Fest Five: SJZ Executive Director Brendan Rawson

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We kick off 2015’s Fest Five with Executive Director Brendan Rawson. A man about town, Rawson has always been an advocate for the arts, be it centered around his downtown history on the board of Teatro Vision and Valley Verde, his dedicated work within San Jose music festival Left Coast Live, or in the managing of staple San Jose restaurant Naglee Park Garage.

His past role as Director of Cultural Participation at First ACT Silicon Valley introduced him to the work of San Jose Jazz, and not long after coming on as a consultant with SJZ, he morphed into a perfect fit for the team.

Rawson has a lot on his plate to balance for the festival–including soccer, as he is an avid Earthquakes fan–and he shares the five artists that, from his eyes, are sure to score.

JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound

Right out of the gate early Friday evening 6pm, Chicago-based JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound will kick things off with a bang.  “JC Brooks performances are like a cross between Chuck Berry and H.R. of Bad Brains in their primes, but his skintight R&B and post-punk soul upend expectations of a retro act.” – Washington Post. I also love their take on Wilco’s “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.”


Zigaboo Modeliste

Definitely among the Living Legends performing at Summer Fest, Zigaboo will be laying it down thick on the Big Easy stage on Saturday evening. As a founding member of The Meters, Zigaboo is among the progenitors of the New Orleans Funk sound that brought second line grooves into popular music. It’s no surprise that artists such as Keith Richards, Robert Palmer, Paul McCartney, and Lee Dorsey have all sought Ziggy’s talents. It’s no surprise that you’ll find him on Total Drumsets “Top 100 Most Influential Drummers Ever.”


Kamasi Washington – The Next Step and The West Coast Get Down

The West Coast is percolating with some very exciting new jazz artists of recent and I am thrilled to check out one of the most buzzed about at Summer Fest – saxophonist Kamasi Washington. He will perform twice: on the main stage at XXpm with his The Next Step project and on the California Theater Stage at XXpm with his The West Coast Get Down project. Having performed with the likes of Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and Gerald Clayton, Kamasi’s pedigree is impressive. He seems to be working with everyone of late including Flying Lotus and also appears on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. His 2015 release “Epic” is on Fly Lo’s Brainfeeder label.


Charenee Wade presents the Gil Scott-Heron Project

Last year’s Motema Records label showcase was so well received that we decided to do it again! I am particularly looking forward to the West Coast CD release party for Charenee Wade’s Offering: The Music of Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson, the first full-length album tribute to Scott-Heron and his musical collaborator Brian Jackson by a woman artist. Charenee was the First Runner-Up in the Thelonious Monk International Vocal Competition to Cecile McLorin Salvant and is today a professor at the Aaron Copland School of Music at City College (New York).

Etienne Charles & Creole Soul

This hoss from Trinidad always brings it and I am thrilled we are presenting him twice at Summer Fest. First up on Saturday at 3pm in the California Theater, Etienne premieres his latest work – “San Jose Suite” which draws upon musical influences from St. Joseph, Trinidad, San Jose, Costa Rica, and San Jose, California. Later that evening he dives headlong into Creole Soul, his most recent release, with a band of exceptional talent including Victor Gould, Ben Williams, Obed Calvarie, Alex Wintz, and Brian Hogan. Come get your dingolay on padna! “A daring improviser, Charles also delivers with heart-wrenching lyricism” – Jazz Times

We want to hear about your Fest Five; share the top five artists you’re excited to see at the fest by emailing info@sanjosejazz.org, or posting your list on our Facebook page. Include a photo of you holding up five fingers, and we may include you in our list as we count down to the fest.

For our full Summer Fest 2015 line-up, click here. To purchase tickets to Summer Fest, click here.