Palo Alto Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - May 17, 2013

Back in black and white

Two of jazz piano's greats bookend the Stanford Jazz season

by Rebecca Wallace

Two of jazz piano's greats will bookend Stanford Jazz this summer. The festival will run the gamut from Herbie Hancock to Chucho Valdes, with a world of sounds in between: bebop, blues, gospel, R&B, jazz guitar and organ, and even Disney-flavored tunes along with classic jazz.

Now in its 42nd season, the Stanford Jazz Festival and Workshop runs from June 20 through Aug. 10 this year. After a special off-campus June 20 performance by the SJW Faculty All-Stars at Stanford Shopping Center, most of the shows are at Dinkelspiel Auditorium or Campbell Recital Hall at Stanford University.

Hancock is about a lot more than his hit 1983 instrumental single "Rockit," a pioneering blend of jazz and hip-hop. His decades-long, Grammy-studded career in innovative acoustic and electronic jazz includes recordings dating back to 1963. He's been a member of the Miles Davis Quintet, a platinum solo artist, an Oscar-winning film composer and the producer who discovered Wynton Marsalis.

Unfortunately for fans, Hancock's June 22 solo show at Bing Concert Hall has already sold out. Hopefuls can sign up on the festival website in case a ticket or two becomes available.

Audience members should have better luck at the moment with tickets for the Chucho Valdes Quintet. Valdes, an Afro-Cuban jazz pianist, composer and bandleader, is also an award-winner many times over, with five Grammy Awards and three Latin Grammy Awards. He was born in 1941 into a notably musical family; his father was Bebo Valdes, an influential bandleader in pre-revolutionary Cuba, and his mother, Pilar Rodriguez, was a singer and piano teacher. According to Valdes' website, he was playing piano by the age of 3.

Valdes' Stanford Jazz show with his quartet is scheduled for Aug. 10 at Bing.

The festival combines big-name performances with shows by up-and-coming musicians. Many of the performers are teachers or students in the workshop's jazz-education program for kids and adults; some hang out at the university's coffee house for more informal jams throughout the summer.

Besides Hancock and Valdes, other big names this summer include Brazilian singer Claudia Villela, slated to perform with her band on June 23 in Campbell Recital Hall. Born in Rio, she also has longtime local roots; she moved to California in 1984 and has sung with the Stanford University Chorus and the De Anza College Jazz Singers.

Villela is big on be-bop improvisation as well as more traditional Brazilian sounds. She's quoted on her website as saying, "My singing is the sum of all the music I've heard, from Brazilian baroque to bossa nova to free jazz, the nostalgic and modern."

For a different sound, audience members can check out Stanley Clarke on July 20 in Dinkelspiel Auditorium. In jazz, bass players often stand in the back; Clarke comes downstage center with his acoustic and electric basses. He's headlined many a show and toured widely with Chick Corea in the electric jazz-fusion band Return to Forever. He also designs basses and composes for films and television.

Other starry performers scheduled for the festival include: organist Chester Thompson, formerly of Tower of Power and Santana, in a multi-artist "jazz organ blowout" on June 28; New Orleans pianist Henry Butler on July 24; multi-reed player and jazz educator Tia Fuller on July 27; and jazz-tap performer Savion Glover with his trio on Aug. 3.

Local musicians include the Menlo Park duo Tuck & Patti on June 29, and pianist Taylor Eigsti, a workshop graduate and Menlo Park native, on July 28, July 31 and Aug. 6.

Theme concerts include "Jazz in the Magic Kingdom" on July 25, in which pianist and violinist Victor Lin will play music from Disney films. Stanford Jazz founder and director Jim Nadel will also lead his customary "Early Bird Jazz" music-education event, on July 13, with another "Early Bird" on June 29 with Doug Goodkin and the Pentatonics.

Info: Ticket prices range from $28 to $150, with some free events. ("Early Bird" events are free for kids and $5 in advance or $10 at the door for adults.) For a full schedule of concerts and more information, go to stanfordjazz.org.

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