Healdsburg Jazz Fest considered the North Bay's best
Women and international performers highlight the lineup for the 21st annual Healdsburg Jazz Festival, scheduled to take place in a variety of different venues in and around Healdsburg from May 31-June 9.
This year’s festival also celebrates the 50th birthday celebration of renowned jazz label ECM Records.
“People say we have the best music festival in the North Bay,” says Jessica Felix, the festival’s executive director. “In addition to attracting incredible artists, all of the venues are small and intimate spots where you’re never too far from what’s happening on stage.”
The festival begins May 31 with an ECM tribute show at Soda Rock Winery on Highway 128 in the Alexander Valley. Ralph Towner, who is a maestro on the 12-string guitar, will take center stage — a fitting choice, since he has released 27 albums with the label over the years. Towner’s special guest for the night: Paul McCandless, with whom Towner formed the band Oregon. McCandless is an expert with wind instruments.
Ten days later, On June 9, the event concludes with a performance by Dhafer Youssef, a Tunisian musician who plays the oud (a lute-like, pear-shaped string instrument) and will collaborate with a trio of other musicians.
Reached by email earlier this month, Youssef said he was “very pleased to be included and to share the stage with such amazing artists.”
In between the first and last act, the Jazz Fest has booked a lineup that features the Carlos Herrera Trio (June 1), Calvin Keys and Jeff Chambers (June 3), and the Harold Lopez-Nussa Quartet featuring Mayquel Gonzalez (June 7), to name a few.
Also of note: The June 1 performance by Dejohnette- Coltrane–Garrison, a group that comprises drummer Jack DeJohnette, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and bassist Matthew Garrison. (In case you’re wondering, Ravi is the son of John and Alice Coltrane, and Matthew’s father was Jimmy Garrison, bassist in the classic John Coltrane Quartet.)
The oldest performer to grace the stage is Carla Bley, who will croon as part of a trio June 2. Bley, who will be 83,has been making music for nearly 70 years and touring for 60 of them. Since she originally is from Oakland, Bley considers her participation in this music festival a homecoming.
“[Wine Country] is such a great part of the world to perform,” she says. “At this point in my career I spend most of my time writing music at my desk. It’s nice to get out and see the rest of the world.”
Regina Carter, who performs with a quintet, is excited to participate for an entirely different reason: This will be her first trip to this part of Wine Country since she honeymooned here 14 years ago. Carter will play a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald on June 8 — she’ll share the stage at the Jackson Theater in Santa Rosa with the Joey DeFrancesco Trio and Billy Hart.
“Destination festivals are fun,” says Carter, who has built in an extra day to take in the Healdsburg festival as a tourist. “Unlike other big events, where people just come to talk and socialize with friends, people come to these because they actually want to hear the music.”
Another act attracting a lot of attention is Jenny Scheinman and Allison Miller’s Parlour Game quartet with Carmen Staaf and Tony Scherr. This group, scheduled to play June 5, is known for its “social” music — roots jazz and groove tunes that marries clear and traditional melodies with a host of improvisation that makes every set entirely different.