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#SJZSummerFest: Letieres Leite & Orkestra Rumpilezz

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Letieres Leite

Letieres Leite & Orkestra Rumpilezz – Photo by Tomas Peña

San Jose Jazz Summer Fest 2015 – Live Report by Tomas Peña

For three glorious days, nearly 1000 musicians performed over one-hundred concerts at thirteen outdoor and indoor stages throughout downtown San Jose.

The “vibe” was inviting, the crowds were friendly and diverse and the weather was spectacular.

In addition, there was dancing at the Salsa Stage, fast-food, fine dining, libations, film screenings, a jazz mass, a family zone and an after-hours “Club Crawl” for those who couldn’t get enough. It was all part of the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest, which was founded in 1986, produced its first jazz series in 1987 and its first official festival in 1989, on one stage.

Now, in its 26th year, the festival has evolved into a year-round arts organization that strives to enrich the community through music education and performance and is the South Bay’s biggest and most exciting cultural event.

From August 6th to the 9th I covered the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest. Along the way, I encountered a wide variety of music. This is the second in a series of Live Reports from the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest.

Saturday August 8, 2015, Kaiser Permanente Main Stage

LETIERES LEITE & ORKESTRA RUMPILEZZ

Prior to making their US debut at New York’s Lincoln Center out of Doors earlier this year, Orkestra Rumpilezz was a hot ticket. I didn’t attend, but my curiosity was peeked when the post-concert buzz far exceeded the pre-concert hype.

When I learned the Orkestra was scheduled to appear at the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest, I was thrilled.

Formed in 2006 by musician, composer, arranger Letieres Leite, Orkestra Rumpilezz features five percussionists and fourteen wind-players who draw from traditional “Afro Blocos” (percussion groups), Bahian sambas, the sacred ceremonies of the Afro-Brazilian religion and modern jazz.

I caught up with Letieres Leite & Orkestra Rumpilezz on Saturday afternoon at the Kaiser Permanente Main Stage, and I was struck by its size, scope, its unorthodox configuration and sound and its leader, Letieres Leite, whose small stature belies his commanding presence and devilish penchant for freedom and experimentation.

Leite was born in Bahia, honed his chops in Europe and has performed with Gil Goldstein, Paulo Moura, Alfredo de la Fe, Hermeto Pascoal, Gilberto Gil and Stanley Jordan among others.

Orkestra Rumpilezz‘s music is ancient, modern, nostalgic, happy, melancholic, eclectic. It defies conventional categories and pre-conceived notions of what Brazilian music and jazz, should or shouldn’t be. Put simply, it’s music without borders.

In addition to Orkestra Rumpilezz, the group Bloco Del Sol held a Samba Parade, that marched through the Salsa, Main & Blues Stage areas. Yet another example of San Jose’s efforts to connect with its community through art and music.

Learn more about Letieres Leite & Orkestra Rumpilezz: www.rumpilezz.com

Did you know that San Jose Jazz Winter Fest is the counterpart to Summer Fest?
It features living legends and fresh, emerging artists. Free weekly concerts include the bi-monthly Jazz Jam at Hedley and show at San Pedro’s Square Market each Friday evening. For more info visit: sanjosejazz.org/filter/winterfest/

Photos: Tomas Peña (click on thumbnails to enlarge)

A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject.

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Festivals Report

TD Toronto Jazz Festival – June 24 to July 3, 2022

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TD Toronto Jazz Fest 2022

10 Days of Free Shows — Say What!

My TD Toronto Jazz Festival started mid festival, Tuesday, June 28th, early evening. It was all about Juno winners and nominees. The first act, Sammy Jackson and her quartet performing at the TD Main Stage at the OLG Grove.

Sammy Jackson - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Sammy Jackson – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

Sammy Jackson won a Juno for vocal jazz album of the year. Her band, made up of Jackson on Vocals, Thomas Fleming – guitar, Chris Pruden – keys, Mark Godfrey – bass and Ian Wright playing the drums. Jackson sang songs from her award winning 5-track EP With You, featuring original compositions. Sammy Jackson added some songs from her 2016 release, the 5-track EP Take Me Back, to make for an enjoyable hour long performance. Jackson’s songs are about joy, vulnerability, long distance relationships, and love. Jackson blends jazz, R&B, soul and pop with her beautiful voice.

Sammy Jackson - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Sammy Jackson – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

Jackson covers an impressive vocal range, and her phrasing is delightful. Jackson shines on the ballads. I especially enjoyed “Bad Reception” and “Every Time We Say Goodbye”.

Sammy Jackson concluded her show with one dedicated to her son, entitled “Chuckie”, a toddler who happened to be in the audience and made a cameo at the front of the stage. This tune was upbeat and had a happy go lucky, dance groove to get everybody moving.

I spoke with Jackson after the show, I asked her if she noticed the Juno enhancing her career? She said, “I think it’s why I’m here. The Juno increased my exposure. So that’s great. Thank you Juno!”

Kellylee Evans - Photo by Danilo Navas
Kellylee Evans – Photo by Danilo Navas

Kellylee Evans performed the evening of the 28th and I was not going to miss her concert at the TD Main Stage. Kellylee Evans was in great vocal form and in accompaniment with a wonderful band made up of Joel Visentin – keyboards, Mark Godfrey – bass, Rich Grossman – guitar, and Ian Wright on drums.

Evans has suffered some serious physical setbacks in her recovery from a tragic accident in 2013. She has an injury that is effecting her ability to walk and even to stand. She performed the show from a sitting position.

Kellylee Evans - Photo by Danilo Navas
Kellylee Evans – Photo by Danilo Navas

Evans puts her heart and soul into her singing. She is a Juno winner for vocal jazz album of the year for Nina, released in 2010. One of my favourite vocal jazz albums.

This evening, Evans performed songs from her new 5-song EP Green Light as well as many others. A beautiful, dynamic, high energy performance—even from her seated position.

Alexis Baró Quintet - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Alexis Baró Quintet – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

I started off Wednesday, the 29th with the amazing trumpet playing of Alexis Baró. The Alexis Baró Quintet was performing at the TD Stage at Festival Village in Yorkville.

I really enjoy Baró’s trumpet playing. I think he is one of the most expressive players in the Afro Cuban style. Baró performed songs from his new album Ma Raiz.

Larnell Lewis Band - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Larnell Lewis Band – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

I only stuck around for a few of the songs as Joy Lapps and Larnell Lewis were performing at the TD Main Stage at the OLG Grove, a few streets south. It is most unfortunate to have these scheduling conflicts. However, It is amazing to have so much talent at one festival.

Joy Lapps and Larnell Lewis performed on the TD Main Stage Wednesday the 29th – a dynamite performance. The band, made up of Larnell Lewis – drums, Joy Lapps – steelpan, Jeremy Ledbetter – piano, Elmer Ferrer – guitar, Rob Christian – woodwinds, Andrew McAnsh – trumpet and Marc Manhertz – bass.

Larnell Lewis Band with Joy Lapps - Photo by Paul J. Youngman
Larnell Lewis Band with Joy Lapps – Photo by Paul J. Youngman

“Rejoice” was the title of one of the songs performed and to hear this band is to rejoice. When I listen to Larnell Lewis play I feel the pulse through my soul. I think this is the most heartful drummer I have ever heard. His music is uplifting, powerful, dynamic, his beats, fills and rhythms, just outstanding. He shares his heart with the audience, nothing is left on the stage. 

Now to get ready for a return to Koerner Hall, after 2 years of isolation, for one of the few ticketed events, the Gregory Porter band. Excited? Yes, indeed!

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