Music News & Reviews

Critic’s picks: 5 acts to see at Sacramento Music Festival

The Nickel Slots will perform Saturday as part of the Sacramento Music Festival.
The Nickel Slots will perform Saturday as part of the Sacramento Music Festival.

With more than 300 sets being played throughout this holiday weekend as part of the Sacramento Music Festival, it could be easy to overlook and miss a few performances that merit extra attention. Here are five musical acts worth noting:

Stephanie Trick: This young pianist has taken her classical training to a fairly unusual and specific place. She has become a virtuoso in stride piano, that early, intricate genre of jazz developed in Harlem the 1920s and ’30s. All the great early jazz pianists came out of the stride tradition. James P. Johnson, Fats Waller and Willie “The Lion” Smith all pioneered and developed the form, which took off from ragtime with more sophistication in composition and creative improvisation in the playing. Trick, a St. Louis native, has a bachelor’s in music from the University of Chicago and has become internationally known, often playing with her pianist husband, Paolo Alderighi, who joins her here for performances with their Double Trio.

Nickel Slots: Led by vocalist and songwriter Tony Brusca, this Sacramento-based alt-country quartet has been together since 2008 and recorded four albums. Earlier this year it opened for Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band at Sleep Train Arena. The Slots’ driving twangy sound gets a solid push from drummer Christopher Amaral, and the rest of the band features guitarist Steve Amaral and bassist Paul Zinn. Their “The Devil’s Chain Gang” won Best U.S. Music Video at the 2015 American Online Film Awards.

All the great early jazz pianists came out of the stride tradition.

Beth Duncan: This fine jazz vocalist always keeps great company, and her sets this weekend will be no exception. For her two May 22 shows, Duncan’s quintet features guitarist Steve Homan and saxophonist Mike Butera. Her Sunday set adds pianist Joe Gilman to the band. Duncan’s excellent 2012 album “Comes the Fall” was noticed around the world, and she’ll likely include several tunes from that outing.

Joy & Madness: This Sacramento funk and soul band fronted by vocalist Hans Eberbach brings a contemporary vibe to original, groove-driven tunes. With esteemed bassist Miss Nyxi, veteran guitarist Bobby G and drummer Andrew Endberg forming the dynamic rhythm section and joined by three horns, J&M doesn’t let the audience think about sitting down. They’ve collectively played with numerous major figures in R&B and bring a fierce energy to every show.

Hot City: Musical explorer and bon vivant Zack Sapunor leads this genre-bending swing jazz-based trio. The band pulls from classic swing, Latin and Caribbean rhythms and world music sensibilities to create what Sapunor calls “swingxotica.” With the leader on bass, William Dendle on plectrum guitar and banjo, Jeff Kreis on trumpet and special guest Mark Curry on reeds, the energetic group has fresh takes on classic from masters such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Fats Waller.

Critic’s picks

For more information on these and other acts and the venues: Sacramento Music Festival

Stephanie Trick and Paolo Alderighi Double Trio

  • May 22, 11 a.m. Firehouse Courtyard
  • May 22, 5 p.m. Embassy Suites Ballroom
  • May 22, 6:30 p.m. Golden Eagle Room
  • May 23, 2 p.m. Embassy Suites Ballroom
  • May 24, 5:30 p.m. Holiday Inn John Q’s
  • May 24, 7 p.m. Embassy Suites Ballroom
  • May 25, 11:30 a.m. Embassy Suites Ballroom

Nickel Slots

  • May 23, 3 p.m. Turntable on the Green

Beth Duncan

  • May 22, 6:30 p.m. Firehouse Courtyard
  • May 22, 8 p.m. Golden Eagle
  • May 24, 4 p.m. Firehouse Courtyard

Joy & Madness

  • May 22, 6:30 p.m. Turntable on the Green
  • May 23, 8 p.m. Firehouse Lot

Hot City

  • May 22 - 3:30 p.m. Turntable on the Green
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