July 29, 2019
The dog days of summer can sound mighty cool if you know where to listen. While the San Francisco Bay provides some blessed respite from the heat baking much of the country, the musicians living among us offer opportunities for a different kind of release. As drummer Art Blakey observed, “Jazz washes away the dust of everyday life.” Aug.’s offering includes a bassist who mixes soul with her jazz, and a saxophonist who blends jazz with her blues, a Czech-American pianist launching a new all-star band, and an American pianist/vocalist on a rare trip back from Austria.
A graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with a major in composition, pianist Anne Sajdera earned a reputation for precise and burnished lyricism while working in an array of Brazilian jazz ensembles. She’s been branching out into other jazz settings in recent years, including an ongoing collaboration with some of Prague’s leading improvisers, but the new quintet she introduces Sunday afternoon at the Oaktown Jazz Workshops on Jack London Square features a dream team of Bay Area talent, with drummer Deszon Claiborne, bassist Jeff Chambers, trumpeter Mike Olmos, and saxophonist Harvey Wainapel (who shares her deep love of Brazilian music).
Bassist/vocalist Aneesa Strings has been keeping some impressive company lately, like touring with the suave jazz crooner José James as part of his Bill Withers project. On Saturday afternoon she performs as part of San Jose Jazz’s Summer Fest, presenting her own soul-steeped music on the Jazz Beyond Stage with a monster band including drummer Ruth Price, keyboardist LJ Holoman, and saxophonist Howard Wiley.
As the busiest blues saxophonist in the Bay Area, Nancy Wright still works as a sidewoman, but in recent years she’s evolved into a highly effective bandleader and vocalist in her own right. In June she released her fourth album as a leader, Alive & Blue (VizzTone/Direct Hit Records), and she celebrates the CD’s release with several gigs around the region, including San Jose’s Poor House Bistro (Aug. 10), Oakland’s Sound Room (Aug. 16), and Armando’s in Martinez (Aug. 30).
While pianist/vocalist Dena DeRose never lived in the Bay Area, she’s spent enough time here over the years to forge deep ties to some of the finest players in town. A scarce presence since taking over the jazz vocal program at the University of Music and Dramatic Arts Graz, Austria, she offers a preview of her upcoming album at Oakland’s Piedmont Piano with her longtime Bay Area compatriots Peter Barshay (bass) and Akira Tana (drums). A top-shelf pianist and gifted less-is-more singer, she sprinkles well-wrought originals amidst gems by Bob Dorough, Alan Broadbent, Al Cohn, and the tunesmiths of the American Songbook pantheon.
For almost five years pianist/flutist Gaea Schell has held down a Sunday afternoon gig in the landmark Palace Hotel, where she’s often joined by the great bassist John Wiitala. At Berkeley’s California Jazz Conservatory, she presents a program of original music as part of the “Way Out West” series with Wiitala, drummer Greg Wyser-Pratte, and Portland-based guitarist John Stowell, a startlingly original player best known for an extensive discography of duo sessions with artists like NEA Jazz Master Dave Liebman and Albany saxophonist Michael Zilber.
A Bay Area jazz stalwart, bassist Caroline Chung is one of the reasons that San Francisco’s Red Poppy Art House continues to serve as an invaluable jazz outpost. As the prime mover behind the collective Citizens Jazz, she’s helped organize concerts dedicated to the music of Billy Strayhorn, Charles Mingus and Dizzy Gillespie, the subject of this evening. In addition to Chung the stellar quintet features James Mahone on tenor sax and altoist Riley Bandy, pianist Grant Levin and drummer Malachi Whitson.