the Bay Area. Led by the Soto family (Juan de Dios, Lydia and Rocio), Jaranon y Bochinche has been performing since 1995. The group grew out of the San Francisco-based Tradicion Peruana Cultural Center, a non-profit dedicated to promoting and preserving Peruvian culture. The Sotos are committed to sharing their cultural heritage as well, so this dance party won't just consist of watching performances (because where's the fun in that?). Those who arrive at 7pm can sign up for professional dance instruction—both for complete beginners or experts who just need some brushing up. (SL)

Kris BowersKris Bowers

Kris Bowers

San Jose Stage Company

Fri, Mar 6, 9pm

While the majority of his generation is expected to jump frequently between jobs and even careers—as they seek out higher wages and a sense of fulfillment—Kris Bowers is content to stay right where he is. "I've never had another job, fortunately," he says. Bowers isn't unambitious or lazy. It's just that when Aretha Franklin and Kanye West both personally recognized your musical abilities before the age of 25, chances are you've found your calling.

Examining Bowers' upbringing provides the key to unlocking the dense and diverse sounds of his debut LP, Heroes + Misfits, which weaves swinging jazz, smooth soul and hip-hop together. "I've been around the piano from about as far back as I can remember," Bowers says. Following the Suzuki method of music instruction, his mother and father exposed him to music while he was still in the womb, started him on piano lessons when he was just 4 years old, sent him to the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, eventually shipping him off to The Juilliard School in 2006. (NV)

Kendrick Scott Photograph by Jimmy Katz

Kendrick Scott Oracle

Cafe Stritch

Sun, Mar 8, 5pm

Drummer and bandleader Kendrick Scott is concerned with the roots of creativity and art. As he says on his website, the concept for his band, Kendrick Scott Oracle, grew out two influences: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and, oddly enough, the Oracle character in The Matrix, who teaches not by lecturing, but by provoking self-discovery. His latest album, Conviction, closes with the song "Be Water," a Bruce Lee admonition, which rejects the rigid dogma passed down merely for tradition's sake, and calls instead for the embrace of spontaneity, authentic self-expression and fluidity.

That last word—fluidity—is key for Scott's compositions, as the players unify into a continuous, meditative flow across songs and the whole album. Back in 2009, the New York Times included Scott in their list of "Five Drummers Whose Time Is Now." In the article, he is quoted, saying: "But now I'm always thinking, what is my contribution going to be to the music, not just to the drums? If I can give my soul to it, that's going to fulfill my calling to play the music." (SL)

Intro | Essential Picks | Marc Cary | Youth Jazz Ensembles