Doing the dozen

Our twelve event picks for this weekend’s Jazz Festival.

Sacramento Jazz Festival

Sacramento Jazz Festival

Photos By jason montiel

Choice is always a good thing. And while we don’t have room here for a complete rundown of every act, here are our picks for a dozen not-to-be missed Sacramento Jazz Festival events. You can check out for even more information.

Unless otherwise noted, ticket prices are as follows: All-event passes are available for $110 for adults, 21 and over and $50 for youth ages 7-20. Per-day tickets are $45 for adults and $20 for youth ages 7-20. On Friday, one-day admission prices are just $15 for youth and $35 for adults. $30 sampler tickets are also available for any show after 5:30 p.m.

Count Basie Jubilee Kickoff Concert, the Count Basie Orchestra

What: William “Count” Basie died in 1984, but the incomparable bandleader’s spirit lives on via the Count Basie Orchestra legacy band.

Led by trombonist Bill Hughes, the 19-piece orchestra is well-schooled in the art of 1940s-era Kansas City-style big-band jazz and, even without its namesake, still garners accolades and awards, including 17 Grammy awards and several Down Beat Readers Poll “Best Big Band” nods.

Why: “When the (original) bands were in existence in their original incarnations, they were tremendous,” Sacramento Jazz Festival executive director Gene Berthelsen says. “Now the music can be played by good, competent musicians and they can still sound like they did back then—the Basie band is really rockin’.”

When: The Count Basie Orchestra kicks off the festival at 7 p.m. tonight (Thursday, May 21) at the Radisson Hotel, 500 Leisure Lane. Tickets are $45 in advance, $50 at the door, but festival ticket holders, volunteers and Sacramento Traditional Jazz Society members will be admitted for $25.

Opening Day Parade

What: It’s the festival’s official launch in the streets of Old Sac.

Why: Mayor Kevin Johnson will be on hand. There’ll also be marching bands, antique cars and a procession of colorful floats.

When: The festivities start at 11:45 a.m. on Friday in Old Sacramento.

Bill Allred’s Classic Jazz Band

What: This Orlando-based big band dishes everything from Jelly Roll Morton to Count Basie.

Why: “Bill Allred’s Classic Jazz Band is my personal favorite,” Berthelsen says. “It’s hard to put a label on them; they’re reminiscent of the very good bands of the 1950s—they’re just very, very good.”

When: 1 p.m. Friday, Turntable Junction, 111 I Street, Old Sacramento; 10 a.m. Saturday, Hyatt Ballroom, 1209 L Street; 1 p.m. The Depot, Front Street between I and J streets; 5:30 p.m. Holiday Inn Ballroom, 300 J Street; 10 a.m. Sunday, Riverfront Refuge, Front Street between K and L streets; 2:30 p.m. Hyatt Ballroom; 10 p.m. Holiday Inn Ballroom; 10 a.m. Monday, Sheraton Grand Nave Ballroom, 1230 J Street.

Celebration of Faith

What: A Jubilee tradition since 1979, this free gospel performance features Igor’s Jazz Cowboys and Voices of Faith.

Why: It’s an upbeat, rowdy party for God (and friends of God).

When: 10 a.m. Sunday, Firehouse Lot at the corner of Front and L streets.

Lindy Hop Extravaganza

What: Members of various Northern California swing-dance societies show off their best drops, lifts and dips in a bid for a $1,000 grand prize. Music by Dr. Bach & the Jazz Practitioners.

Why: Thanks to Swingers, swing dancing (and, thus, swing culture) was all the rage 10 years ago among hipsters, retro enthusiasts and moms alike. Now that the trend has passed, the rest of us can enjoy the music and moves without feeling as though we’ve fallen into a Gap commercial.

When: The preliminaries take place at 11 a.m. Saturday, and the finals are scheduled for 4 p.m. that afternoon. Both events take place at the Hyatt Ballroom.

Bloody Mary Contest

What: Drink up! Festival bartenders vie to win the title at this annual contest.

Why: Because nothing says Sunday morning like a spicy Bloody Mary, and this Jubilee tradition is renowned for turning out the best tomato juice/vodka combos you can shake a celery stick at.

When: 11 a.m. Sunday, Turntable Junction.

Mumbo Gumbo

What: One of Sacramento’s most popular stage bands.

Why: OK, you probably usually don’t think “jazz” and “Mumbo Gumbo” in the same sentence, but this longtime ensemble uses the guitar, piano, accordion and washboard to fuse rock and folk with zydeco, Cajun, blues and other elements that draw on or owe an influence to jazz.

When: 1 p.m. Friday, Firehouse Lot; 4 p.m. Freeway Gardens, beneath Interstate 5 at the east entrance of Old Sacramento near the tunnel; 10 p.m. Riverfront Refuge; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Firehouse Lot; 5:30 p.m. Sheraton Grand Nave Ballroom; 10 p.m. Turntable Junction.

Come on Home Benefit

What: The Sacramento Jazz Festival teams with the Ending Chronic Homelessness Initiative for a benefit show featuring a roster of blues bands that includes Jimmy Pailer & the Prophets, Aaron King & the Imperials and the Linda Bracamonte Band.

Why: “Blues is the most popular genre we have [at the festival],” Berthelsen says. In addition to the music, Mayor Johnson is expected to attend this benefit.

When: 10 a.m. Monday, Turntable Junction.

Le Jazz Hot

What: Le Jazz Hot is a new quartet featuring members from San Francisco’s Hot Club of Cowtown. The style here is “gypsy,” a so-called “small” jazz sound played on unamplified instruments with a focus on spirited percussive beats.

Why: You’ve got a bit of the wild gypsy moving through your soul (and feet).

When: 4 p.m. Friday, John Q’s inside the Holiday Inn; 7 p.m. Golden Eagle Room, Second Street side of the Firehouse Restaurant between K and L streets; 10 p.m. Firehouse Courtyard, 1112 Second Street; 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Delta King Paddlewheel Saloon, 1000 Front Street; 5:30 p.m. John Q’s inside the Holiday Inn; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Laughs Unlimited, 1207 Front Street; 10 p.m. Embassy Suites Ballroom, 100 Capitol Mall.

Ophir Prison Marching Kazoo Band & Temperance Society

What: A Folsom-based band whose members have dedicated themselves to a “life of beer.”

Why: “They just storm in and storm out make a lot of noise,” Berthelsen says.

Also: “A lot of the songs are about beer.”

When: 2:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Firehouse Lot; 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Freeway Gardens; 1 p.m. Sunday, Firehouse Lot, 7 p.m. Turntable Junction; 1 p.m. Monday, Firehouse Lot; 2:30 p.m. Freeway Gardens.

Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition

What: This San Antonio Western swing band taps into an arsenal of steel guitar, fiddles and bass.

Why: Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition was a popular draw in 2008, so be prepared to stand in line to see ’em. Lucky for you, they’re playing approximately a gazillion times.

When: 4 p.m. Friday, Betty’s Bistro (inside the Convention Center Exhibit Hall), 1400 J Street; 7 and 10 p.m. Turntable Junction; 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Riverboat Refuge; 7 and 10 p.m. The Depot; 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Firehouse Lot; 7 and 10 p.m. Riverfront Refuge; 11:30 a.m. Monday, Hyatt Ballroom.


What: This Placerville covers combo mines the rock, jazz, funk and blues of the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.

Why: The chance to hear anything and everything from the Neville Brothers and Elvis Presley to Ray Charles; Blood, Sweat and Tears; and Bruce Springsteen.

When: 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Firehouse Lot.