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Sultry sounds and groovy tunes are making their way back to San Jose this weekend for the 31st annual three-day San Jose Jazz festival.
That’s right, Summer Fest is back — and bigger than organizers originally envisioned.
Despite pandemic closures and hiccups, the jazz festival will have a six-stage show with more than 45 different artists with a wide range of styles that include R&B, blues, Latin, swing and of course, all kinds of jazz.
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It’s not as big as years past where Summer Fest had up to 12 stages, but it’s a big step up from the festival’s debut in 1986, which had one stage and eight acts.
It will also look a bit different. The jazz festival, which was typically held indoors, will have three outdoor stages and three indoor venues located at the Montgomery Theater, Hammer Theatre and San Jose Jazz’s Break Room located at 310 South First St.
All stages are near or in Plaza de César Chávez — the central hub of the festival. There, in addition to the main stage, attendees can find food, drink and creative crafts for sale.
The main stage will host headliners like Grammy-award winning singer-songwriter Judith Hill, percussionist and East Bay native Pete Escovedo and his Latin Jazz Orchestra, and Oscar-, Emmy- and Grammy-winning musical artist Common.
Attendees can also head down to the other side of the park to the Fountain Blues Stage that will showcase blues and New Orleans-style acts like the Chris Cain Band and Billy Iuso and Friends.
About a five-minute walk from Plaza de César Chávez is the Hammer Theatre where pianists Helen Sung and James Francies and vocalists Kandace Springs and Quiana Lynell will perform. At the Montgomery Theater, Indian classical musician Arjun Verma will share the stage with multi-instrumentalist George Brooks.
And Saturday and Sunday will be all about salsa and Latin music as the jazz festival brings back the CEFCU Latin Tropical Stage on South First Street — which will be the only stage offering free admission over the weekend.
“Opening the stage will be San José’s own hidden treasure Septeto Los Amigos, who are masters at Cuban son, merengue and cumbia,” says Betto Arcos, the stage’s curator, who is a renowned Latin music expert and NPR music critic as well as the author of “Music Stories From the Cosmic Barrio.”
The stage will also host Latin Rhythm Boys; Cabanijazz Project, which highlights Cali-mambo and retro-salsa; and Las Chikas, an all-women salsa band.
Because of COVID-19 concerns, especially in light of the Delta variant, all attendees are required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within the last 72 hours of their arrival to the festival. Masks will not be mandated outside but required for indoor venues.
Jazz enthusiasts who are not able to make it will be able to livestream shows playing from the SJZ Break Room. About 60 priority access and VIP ticket holders can watch Break Room performances in person, but many more can sign in online for the show.
The goal for San Jose Jazz is to not only provide economic recovery for downtown businesses and workers, but also to offer the “much-needed healing for the Bay Area community to come together to dance, laugh, sing and feel joy again with in-person engagement,” SJZ executive director Brendan Rawson says.
“We’re honored to be among the first festivals bringing people back into parks and downtown venues,” Rawson continues.
The Summer Fest will start at 5 p.m. Friday and run until Sunday night. Attendees coming from out of town are encouraged to stay in hotels across downtown San Jose over the weekend as lobbies will also host live jazz bands.
* Tickets for the 2021 San Jose Jazz Summer Fest are $35-$190 per day and $105-$470 for three-day passes, available at summerfest.sanjosejazz.org.