Big Easy: Dr. John closes the main stage on Saturday.
Right Place, Right Time
Incoming executive director Geoff Roach brings Big Easy to this year's San Jose Jazz Festival
By Yoshi Kato
Metro Summer Guide 2006:
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DO THE traditional Crescent City brass band, the second line and the modern microprocessor have more in common than most of us previously recognized? Yes indeed, says freshman San Jose Jazz Society (SJJS) executive director Geoff Roach. And that idea will be illustrated throughout the 17th Annual Comcast San Jose Jazz Festival presented by Southwest Airlines (SJJF) this Aug. 17-20.
"I grew up in New Orleans, and my new development director, Kristine Haskett, was living and working there when Katrina hit. We were talking about musicians losing their instruments because of the flooding, and then we saw a parallel between New Orleans and its influence on jazz and what we're doing in Silicon Valley today in terms of technology," he explains.
"Both had seeds of something that spread," he says. "So we decided to have a New Orleans theme for this year's festival."
As previously announced, Dr. John will be closing the Main Stage on Saturday night, Aug. 19, while the Neville Brothers will do the same a night later. Blues singer/guitarist Sonny Landreth will headline the Blues Stage on Sunday, and trumpeter/vocalist Kermit Ruffins will perform Thursday, Aug. 18, for the annual fundraising Gala event at the Santana Row.
Other non-New Orleanean Main Stage performers include piano prodigy Eldar, organist Dr. Lonnie Smith and multi-instrumentalist/producer Marcus Miller on Saturday and the SJJF Big Band (with a special guest soloist to be announced later), saxophonist Bud Shank and the Spanish Harlem Orchestra on Sunday. San Jose's own trumpet hero Eddie Gale, saxophonist Anton Schwartz, vocalists Roberta Gambarini and Claudia Vilella, conguero John Santos and Tower of Power members Tom Politzer and Roger Smith can also be heard on various stages throughout the weekend.
The biggest change from previous San Jose Jazz Festivals is that there will be a $5 "cover charge" per day for all areas except the Main Stage on Friday and the Youth Stage inside the Tech Museum. This charge was instigated in order to meet costs and, in turn, raise more funds for the SJJS's year-round educational outreach efforts, which Roach reckons need a higher public profile.
"Kids under 12 will get in free," he points out. "The group that stepped up for that, to its credit, was Comcast," which made free children's admittance part of its sponsorship deal. "And as part of Adobe's, all its employees can get in for free. So if any other companies want to do the same thing, we'd be happy to have them participate."
Roach wants the festival to be more inclusive of its community, so a paid admission fundraising CEO jam session will be held on Friday in which CEOs from local companies are invited to play. One can only imagine the killer cutting contest between Steve Jobs on Powerbook and iPod vs. John Chambers on Cisco server.
On the youth and adventurously minded tip, last year's artistically and popularly successful Jazz Beyond Stage presented by Adobe Systems Inc. will return to the Repertory Theatre stage, with Brave Combo and No Jazz taking the headlining middle, 10pm sets, respectively on Friday and Saturday nights.
"Jazz is an inclusive kind of thing—probably one of the most inclusive kinds of music," remarks Roach, himself a multiple woodwinds player. When asked whether he thought the $5 charge would defer many previous or potential festivalgoers, he replies thoughtfully but immediately: "I don't think the crowds will be any thinner, but we will be able to track attendance better and have a more accurate view of it.
"Besides, where on the planet can you see the Neville Brothers for only $5?"
The 17th Annual Comcast San Jose Jazz Festival presented by Southwest Airlines happens Aug. 17-20 at Santana Row and various locations downtown.
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