Although the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest dates back to 1986, the Latin jazz element of this three day event (August 7 – 9) continues to evolve and expand. Salsa and other forms of the Latin genre are now hallmarks of what has become one of the country’s largest and most comprehensive music festivals.
“Our Latin music program has really become a cornerstone of Summer Fest programming,” say Brenda Rawson, Executive Director of San Jose Jazz. “The Castellano Family Foundation has consistently invested in supporting our efforts to build an exceptional line up of Latin jazz, salsa, and world music from throughout Latin America.”
Arturo Riera, a board member who booked all of the 18 Latin bands at this year’s festival felt Eddie Palmieiri, with ten Grammy Awards and a discography of over 35 titles, was the natural choice to be a headliner.
“What Eddie brings is this kind of New York salsa, salsa dura. This is the kind of danceable music that gets you all excited and is fun," says Riera. "But from a musical sense, it’s very orchestrated with tight arrangements. If people know this music, they understand it’s just as 'big band' a chart as any Stan Kenton tune or anybody else you could point to in the old school big band sense. But it’s happening today!”
Riera, a long time curator of Latin music and a co-founder of The Latin Youth Ensemble of San Francisco, points to the commitment San Jose Jazz has established to youth in the community.
“Our opportunity as a festival is not only to present great music, but also to educate the public and get instruments into the hands of our youth,” he says.
On his cultural blog, MisterLatinJazz.com, Riera posts articles and videos. He says the festival is committed to reaching out to places in the community that have traditionally not hosted music.
“Over the course of the next 12 months, our SJZ Boom Box will roll out to more than 30 parks, schools, and other locations throughout the Silicon Valley and greater Bay Area. Where people of diverse backgrounds and socio-economic levels share a cultural experience, it really binds them in a special way. I’ve seen it time and time again; great musicians as cultural ambassadors can really change people’s points of view!”