Closing Words from “Jazz Doctor” Brad Stone

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Last week, Brad Stone won his seventh award for “Jazz Programmer of the Year, Medium Markets” at the annual Jazz Week Summit. It’s an accolade that speaks volumes about his commitment to both jazz and radio programming, a huge passion of his. A well-known jazz enthusiast, radio host  (and chemistry professor), Stone was Summer Fest’s “Jazz Doctor,” providing tailored advice for curious attendees.  On the eve of his transition from doctor back to professor, I caught up with Brad to capture the festival from his perspective.

Stone didn’t have to go far to start his first night of festivities. A friend and fan of several local acts, he kept his focus on the Club Crawl after checking into his hotel. “[On] Friday, I saw Rick Vandivier and then I went over to see Anton Schwartz,” said Stone. Already familiar with some of the venues, Stone was excited to experience how Hilton’s Affinity Restaurant and Bar translated as a festival space. “I love the Hilton. The first time I went over there for a San Jose Jazz event, I just couldn’t believe how clear and balanced the sound was from the band, yet you could still talk to someone when you’re sitting in the bar having a beer. I know they didn’t design that [venue] for live music, but it just works.”

With a more hands-on role Saturday, Stone remained by the Main Stage and saw Ivan Neville’s Dumpstapunk. He had a fun run-in with the group’s legendary keyboard player backstage afterward. “I have an interest in keyboard players, particularly organ and Hammond B-3 players, because I was one,” revealed Stone. “I went up to Ivan afterward behind the stage and said, ‘Mr. Neville, I’ve got a bone to pick with you. It’s cats like you that made me give up the organ.’ He said, ‘Oh man, don’t lay that on me!’” It was a playful exchange between two men with a deep love for the same art form.

Sunday morning, Stone hosted his jazz show, The Creative Source, on 90.5 FM KSJS, welcoming vocalist Sara Gazarek before her performance on the TiVo San Jose Rep Stage. He had nothing but positive words for the Los Angeles-based songstress. “She had just flown in that morning. She checked into her hotel real quick and then the driver brought her over to the station. We had a nice chat on the air.” Though he was unable to hear her set to to “Jazz Doctor” conflicts, he heard her set was “fantastic.”

With his show finished, Stone headed to the Main Stage to catch Terence Blanchard for one of the most buzzed-about sets of the weekend. “Terence Blanchard’s set was just phenomenal. I think [the audience] knew that they were witnessing something special,” explained Stone. “People that wanted some heavy jazz on the Main Stage, they got their fill during his set.”

He returned to some local flavor after Blanchard’s set on the Main Stage. “I spent quite a bit of time Sunday at the Silicon Valley Stage,” said Stone. “I got to see the end of Ed Johnson’s set and then the beginning of John Worley’s Red Dragon. I wanted to support those guys, [and] there were a lot of really appreciative listeners there.” While the Silicon Valley Stage didn’t have the draw of the Main Stage, its bill, packed with a who’s who of local gems, attracted supportive crowds.

Although Stone was dispensing advice all weekend, his favorite exchange almost didn’t happen. “There was one gentleman who came up to the Jazz Store tent [who] said  ‘That guy never showed up, did he?’ I thought he meant Terence Blanchard, because Terence Blanchard on Sunday apparently came to the jazz store just briefly and signed some things,” explained Stone. “I said ‘Excuse me sir, were you looking for Terence Blanchard?’ [He replied] ‘No, I was looking for that radio guy. He said he was gonna be here.” I said, “’That’s me!'”

Once the confusion was sorted out, the doctor went right to work. “It turned out he was really neat because he had everything all mapped out. He [said] ‘I don’t know. There’s not enough of me to go around and see everything that I wanted to see.'” Stone echoed the same sentiment later in our chat, musing “every year I say I’ve got to clone myself five times over just to see everything!”

When asked about a break-out Summer Fest artist, the jazz doctor didn’t need to think long. “I heard a lot of good things [from attendees] about Natalie Cressman. [I caught her] jam session Saturday over at Mezcal. . . People were sitting in. Kat Parra sat in and it was just flowing out the door. People were hanging around outside on the sidewalk to listen, so it was definitely a good vibe.” He went on to explain why she drew a lot of buzz from both the Latin Jazz Jam and the Next Gen Stage. “[It’s impressive] how sophisticated she is in terms of her ability to play the trombone, her singing ability, and her poise on stage,” explained Stone. “I think that really comes from having a mother and father that are professional musicians. She’s been raised in that environment. I think she’s another artist who is mature beyond her years.”

Stone’s closing words were hopeful, a great sign considering his continued involvement with both San Jose Jazz and Summer Fest. “I think every year, it’s a lot of positives, but just this year I felt a really good vibe about it. People just seemed to be having a good time.”

Our jazz doctor helped prescribe some great music for his patients at Summer Fest. If you missed out, keep in mind that there’s always next year!

You can hear Dr. Brad Stone every Sunday from 10am-2pm on 90.5 KSJS-FM for his award-winning jazz program “The Creative Source.” In addition to his long-time involvement with San Jose Jazz, Stone is on the Board of Directors for the Jazz Organ Fellowship.