Features & Columns

Summer Guide 2013 Jazz

Frances Ha SJ Jazz

For jazz lovers, the summer is the most generous season, offering numerous opportunities to experience the music's finest practitioners. Here are 10 highly recommended gigs.

Ugetsu Project

Five decades ago, arguably the greatest version of drummer Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers played an extended run at Birdland that was documented on the Riverside album Ugetsu. Former Bay Area tenor saxophonist Anton Schwartz (now based in Seattle) has assembled a prodigious sextet to explore the definitive hard-bop compositions, including trumpeter Mike Olmos, trombonist John Gove and pianist Adam Shulman. They perform several gigs around the region, including San Jose Jazz's Jazz at the Market. Friday, June 14, 7pm; free. San Pedro Square Market, 87 N. San Pedro St, San Jose

Gregory Porter

Cementing Gregory Porter's status as the decade's most promising male jazz singer, Blue Note Records announced last week that it has signed the soul-drenched singer/songwriter. Since scoring a Grammy nomination with his 2010 debut release, Water (Motema Music), he's filled a gapping void, bringing the swagger and uplift of 1970s R&B to improvisational settings. He kicks off the summer Jazz at Filoli series as part of a tour that also brings him to Kuumbwa and the SFJAZZ Center. Sunday, June 16, 1:30pm; $60. Filoli, 86 Canada Road, Woodside

Claudia Villela

Scotts Valley vocalist Claudia Villela has been spending a good deal of time back in her hometown, Rio de Janeiro, leaving precious few opportunities to perform around the Bay Area. That's a pity because she's a transformative artist who has honed a Brazilian jazz sound unlike anyone else on the scene. Possessing a breathtakingly beautiful voice, she's a conjurer who can evoke the sigh of a warm breeze, the twang of a berimbau or the hollow thump of a tabla. Sunday, June 23, 7:30pm; $45. Stanford Jazz Festival, Campbell Recital Hall, Stanford

The Dann Zinn 4

Off the bandstand, Dann Zinn is a music teacher who has nurtured some of the region's most prodigious young players, including Dayna Stephens, Hitomi Oba and Jesse Scheinin. On the bandstand, he's an incisive improviser with a warm but steely tone, and a composer of crystalline themes, as can be heard on his recent album Grace's Song. For his San Jose Jazz gig, he performs with bassist John Shifflett, drummer Alan Hall and pianist Frank Martin (taking over for Taylor Eigsti, who completes the album's cast at Zinn's July 29 Stanford Jazz Festival gig). Wednesday, June 26, 8pm; free. Fairmont Hotel Lobby Lounge, 170 S. Market St, San Jose

Catherine Russell

After a long, circuitous career path including stints singing backup for David Bowie, Paul Simon, Steely Dan and Levon Helm, Catherine Russell has claimed her rightful spot as jazz royalty. The daughter of Panamanian pianist/composer Luis Russell, who played a key role in Louis Armstrong's career in the 1930s and '40s, she's honed a vivid, irresistibly swinging repertoire of double entendre-laden blues, vintage jazz tunes and Tin Pan Alley gems. She kicks off the annual Jazz on the Plazz series as part of a tour that also brings her to Kuumbwa and Yoshi's San Francisco. Wednesday, June 26, 6:30pm; free. Los Gatos Town Plaza

Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom

For the past decade, New York drummer Allison Miller has lived a double life, alternating gigs between jazz heavyweights like Dr. Lonnie Smith, Marty Ehrlich and Sex Mob trumpeter Steven Bernstein and singer/songwriters like Ani DiFranco, Brandi Carlile and Natalie Merchant. But lately she's been making her name as a savvy bandleader and incisive composer with her stellar quartet Boom Tic Boom, which released a riveting album last month called No Morphine, No Lilies. She brings an expanded version of the band to Stanford featuring pianist Myra Melford, bassist Todd Sickafoose, clarinetist Ben Goldberg and tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin, who are all distinguished bandleaders and composers themselves. Friday, July 12, 8pm; $45. Stanford Jazz Festival, Campbell Recital Hall, Stanford

Dayna Stephens & Taylor Eigsti with Tootie Heath

At 34, Berkeley High alum Dayna Stephens is one of the definitive tenor saxophonists of his generation, a supremely lyrical player with a huge, burnished tone. He recently released his third album, That Nepenthetic Place (Sunnyside), which also features 28-year-old pianist Taylor Eigsti, a creative confidant for more than a decade. They join forces again at the Stanford Jazz Festival with a multigenerational quintet that includes superlative 77-year-old drummer Tootie Heath. Sunday, July 28, 7:30pm; $45. Stanford Jazz Festival, Dinkelspiel Auditorium, Stanford

Eric Alexander & Harold Mabern w/Louis Hayes and Steve Davis

Tough and lyrical, lithe and lissome, Eric Alexander's tenor saxophone sound ranks among the most beautiful in jazz. A prolific recording artist, he's often in the company of veteran piano master Harold Mabern, whose expansive resume includes classic recordings with jazz giants Lee Morgan, George Coleman and Cannonball Adderley. With powerhouse drummer Louis Hayes, trombonist Steve Davis and trumpeter Brian Lynch, this gig is pure hard-bop heaven. Sunday, Aug. 4, 8pm; $45. Stanford Jazz Festival, Dinkelspiel Auditorium, Stanford

San Jose Jazz Summer Fest

The Bay Area's best music deal, San Jose Jazz's Summer Fest boasts a particularly strong line-up this year, ranging from the traditional New Orleans sound of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Gypsy swing of Le Jazz Hot to the soul jazz of Javon Jackson with Les McCann and the Afro-Cuban post-bop altoist Yosvany Terry. But the crowning booking is the Cookers, an all-star collective featuring some of jazz's heaviest hitters, including tenor saxophonist Billy Harper, trumpeter Eddie Henderson and pianist George Cables. Friday-Sunday, Aug. 9-11; $20. Plaza de Cesar Chavez, 170 S Market St, San Jose

Cyrille Aimee

Born to a French father and Dominican mother, Cyrille Aimee was raised in Samois-sur-Seine and fell under the sway of the Gypsy musicians who congregate annually in the city for a festival devoted to guitar legend Django Reinhardt. Based in Brooklyn since 2009, she's on a fast rising trajectory, recently taking first place at the Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition and releasing her fifth album, a sensational session dubbed Live at Birdland. Wednesday, Aug. 28, 6:30pm; free. Los Gatos Town Plaza