A guide to summer jazz | News | Palo Alto Online |


A guide to summer jazz

Local concert season heats up

Summertime is golden for live jazz on the Peninsula.

The 28-year-old jazz series at Filoli Historic House & Garden in Woodside is the first program of the season, with a concert by pianist Justin Kauflin on June 17. The Sunday-afternoon series has five more dates through September 16.

Kauflin was featured in the 2014 documentary "Keep On Keepin' On," which examined his relationship with his mentor, the late trumpeter and NEA Jazz Master Clark Terry. In addition to being championed by Quincy Jones, he's also gigged as a member of double bassist/vocalist Katie Thiroux's trio, including a date in March in Half Moon Bay at Bach Dancing & Dynamite (which, incidentally, has its own summer series every Sunday at 4:30 p.m. through July 29 except for July 1).

Another notable pianist headlines Filoli on July 22. Los Angeles native Josh Nelson and his quintet. Lately the Southern Californian has been commuting regularly for gigs in Northern California from as far north as Fort Bragg down to Saratoga. He frequently plays with tenor saxophonist and onetime Stanford graduate student Anton Schwartz as well as local drummer Lorca Hart, whom he called one of his best friends.

"In some ways, I've got more things going up on the Bay," said Nelson, with a chuckle. "It seems like there are more venues up there, including house concerts and festivals."

Nelson's résumé is flush with the names of jazz greats, having been in bands lead by tenor saxophonist/composer Benny Golson, double bassist/arranger/big bandleader John Clayton and drummer/vibraphonist Joe Chambers. But he's earned a reputation as a superb accompanist for vocalists.

"I really cut my teeth with two singers," he said. "I was Sara Gazarek's music director, arranger and pianist from 2004 until recently. And I was Natalie Cole's last touring pianist and played with her for about six years.

"I'm probably known more as a singer's pianist," he added. "I'm trying to flip that so that I'm equally known as a leader, though I love playing with singers."

For his bandleading debut at Filoli, Nelson will showcase material from his latest album, "The Sky Remains." He's played there as a member of Schwartz's group and says he enjoys the idyllic setting.

Portola Vineyards in Portola Valley also has a Sunday summer series that spans five shows between June 24 and Aug. 19. These feature the likes of the San Diego-based pianist Danny Green and his trio with strings and local favorites Charged Particles, who close out the run in late August with an Eastside College Preparatory School benefit performance.

The dean of summer jazz is the Stanford Jazz Festival, which is in its 37th year and boasts 31 concerts between June 22 and Aug. 4.

As has been the case in recent years, the Stanford Jazz Festival and Workshop features concerts at the front and back end of its season at Bing Concert Hall.

On June 23, Berkeley resident Joshua Redman leads a rare date with his veteran quartet that features pianist Aaron Goldberg, double bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gregory Hutchinson.

The festival closes on Aug. 4 with Spanish trumpeter and vocalist Andrea Motis' quintet playing first with trombonist Wycliffe Gordon as a special guest and then the SJW 50/50 Orchestra, directed by Joan Chamorro. Motis made her regional debut at last year's festival, and the fledgling SJW 50/50 Orchestra is a group comprised of women and men in equal numbers.

"Andrea's specialty is romantic selections from the Great American Songbook," said Jim Nadel, Stanford Jazz Workshop and Festival's founder and artistic director. "She sings in English and plays really melodic trumpet solos.

"I'm really happy how it came together," he continued. "From July 15 on, everyone performing is also here to teach at the Stanford Jazz Workshop. So you get these really interesting combos happening."

He used half of the Aug. 1 concert as an example, with saxophonist Melissa Aldana, guitarist Camila Meza, bassist Yunior Terry and percussionist Tupac Mantilla all playing together for the first time.

Presented by SFJAZZ at the courtyard between Crate & Barrel and Nordstrom, the free Stanford Shopping Jazz Series is in its 32nd year. It starts on June 21 and is held on consecutive Thursdays at 6 p.m. through Aug. 23.

Faculty from Stanford Jazz Workshop will make the short trek from campus on June 28. Saxophonists Kristen Strom and Andrew Speight, trumpeter Erik Jekabson, pianist Ben Stolorow, bassist John Wiitala and drummer Hamir Atwal make up the top-notch Faculty All-Stars sextet.

Moscow, Russia, native and San Francisco resident Masha Campagne shares her cultivated jazz and Brazilian sound at the posh shopping center on August 9. In addition to reinterpreting selections from both songbooks, she's likely to draw on her own self-penned work.

The outdoor setting and nearby food and drink shops at Stanford Shopping Center make for a casual yet musically substantial evening. And as with the other series, parking is free.

Freelance writer Yoshi Kato can be emailed at yoshiyoungblood@earthlink.net.


What: Filoli's 2018 Summer Jazz Series.

Where: Filoli Historic House & Garden, 86 Cañada Road, Woodside.

When: June 17, July 8, July 22, Aug. 5, Aug. 19, Sept. 16; 1:30 p.m.

Cost: $75/$65 for Filoli members or series pass for $425/$365 for Filoli members.

Info: Go to Filoli.


What: Stanford Shopping Center 32nd Annual Summer Jazz Series.

Where: Stanford Shopping Center, 660 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto.

When: Thursdays, June 21-August 23; 6 p.m.

Cost: Free.

Info: Go to SFJazz.


What: Stanford Jazz Festival 2018.

Where: Various venues on the Stanford University campus.

When: June 22 through Aug. 4.

Cost: $8-$98.

Info: Go to SJF.


What: 2018 Portola Vineyards Summer Jazz.

Where: Portola Vineyards, 850 Los Trancos Road, Portola Valley.

When: various Sundays, June 24-August 19; 6 p.m.

Cost: $12-$50.

Info: Go to Portola Vineyards.

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