Fest Five: Music Journalist David Ma

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For our ongoing Fest Five series, we highlight five individual picks from artists, staff, and members of the community who will be attending San Jose Jazz Summer Fest.

In this post, we highlight the studied choices of longtime music journalist David Ma. His work has appeared in NPRThe Paris Review, Billboard, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, Vibe, and several other outlets. He’s part owner of Needle to the Groove Entertainment and co-hosts Dad Bod Rap Pod, a podcast program focused on connecting hip-hop’s past with its present. Come fall, he’ll be a lecturer at SJSU for a course that explores hip-hop history and its global impact.

David’s picks:


I’ve witnessed an entire green room fall silent when Goapele walked through its doors. Her beauty is stunning but her long-running career is equally hard to ignore. See “Show & Prove,” a 2003 track with E-40 where warm vocals wash in-and-out of the beat. With connections to Oakland’s revered Hieroglyphics collective, it’s no wonder she remains a longtime fixture in the Bay.


Glad to see this LA crew head north. Their blending of rap, rock, and Latin influences has for decades yielded vaunted moments, notably with rapper Chali 2na (of Jurassic 5) as well as a pleasant cover of Creedence Clearwater’s “Bad Moon Rising.” Their look and musical leanings give you a sense that despite being from So Cal, they could’ve easily emerged from somewhere in SJ.


One has to see the headliner, right?

While Common’s career arch is one for the ages, I’m partial to his second and third albums because contained therein are songs that have aged so well, but if we’re being truly honest, he’s seldom rapped as vividly or memorably since in my opinion. Doubtful but hoping to hear his early work, a time in Chicago when he left MCs in his dust. His beaming charisma, though, is still there.

SJZ Collective Plays Chick Corea

You have to include some locals but to hear SJ musicians cover Chick Corea is fascinating, with a lot of cool possibilities. Corea’s history with Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock made him a legend, a Grammy winner with credentials to behold. But it’s his solo back-catalogue that produced jazz standards that are still referenced today. Seeing live reinterpretations of those songs will be killer.

Secret Sidewalk

Primal Dap, the newish project from the North Bay quartet reflect what they’re all about; experimental twists anchored by deft musicianship with nods to funk and soul. Drums, horns, turntablism, and occasional bursts of moog. Needle to the Groove played with these guys at Cafe Stritch and they struck me as confident, at ease, humble like all pros should be.

San Jose Jazz Summer Fest is happening this year Aug 13-15 on six stages throughout downtown San Jose. One-day and three-day passes are still available. Click here to secure your spot at Summer Fest.