SAN JOSE -- Saturday was the first full day of the San Jose Jazz Festival, a scene of summer perfection: music enthusiasts schmoozing in the shade between acts, while Second Line revelers paraded through Plaza de Cesar Chavez with their umbrellas and cops urged lost out-of-towners to "have fun!"
"That's weird," said Felicia Johanson, 22, a student from San Leandro, after a police officer suppled her with detailed directions to the Big Easy Stage, several blocks away. "Why so friendly?"
Why, because it's the 24th annual festival with its good vibes and annual musical potpourri.
Listeners arriving early Saturday might have heard Cuban-born drummer Dafnis Prieto, a MacArthur "genius" award-winner, unleashing a barrage of groove and electronics at the San Jose Rep; or the Rebirth Brass Band, from New Orleans, on the Main Stage in Cesar Chavez plaza, infectiously raucous with its rendition of "I Found a New Baby;" or Sunnyvale-based B-3 organist Brian Ho, unleashing warm waves of jazz on the Silicon Valley Stage in the Fairmont Hotel.
While Ho played with his trio, Matt Beasley nervously watched the seats filling up in front of the stage -- which they did. This is the second year that Beasley, a jack of all trades in the South Bay jazz community, has helped book top-tier acts to play the Silicon Valley Stage.
"We're honoring the world-class musicians who live here," said Beasley, who has attended the festival for about ten years and "loves the energy of it. To have so much music, so many stages and clubs -- it's just got that buzz, for three days straight. You have to pace yourself."
Sunday, festival-goers will be faced with the usual hard choices.
The Main Stage headliners include Cuban-born saxophonist Yosvany Terry, with his advanced fusion of rhythmic innovations in jazz and Latin, both; the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, in its latest iteration; saxophonist Javon Jackson, teaming with pianist-singer Les McCann for some "Compared to What" soul-jazz; and smooth jazz fixture Dave Koz.
Woven in and around those acts on other stages are bassist-composer Derrick Hodge, a virtuoso player with a seamless genre-leaping concept (two performances, at Blackbird Tavern and the Jazz Beyond Stage); singer Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers, spreading the good times (Big Easy Stage); and young trombonist-singer Natalie Cressman, who's made a name for herself as a member of the Trey Anastasio Band (Gordon Biersch Stage).
Also performing on Sunday are the fine jazz vocalist Stacey Kent (San Jose Rep); and the Cookers, an all-star hard-bop unit featuring some of the most powerful players of the '60s and '70s, namely saxophonist Billy Harper, trumpeter Eddie Henderson, pianist George Cables, bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Billy Hart (two performances, at the Rep and Blackbird Tavern).
To figure out whether it's possible to negotiate the inevitable scheduling conflicts, pick up a schedule at one of the ticket booths downtown, or study the lineups at http://jazzfest.sanjosejazz.org/2013-lineup. The stages are only a few blocks apart; part of the fun is running from one to the next, catching a little of this, a little of that.
Attendance figures for the festival won't be available for several days. The weekend-long event began Friday evening, and this listener opted for acts at some of the smaller stages: the trans-world grooves of sitarist Pandit Habib Khan at Gordon Biersch (he sounded like raga-meets-the-Allman-Brothers) and the excellent Gypsy Allstars in the Blackbird Tavern venue (sounding something like Andalusia in Delhi).
But the best music of the night happened just down the block on South First Street at Cafe Stritch, where trombonist Steve Turre's tribute to the late Rahsaan Roland Kirk was technically not part of the festival, though it felt like an extension of the event. The place was jammed, and the music was blues-filled and jubilant, performed by Turre's sextet, which came together with only one rehearsal but sounded like a working band.
Overhead, hanging on the wall behind the band, was one of Kirk's old horns -- his stritch (for which the club is named), an elongated alto saxophone. It had been brought to San Jose from New Jersey by Kirk's widow, Dorthaan Kirk, who was at the show with other members of her husband's old band the Vibration Society. Turre and his players seemed to be channeling Kirk's outrageous spirit at this special event in this new venue owned by Steve Borkenhagen, a lifelong Kirk fanatic who is bringing "bright moments" -- a favorite phrase of Kirk's -- to San Jose.
San Jose Jazz summer Festival
Through: Sunday; daily hours approximately 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Where: Stages in and near Plaza de Cesar Chavez, 170 S. Market St., San Jose
Tickets: Daily, $20 general, $5 ages 5 to 12; at gate or http://jazzfest.sanjosejazz.org; some venues require separate admission