New Faces of the 37th San Francisco Jazz Festival

On The Corner Masthead


February 20, 2019 | by SFJAZZ

Vibraphonist Sasha Berliner

The San Francisco Jazz Festival has always welcomed fresh perspectives, and this year is no exception. Here's a look at 10 artists debuting at SFJAZZ during the 37th Annual Festival, running June 11-23.

Sona Jobarteh (June 13)

“A griot for a new generation of West Africans” (BBC Radio), London-born kora virtuoso Sona Jobarteh is a pioneer of the 21-string African lute. She is the first female kora master to have emerged from an established family of West African griots, bucking a long-held hereditary tradition that restricted instruction on the instrument to males only.

The Mattson 2 with special guest Calvin Keys (June 14)

The identical twin duo of Jared and Jonathan Mattson re-imagine John Coltrane’s 1964 masterwork, A Love Supreme, approached with their signature mix of looped surf-meets-bebop guitars and tribal jazz drumming that JazzTimes says “manages to hold Coltrane’s revered album in the highest esteem while absolutely shredding it to pieces.” Legendary Bay Area-based soul jazz guitar great Calvin Keys joins them for a world premiere collaboration in the second set.

Orquesta Akokán (June 16)

“Vocalist Pepito Gómez has a siren sound that reaches right back into the 1940s, when the punchy pop music known as mambo overtook Cuba. He’s embracing that affinity with a new 16-piece band, featuring some of the island’s greatest instrumentalists” (NY Times). This multi-generational big band was culled from the ranks of Cuba’s finest, including members of Irakere and Los Van Van.

Felix Peikli (June 16)

“A star,” (NY Times), the 28-year-old Oslo, Norway native is the most exciting young clarinetist to emerge on the scene in over a decade, working as bandleader and collaborator with Wayne Shorter, Marcus Miller, Herbie Hancock, Danilo Perez, and Ralph Peterson. He makes his SFJAZZ debut with a tribute to his earliest influence, clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman and his pioneering trio of the 1930s and 1940s.

Hristo VItchev Quartet (June 17)

“A composer drawn to shimmering harmonies and ethereal textures” (Mercury News), Bulgarian-born, Bay Area-based guitarist Hristo Vitchev and his longstanding quartet perform original material from his newest release, Of Light and Shadows, celebrating a decade as a band. Voted to DownBeat’s list of Rising Star guitarists, Vitchev has created a body of ethereal, impressionistic compositions, recalling the classic “ECM sound” while retaining their sharp edges, mesmerizing grooves, and telepathic interplay.

Sasha Berliner (June 18)

A gifted vibraphonist, composer, and producer, Sasha Berliner won the prestigious Letter One Rising Star Award in 2018. A San Francisco native, she began on drums at eight and attended the Oakland School for the Arts and was a two-year member of the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars Orchestra. Now based in New York, she is a student at the New School and heads a superlative young quartet. She releases her full-length debut album, Azalea, in 2019.

Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio (June 19)

Carrying on the infectious deep-pocket R&B of Booker T. and the greasy, funky, soul-jazz organ tradition of Charles Earland and Jimmy McGriff, Seattle-based organ king Delvon Lamarr brings his whip-crack trio for an evening of dance-inspiring party jams. “It’s hard not to start moving once Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio hit the stage. Their blend of soul and jazz is absolutely infectious.” (KEXP Seattle)

Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino (June 20)

With “few peers in contemporary world music” (New Yorker), the CGS has been bringing the uproarious music and dance of Southern Italy to new audiences for over four decades. Founded by journalist and author Rina Durante in the mid-1970s, the CGS spearheaded a revival of the ancient folk music form pizzica tarantata that was born in Puglia’s Salento region, infusing it with a contemporary sensibility and rambunctious energy.

Kurt Ribak Quartet (June 20)

Describing his rollicking mix of bebop sophistication and body-moving grooves as “Charles Mingus meets The Meters,” Berkeley-based bassist and composer Ribak brings his superb working quartet, performing music from their most recent album Onward, featuring saxophonist Lincoln Adler, keyboardist Greg Sankovich, and drummer Alan Hall.

Eric Alexander Quartet (June 22)

“A constant source of melodic and harmonic surprises, with his commanding tone and muscular technique” (The Guardian), Eric Alexander is a gifted soloist and composer inspired by Dexter Gordon and George Coleman. Alexander has helmed over 40 dates, many of which feature his quartet partners, bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth. Guest pianist Eric Reed joins the quartet for this date.