.SJZ Winter Fest: Jazzy With a Chance of Hip-Hop

A few months back, San Jose Jazz’s Arturo Riera told Metro that he defines jazz very simply: It’s “music that requires improvisation.”

The genius of this definition is not only its simplicity, but its accuracy. Try to define it any other way and you’ll find exception after countless exception. The one thing that binds all jazz musicians is improvisation. This fact is on clear display in the SJ Jazz Winter Fest lineup.
The biggest name on the bill is undoubtedly Roy Ayers. The massively influential vibraphonist and pianist, now in his sixth decade of touring, plays the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto on Feb. 24. The list of people who look up to Ayers is long and staggering. Erykah Badu, Stevie Wonder, Tupac, Mary J. Blige—all of them have cited Ayers’s music as influence. The dude has a stranglehold on cool, and it really only takes one listen to “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” or “The Third Eye” to see why.

Equally experienced and steeped in lore are the members of The Cookers, who play Cafe Stritch on Feb. 16. The septet might have just formed in 2007, but don’t let that fool you. Between them, the members have played with Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Max Roach, Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, and countless others. This is a band of heavyweights.
Then there are the young cats. Reva DeVito is a rising R&B singer from Portland. She plays The Continental’s weekly alt-soul party, The Changing Same, on Feb. 23. The following evening, Feb. 24, future-funk outfit Troker bring their off-kilter jams to MACLA. The Mexico-based sextet craft tunes that sound something like a hip-hop-inspired side project of The Mars Volta’s horn and keys section. After Troker wraps their show, head over to Stritch for a set from The Huntertones—a brass- and reed-driven band from Brooklyn with mad beat-boxing skills. Think “slappin’ de bass,” only on the tuba.

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