Fest Five: Charlie McCollum, SJ Mercury News (Ret.)

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Until he retired last September, Charlie McCollum had been an editor and writer for the Mercury News for almost 30 years and a journalist for almost 45 years. Most recently, he was the deputy features editor for art and entertainment for the paper and the Bay Area News Group. He also wrote about film, theater and visual arts. He is now a member of the boards of the Happy Hollow Park & Zoo Foundation and the City Lights Theater Company and does volunteer for other arts non-profits including San Jose Jazz.

McCollum has been coming to Summer Fest since the early 1990s and has been a member of San Jose Jazz for over a decade. These are the five artists Charlie is most looking forward to seeing at this year’s Summer Fest – and he said he could have easily picked a top 10.

Conjunto Chappottin y Sus Estrellas

I have been a fan of Cuban music since the 1970s, but my love for the island’s music has really surged since I visited a couple of years ago. Conjunto Chappottin is perhaps one of the seminal Son bands, having formed in the 1940s under the leadership of the great Arsenio Rodriguez, who was a pioneer in the Son mix of Spanish cancion and Spanish guitar with African rhythms and Bantu percussion. This third generation of Conjunto Chappottin continues its reputation as a great live band – one that hasn’t been heard in this country since the U.S. embargo began in 1960.

Pedrito Martinez Group featuring Ariacne Trujillo

Maybe I have Cuba on my mind. Pedrito Martinez is an extraordinary Cuban-born percussionist who moved to New York 15 years ago and quickly established himself as a go-to player on all manner of recording sessions. Now, he is fronting his own killer band that mixes rumba with African rhythms and American jazz and blues stylings. His band’s shows at New York’s Guantanamera are considered a must-stop for visiting jazz, rock and R&B groups.

Gypsy All Stars

The Gypsy All Stars show at the Blackbird Tavern last August was one of my favorites from the 2013 festival. The group – founded by three former members of the legendary Gipsy Kings – serves up a heady mix of Indian ragas, flamenco and rumbo. It’s absolutely infectious.

San Jose Taiko with the Bangerz

I’ve somehow managed to miss this collaboration every time the wildly popular San Jose drum group and the world-famous DJ collective have gotten together, starting with the SubZero festival in 2010. But I’ve seen enough on video (and heard enough from friends who rave about the joint show) to know this is a mashup of hip-hop and taiko you can’t miss. I won’t this time.

Aaron Lington Quintet Plays the Music of Paul Simon

I admire Bay Area saxophonist Aaron Lington as an arranger and as a player, and I really admire Paul Simon as a composer. The two together should be a splendid set of music. Lington’s arrangements have done well in the past with the music of Sting and Stevie Wonder. He always brings a jazz feel to his music. Another plus: Lington’s quintet includes such high-quality local players as pianist Dahveed Behroozi.

For our complete Summer Fest 2014 line-up, click here; click here to purchase tickets.