This summer, as in recent summers past, Northern California smooth jazz fans will find their concert pickings decidedly slim.
Oh, the shows are out there; indeed, some of the genre’s biggest names will be coming to the region over the next few months. Fans of the genre, however, will definitely need to work harder to catch a favorite star in concert. For the larger reality is this – smooth jazz has all but fled the Bay Area for the hinterlands.
An example: For years, audiences could expect to find at least two or three smooth jazz shows on the Montalvo summer bill in Saratoga. This year? Half of one (if that), considering that Kenny G’s popularity and profile transcend the genre and he’s performing with Michael Bolton (August 28).
Of course, smooth jazz has never been at home in the sheds that dominate the summer concert season. The one exception has been August’s Mount Diablo Jazz Festival at Concord Pavilion; no word yet on whether it’s returning for 2011.
Simply put, smooth jazz fans should be prepared to fill up on $4-plus gas and hit the road if they want to hear their music this summer. Your best options include Healdsburg’s Rodney Strong Vineyards, who’s well-established summer season includes Jazz Attack featuring Rick Braun, Gerald Albright and Peter White (June 18). Producer Omega Events also presents the Russian River Jazz and Blues Festival (Sept. 24-25). Some smooth jazz usually winds up on that Guerneville bill.
A bit closer to home, Walnut Creek’s downtown Broadway Plaza is reprising its smooth jazz summer series. The lineup features Chieli Minucci (July 7), Jeff Kashiwa (July 14) and Brenda Russell (July 21).
Livermore’s Wente Winery, meanwhile, has two smooth jazz gigs on its just-out schedule. The first pairs the aforementioned Jazz Attack lineup with the similarly star-centered Soul of Summer featuring Jonathan Butler, Eric Darius and Maysa (July 10). The second date is the Kenny G-Michael Bolton show (August 30).
You’ll find smooth jazz in the Central Valley, too. Jesse Cook (May 6), Brian Simpson (June 5) and Keiko Matsui (August 13) are scheduled to play Modesto, while Kim Waters (June 25) is coming to Lockeford.
The most consistent smooth jazz venue this summer is the Radisson Hotel in Sacramento. Its outdoor Grove venue is hosting Jesse Cook (May 7), Dave Koz (May 13), Euge Groove and Mindi Abair (June 18), Jazz Attack (July 7), Norman Brown and Richard Elliot (August 13) and Boney James (September 10).
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