San Jose Jazz Summer Fest returns in triumphant fashion to downtown

Mike Johnson was grooving on the vibe from the moment he arrived at the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest.

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“You can feel the love walking in,” said the Sacramento resident, who was enjoying the first of three days — Aug. 12-14 — of live music in and around Plaza de Cesar Chavez in downtown San Jose. “It’s just fun. It’s a party.”

Thousands of others appeared to be full in agreement with Johnson’s assessment of opening night of the festival. Music lovers filled the plaza to dance and sway to tunes from Friday’s main stage artists — including soul great Lee Fields — as well as enjoy performances by more than a dozen other acts on other festival stages. Featured acts included R&B-soul band Durand Jones & the Indications and local blues great Chris Cain.

The event is set to continue on Saturday with funk-soul star Charlie Wilson, vocalist-guitarist Raul Midón, Afro-Cuban outfit Sabor de Mi Cuba, versatile vocalist Kim Nalley, R&B singer Leela James and jazz music’s famed Brubeck Brothers among the acts set to appear.

The 2022 festival is scheduled to conclude on Sunday with performances from Grammy-winning Oakland R&B vocalist Ledisi, jazz bassist extraordinaire Stanley Clarke, San Jose bluesman Aki Kumar, Orquesta Latin Heat and many other notable artists.

Durand Jones and The Indications perform at the San Jose Jazz’s Summer Fest 2022 in downtown San Jose, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. (Josie Lepe for Bay Area News Group) 

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It’s the first full-scale Summer Fest since 2019. The festival was canceled in 2020, due to COVID, but held last year with limited capacity.

Longtime attendees seemed absolutely thrilled to have Summer Fest back — and operating in a fashion approaching what they remember from the pre-COVID years.

San Jose resident Rudy Rodriguez was hanging out at the Blues/Big Easy Stage, enjoying yet another highly energetic showing from one of the Bay Area’s best blues acts — the J.C. Smith Band. Attending Summer Fest is annual tradition for Rodriguez and his wife — one that he says he looks forward to all year long.

“We’ve been coming since Day One,” he says between blistering guitar solos from Smith. “We loved it when it was free, but we don’t mind paying.”

Rodriguez and his wife were listening to the music with a number of friends, including two that had to travel sizable distances to get to the festival.

“One came from Arizona and one came from L.A. — just to be here,” he explained.

JC Smith Band performs at the San Jose Jazz's Summer Fest 2022 in downtown San Jose, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. (Josie Lepe for Bay Area News Group)JC Smith Band performs at the San Jose Jazz’s Summer Fest 2022 in downtown San Jose, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. (Josie Lepe for Bay Area News Group) 

The party was in full effect over at the Blues/Big Easy Stage, which was hosting an all 408 lineup on opening night — with both the JC Smith Band and Chris Cain hailing from San Jose. Smith was up first and, like usual, wowed the fans with his superb vocals and guitar work as well as his topnotch band featuring powerhouse saxophonist Noel Catura.

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“(Smith) is a great showman,” said East Palo Alto resident Sherri Jones. “He really involves the audience.”

This stage should continue to be one of the festival’s top spots throughout the weekend, thanks to sets from such acts as Aki Kumar, Memphissippi Sounds and the Marina Crouse Band.

For more information, visit summerfest.sanjosejazz.org.

Marcia Quiñones dances during the JC Smith Band performance the San Jose Jazz's Summer Fest 2022 in downtown San Jose, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. (Josie Lepe for Bay Area News Group)Marcia Quiñones dances during the JC Smith Band performance the San Jose Jazz’s Summer Fest 2022 in downtown San Jose, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. (Josie Lepe for Bay Area News Group) 
Crowd watches Durand Jones and The Indications perform at the San Jose Jazz's Summer Fest 2022 in downtown San Jose, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. (Josie Lepe for Bay Area News Group)Crowd watches Durand Jones and The Indications perform at the San Jose Jazz’s Summer Fest 2022 in downtown San Jose, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. (Josie Lepe for Bay Area News Group) 
Crowd watches Durand Jones and The Indications perform at the San Jose Jazz's Summer Fest 2022 in downtown San Jose, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. (Josie Lepe for Bay Area News Group)Crowd watches Durand Jones and The Indications perform at the San Jose Jazz’s Summer Fest 2022 in downtown San Jose, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. (Josie Lepe for Bay Area News Group) 

 

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