As Stanford University’s academic year winds down and the frantic buzz of student life peters out, a new sound is poised to emerge on campus. Mellow guitar riffs, staccato drum rhythms and smooth melodies will soon weave through the tall palms of Palm Drive, and waft up and over Hoover Tower.
For the past 44 summers, the Stanford Jazz Festival has taken up residency at the university, establishing itself as one of the longest running and most diverse musical gatherings in the Bay Area.
Founded in 1972 by saxophonist and educator Jim Nadel, the festival’s roots trace back to a jam session between Nadel and a few friends at the Stanford Coffee House. Over the years, Nadel’s jam sessions continued to grow—drawing a steady stream of top-tier players from all over the world, and eventually spilling out of the university’s cafe and taking to stages all over campus.
For nearly half a century, the festival has hosted a wide array of internationally acclaimed jazz musicians. And the event’s accompanying Jazz Camp has served as the training ground for many young musicians—some of whom have gone on to pursue careers as professional musicians. There are even some who will return this year to take the stage.
The 2016 Stanford Jazz Festival boasts 26 performances over a seven-week period. The event also features an instrument “petting zoo” for children, and a number of lectures and discussions on jazz instrumentation and style—including a free master class taught by Cuban saxophonist and percussionist Yosvany Terry.
The festival kicks off June 18 with Dianne Reeves at Bing Concert Hall. The five-time Grammy award-winning artist will be flanked by her dual jazz guitar accompanists, Romero Lubambo and Russell Malone, also known as Strings Attached. Given Reeves’ reputation as an accomplished scat singer—with influences from both jazz and R&B—her opening night show will set the stage for what’s to come in the following weeks.
Indian violinist Kala Ramnath takes center stage at Dinkelspiel Auditorium on June 25 with tenor saxophonist George Brooks for an “Indian Jazz Journey”—a night of South Asian jazz fusion between two equally artful and imaginative musicians. Ramnath funnels the essence of the Carnatic tradition through her violin, playing along with Brooks’ melodic, brassy accents and putting a delightful twist on this classical form of Indian music.
Ambrose & Friends is slated for an Aug. 2 performance at Dinkelspiel Auditorium. The group is led by trumpet player Ambrose Akinmusire, a Stanford Jazz Workshop faculty member and alumnus whose more recent credits include an appearance on Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 Grammy-winning To Pimp a Butterfly. Playing alongside his band—keyboard player Fabian Almazan, bassist Linda Oh and drummer Obed Calvaire—expect a night of genre-blending, narrative instrumentation and spoken word.
For info on performers and set times, visit stanfordjazz.org.
Stanford Jazz Festival
Jun 17-Aug 6, $15-$105