Mike Johnson has been rocking hard ever since he arrived at the San Jose Jazz Summerfest.
“You can feel the love coming in,” said the Sacramento resident, who was enjoying the first of three days – Aug. 12-14 – of live music at the Plaza de Cesar Chavez in downtown San Jose and the surrounding area. “It’s just fun. It’s a party.”
Thousands more seemed completely overwhelmed by Johnson’s assessment on the festival’s opening night. Music lovers packed the square to dance and dance to Friday’s main stage artists — including soul great Lee Fields — as well as enjoy more than a dozen acts playing on the festival’s other stages. Featured acts include R&B-soul band Durand Jones and the Pointers and local blues great Chris Kane.
The event is set to continue on Saturday with appearances by funk-soul star Charlie Wilson, vocalist-guitarist Raul Midon, Afro-Cuban outfit Sabor de Mi Cuba, multi-talented vocalist Kim Naley, R&B singer Lila James and jazz legend the Brubeck Brothers.
In the year The 2022 festival is set to conclude Sunday with performances from Grammy-winning Oakland R&B vocalist Ledisi, jazz bassist Stanley Clarke, San Jose bluesman Aki Kumar, Orquesta Latin Heat and other notable artists.
It’s the first full-scale summer fest since 2019. The festival was canceled in 2020 due to covid, but was held last year due to limited capacity.
Long-time audiences seemed thrilled to have the summer festival back – and to do so in fashion reminiscent of the pre-Covid years.
San Jose resident Rudy Rodriguez was enjoying the Blues/Big Easy stage, enjoying another high-energy show from one of the Bay Area’s best blues acts – the Jesse Smith Band. Attending the summer festival is an annual tradition for Rodriguez and his wife — one he says he looks forward to year-round.
“We’ve been coming since day one,” he says between Smith’s guitar solos. We like it when it’s free, but we don’t mind paying for it.
Rodriguez and his wife were listening to the music with several friends, including two who had to travel long distances to get to the festival.
“One came from Arizona and one from LA – just to be here,” he explained.
The party went all-out on the Blues/Big Easy stage, which was hosting the entire 408 lineup on opening night — featuring both the JC Smith Band and Chris Cain from San Jose. Smith was up first and as usual wowed his fans with his amazing vocals and guitar work as well as his top band powerhouse saxophonist Noel Katura.
“(Smith) is a great show,” said East Palo Alto resident Sherry Jones. It certainly includes the audience.
Thanks to acts like Aki Kumar, Memphis Sound and the Marina Cruise Band, this stage should remain one of the festival’s high points throughout the weekend.
For more information, visit summerfest.sanjosejazz.org.