Mainstream jazz acts used to be hard to find at the Sacramento Music Festival. Not so much anymore as there is a broad range of outstanding performers in different jazz genres through out the festival.
Here are five groups worth seeking out over the long Memorial Day weekend (see note below).
Locally based jazz singer Beth Duncan’s classy 2013 album “Comes the Fall” was admired around the world for its stylish creativity. Duncan always carries some heavy hitters in her band, and she’ll have Steve Homan on guitar, Joe Gilman on piano, Matt Robinson on bass and Jeff Minnieweather on drums, among others.
Guitarist Ross Hammond sounds at home in numerous formats, and he has a like-minded colleague in percussionist drummer Alex Jenkins, who’s as adept at playing in a rock band as he is with this avant-garde duo. Each musician released a new album this month that featured his own angular compositions, but look for them locking into some accessible, head-bobbing grooves at SMF.
Leader Don Neely’s elegant 11-piece ensemble harkens back to the golden age of jazz big bands from the likes of Fletcher Henderson, Paul Whiteman, Bix Biederbecke and Benny Goodman. This is no tribute band but a group that truly inhabits and understands the historical music they perform.
Fiddler and vocalist Elana James, guitarist and vocalist Whit Smith and bassist Jake Erwin can play anything, anywhere. With their combination of jazz and Western swing, they’ve opened for Willie Nelson, and they’ve toured with Roxy Music. Despite what seems like an obvious connection to violin-and-guitar masters Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt, the band’s latest album “Rendezvous in Rhythm” is the trio’s first foray into the realm of Gypsy songs and American songbook standards, played acoustically and recorded in the Paris hot-jazz style.
Guitarist Steve Homan and vocalist Francesca Homan are masters of the popular melding of jazz improvisation and Brazilian rhythms. Their repertoire includes classics and rarities of the sensual musical form.