SF JAZZ Festival Lineup: Heavy on Big Names, Light on Surprises and Local Talent

Announced this week by SFJAZZ, the lineup for the 30th Anniversary San Francisco Jazz Festival sounds ringingly similar to the lineups of previous San Francisco Jazz Festivals: a combination of jazz legends (Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman), younger innovators (Don Byron, Jacky Terrasson), vocalists (Dianne Reeves, Eliane Elias), and leading exponents of Latin jazz (Arturo Sandoval, Septeto Nacional). It's a stunning group of artists — one that any jazz organization would be proud to attract, and one that almost any jazz fan would want to see and hear. Yet there are two nagging problems with this lineup. One is the familiarity of the above-described annual formula. The other is that, despite culling admirably from the global spectrum of jazz, the festival devotes hardly any programming to the Bay Area's own vibrant jazz history and current pool of talent.

Outside of Lavay Smith and Mary Stallings (as well as two performances by high school students), there isn't a single artist booked for this year's festival who has a Bay Area association. Where are Wil Blades, Taylor Eigsti, or Denny Zeitlin? All are accomplished musicians with international reputations. All hail from the Bay Area. And those are just a handful of the great keyboard players we have around here.

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