Stanford Jazz Festival goes global

Since 1972, Stanford has celebrated the most American of art forms – now it looks to jazz's African forebears and its cousins in Brazil, Europe and around the world.


Joel Simon Julian Lage, right, and fellow SJW faculty Victor Lin, left, and Jorge Roeder

Julian Lage, right, and fellow SJW faculty Victor Lin, left, and Jorge Roeder will pay tribute to the music of the incomparable Django Reinhardt.

America's most undisputed legacy to world arts is jazz.

So it's fitting that Stanford University celebrates it – every year – with a world-class jazz festival. But though jazz was born in America, its forebears and cousins also will have a share in this year's Stanford Jazz Festival, which begins its 39th six-week season on Friday, June 25, and continues through Aug. 7.

The festival kicks off at 8 p.m. Friday in Dinkelspiel Auditorium with an event that has a distinctly international feel: "A Night of Brazilian Jazz" with Grammy Award-winning vocalist Luciana Souza, guitarist Romero Lubambo and saxophonist Harvey Wainapel and his all-Brazilian jazz quartet Alegritude.

"Most people think that jazz began in New Orleans – but, no, this music began thousands of years ago," says the 84-year-old National Endowment for the Arts master Randy Weston, a Moroccan-based American jazz pianist and composer of Jamaican parentage. The festival will honor jazz's African roots with Weston's African Rhythms Trio at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 26, in Dinkelspiel Auditorium.

Another special highlight – and one with origins closer to home – is "Ella Fitzgerald: America's First Lady of Song" at 2:30 p.m. July 11 in Dinkelspiel Auditorium. Fitzgerald is remembered for her three-octave range, her vocal power and exemplary taste, her perfect diction, pitch, timing and technique.

"If this woman was the greatest American singer, it was in part because she could turn any song into an oxygen rush of bouncing melody that reached the listener's ears as pure, untroubled joy – the eternally young sound of a young country," said the New York Times' Frank Rich in 1996.

Stanford Jazz Festival Randy Weston has devoted his life to the study of African music, including a six-year residence in Morocco, where he ran a nightclub and studied with master musicians.

Randy Weston has devoted his life to the study of African music, including a six-year residence in Morocco, where he ran a nightclub and studied with master musicians.

Two Bay Area singers will lead the salute to Fitzgerald: powerhouse Bay Area vocalist Mary Stallings, who has been hailed as "perhaps the best jazz singer singing today" (New York Times), and rising star Kenny Washington.

The Stanford Jazz Festival is more than performance: It is affiliated with the Stanford Jazz Workshop, the Summer Jazz Camp and the Jazz Residency education programs, under the guidance of festival founder and artistic/executive director Jim Nadel. Festival participants teach at the workshop by day and gather to play in unique combos by night.

Underscoring Stanford Jazz's vital role as a proving ground for young talent, the Ella Fitzgerald tribute will showcase Palo Alto's Holly Smolik, 17, and San Jose's Laila Smith, 15, who have distinguished themselves at the workshop since they were 12 years old.

The Fitzgerald concert will be one of several "tribute concerts" this season. Others include "100 Years of Django,"" The Music of Billy Strayhorn," "The Music of Dave Brubeck" and "Visions: The Stevie Wonder Songbook."

The music of Belgian-born gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt (1910-53) brings a European flavor to this year's festival. He was the first European musician to have a powerful influence on American jazz. Grammy-nominated guitarist Julian Lage, along with fellow Stanford Jazz Workshop faculty members Victor Lin and Jorge Roeder, will lead the tribute to Django at 7:30 p.m. July 28 in Dinkelspiel Auditorium.

Pianist Junior Mance will be highlighted in two events, beginning with the "Giants of Jazz" event at 8 p.m. July 24 in Campbell Recital Hall, where he will perform with saxophonist Charles McPherson and drummer Tootie Heath. Together, these jazz leaders have expanded the great traditions they helped to define. The Junior Mance Trio will perform at 7:30 p.m. July 27 in Campbell Recital Hall.

Among the other events in this year's festival are the Mose Allison Trio on July 16, the Dave Douglas Quintet Plus on Aug. 1, Nicholas Payton with the Taylor Eigsti Trio on Aug. 3 and the Joshua Redman Trio on Aug. 4; these performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. in Dinkelspiel Auditorium.

Homegrown pianist Eigsti also will perform at a special CD release program at 8 p.m. Aug. 7 in Dinkelspiel Auditorium.

For the complete calendar, more artist information, and video and audio samples, visit Tickets can be ordered through the website or by calling (650) 725-ARTS. Ticket prices range from $5 to $40 for general admission, with student and group prices and family discounts.

Cynthia Haven, Stanford News Service: (650) 724-6184,