Summer Fest Highlights and Sunday Picks from Writer Brandon E. Roos

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As usual, Summer Fest has been a whirlwind! I can’t believe it’s already Sunday. Plenty of musical highlights to revisit, and I’m excited to see what today will bring on the Fest’s final day.

This list is in no way definitive, but here my five Summer Fest highlights so far and a couple recommendations for your Sunday listening pleasure:


Mark de Clive-Lowe

Though his midnight start time may have been too late for some, Mark de Clive-Lowe kept bodies moving inside a crowded Cafe Stritch well past 1am. When he started, he introduced the set as a condensed sample of his dance party CHURCH, which he’s presented around the world. Mark’s performances are an art unto themselves — it’s a wonder how he’s able to make his compositions sound seamless given the number of technical elements he’s presiding over at any given moment. Nia Andrews and Josh Johnson were able accompanists, incredibly intuitive in finding their musical space adjacent to their bandleader’s ever-evolving musical backbone.

Adrian Younge

I’m still baffled by how Adrian Younge was able to make his intricate compositions rock that hard. Presiding over arguably the tightest band I’ve seen this weekend, his seven-piece band provided a rich, complex sound that found my ear eagerly searching to poinpoint each element in the mix. Very impressed by what this band brought to the Jazz Beyond Stage Friday night.


Melissa Aldana

After sharing a story about how her grandfather purchased her her first saxophone when she was six, Aldana launched into a five-song set that left no doubt about how capable she is on the bandstand. The choice to perform solo seemed to give her an extra chance to prove her musical proficiency, as some songs were peppered with quick melodic runs while other notes escaped as a whisper.

In little over twenty minutes, she left a great impression, earning standing applause from a handful of those seated on no less than three songs. Likely my biggest Summer Fest highlight thus far.

Lizz Wright

I’ll admit I wasn’t familiar with her music entering the Fest, but I decided to watch her based on a friend’s recommendation. I’m glad I made time for Wright. There’s an effortlessness to her vocal delivery I was immediately drawn to. I’m also a sucker for a well-placed organ, and those uplifting, Gospel-tinged chords that simmered in the mix proved a great complement to her full-bodied vocal tone.


While researching Masego’s music, I took a listen to “Girls that Dance,” a house bounce with a chorus musically influenced by electronic music’s “future music” scene, and figured Masego would be a musical wild card I needed to see live.

I caught the second half of his set, and the energy of his band was absolutely infectious. Masego jumped from one musical role to the next, playing his sax and singing then hopping behind the drum kit. He was delightfully fun and set a vibe his audience happily danced along to.

Sunday Picks

The Birth of the Cool @ 65
3pm, RBC Silicon Valley Stage

If you can make time for this set, please do. Trumpeter John Worley is an adept player who has been on the local scene for years, and he remains a major force in cultivating San Jose’s rising jazz talents. As I’ve seen first-hand, he’s a great interpreter of the music of Miles Davis, so this performance should find him in a wonderful musical pocket alongside a nonet that reads like a who’s-who of the Bay Area’s premiere jazz talents.

Given the limited capacity of this stage, you may want to arrive early to guarantee yourself a seat.

Honorable Mention: Cecile McLorin Salvant
4pm, Main Stage

Like Melissa Aldana, Cecile McLorin Salvant broke onto the scene after winning the Monk competiton. She’s risen to become one of jazz’s most notable young vocalists in recent years and a darling of the jazz media. Her sweet, incisive vocal delivery should be a solid companion to the canopy of shade at Plaza de Cesar Chavez.