This weekend: Silicon Valley Jazz Festival coming to Menlo Park


The three-year-old Silicon Valley Jazz Festival will be coming to Menlo Park for the first time, with a dozen bands lined up to perform at Fremont Park from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 12 and 13.

In addition, the festival organizers have invited acclaimed jazz trumpeter, composer and educator Carl Saunders to teach two master classes on Friday, Oct. 11, to students at Tierra Linda Middle School and at Menlo-Atherton High School.

Saunders will also be performing a "Desert Island Jazz" show from 9 to 10 a.m. that day at KCSM, a radio station licensed by the San Mateo County Community College District, at 91.1 FM.

On Saturday, Oct. 12, concerts are lined up as follows:

● 11 a.m. - Sequoia High School

● Noon - Scott Dailey Trio & Friends

● 1 p.m. - Indygo Rhythm Section

● 2 p.m. - Tierra Linda Middle School

● 3 p.m. - SV Jazz Festival All-Stars

● 4 p.m. - Headliner: Carl Saunders

In addition, a sponsors' party will feature Carl Saunders at Savanna Jazz at 8:30 p.m.; there is a $35 admission charge. Savanna Jazz is at 1189 Laurel St. in San Carlos. The party is open to the public, said event organizer Scott Dailey.

On Sunday, Oct. 13, the lineup is:

● 11 a.m. - Ralston Middle School

● 12 p.m. - Mike Nourie & the Swingmasons

● 1 p.m. - The Jazz Divas

● 2 p.m. - Dave Miller with Rebecca Dumaine

● 3 p.m. - Menlo-Atherton High School

● 4 p.m. - Pascal Bokar's AfroBlueGrazz Band

After that, another festival party is scheduled at Savanna Jazz featuring Octobop; admission is $20.

The concerts are at Fremont Park, located at Santa Cruz Avenue and University Drive in Menlo Park, unless otherwise indicated. The festival will also have food trucks and a beer and wine garden featuring beverages from Old County Cellars and Devil's Canyon Brewery.

Preserving an American art form

Savanna Jazz Club operated in San Francisco's Mission District for a decade before it moved to San Carlos about four years ago, according to club owner and festival founder Pascal Bokar Thiam.

Thiam, who goes by Pascal Bokar as a musician, also teaches at the University of San Francisco in addition to running the jazz club.

The festival, he said, is an extension of the Savanna Jazz Club, and it's aimed at promoting "this American art form we call jazz."

On one level, the festival is aimed at filling the festival vacuum on the Peninsula that exists between the more active jazz festival scenes in San Francisco and San Jose, he said.

On a deeper level, though, the festival seeks to combat the art form's contemporary challenges with recruitment and underappreciation, he added.

"Essentially, the mission of the festival grew out of what we perceived to be a need to promote an art form that's under siege by the recording industry," he told The Almanac.

Giving students a chance to learn and show their developing jazz skills "keeps kids out of trouble, practicing their instruments," he said. "They realize you're only as good on your instrument as the amount of time you commit to it.

"The excellence comes from a deep commitment to quality, and that doesn't come quick.

"Jazz is a fabulous avenue to give them not only a sense of community but give them a sense of value of what they can achieve together in a band."

Jazz, he said, "has been one of the major art forms created by African Americans in North America. It's an art form that is celebrated all over the planet. … Jazz is a beacon of light and has been a symbol of the best that humans can do in terms of creativity."

"It's not a game," he added. "This art form needs help, and it needs help from every part of the private and public sector, because it represents high aesthetics. It's a tough battle in a world of quick consumption and immediate gratification."

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