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Downtown San Jose could use Summer Fest’s energy all year long

Downtown San Jose could use Summer Fest’s energy all year long

The three-day San Jose Jazz Summer Fest washed over downtown last weekend, making another great counterpoint to the notion that San Jose just can’t escape from its doldrums. It’s just too bad those good vibes and civic pride can’t be bottled up and sprinkled around the rest of the year.

“Jazz Fest represents what our city can be at its best,” Mayor Matt Mahan said to a packed courtyard at Scott’s Seafood during the Mayor’s Jazz Brunch on Saturday. “To me, it’s the best weekend of the year in San Jose.”

The crowd at the Latin Tropical stage on South First Street dances to the music of San Miguel during San Jose Jazz Summer Fest on Sunday, Aug. 13, 2023. (Sal Pizarro/Bay Area News Group)

San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan speaks at the Mayor’s Jazz Brunch at Scott’s Seafood in San Jose on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023. (Sal Pizarro/Bay Area News Group)

Festival goers Tainisha Backmon, left, of San Jose, Brenda Jackson, of San Jose, and Valerie Welch, of Hayward, watch Vanessa Collier perform at the Sobrato Organization Main Stage during the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest at the Plaza de Cesar Chavez in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

San Jose Jazz Board Member Curtis Jacobson, left, Santa Clara County Supervisor Sylvia Arenas, center, and San Jose Jazz Executive Director Brendan Rawson at a Summer Fest kickoff party sponsored by Urban Catalyst and San Jose Councilmember Omar Torres at 55 South on Friday, Aug. 11, 2023. (Sal Pizarro/Bay Area News Group)

Vanessa Collier performs at the Sobrato Organization Main Stage during the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest at the Plaza de Cesar Chavez in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

San Jose Museum of Art Executive Director S. Sayre Batton, left, San Jose Downtown Association CEO Alex Stettinski, center, and MACLA Executive Director Anjee Helstrup-Alvarez, applaud the performance at a San Jose Jazz Summer Fest kickoff event at 55 South on Friday, Aug. 11, 2023. (Sal Pizarro/Bay Area News Group)

Tom and Linda Drake, of Gilroy, dance as Mitch Woods and His Rocket 88s play East Coast Swing and Boogie-woogie music at the Blues/Big Easy Stage during the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest at the Plaza de Cesar Chavez in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

The Monterey Jazz Festival Regional All-Star band performs at the San Jose Museum of Art as part of the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

The audience packed Plaza de Cesar Chavez to listen to the Sobrato Organization Main Stage acts at the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest on Aug. 14, 2022. (Sal Pizarro/Bay Area News Group)

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He was preaching to the choir at that event, sponsored by Amazon and filled with elected officials, festival sponsors, nonprofit leaders and San Jose Jazz supporters, but he still got it right. Even downtown Councilmember Omar Torres, who doesn’t often agree with Mahan politically, voiced the same sentiment the night before at a kickoff party at craft cocktail lounge 55 South. Summer Fest, Torres said, is what makes San Jose special.

And part of that was the way San Jose Jazz infused downtown with Summer Fest energy. San Jose Jazz Executive Director Brendan Rawson noted that most big jazz festivals in North America are held in large spaces like fairgrounds or racetracks, but holding a festival in the middle of a big city is what sets San Jose’s apart — and requires a lot of partnerships with downtown businesses and venues.

The San Jose Museum of Art hosted the NextGen stage, and downtown bars and clubs — including Five Points, San Pedro Square Market, the Signia by Hilton, Mezcal and Mama Kin — all hosted music without a cover charge throughout the weekend. Downtown’s two most popular hangouts — San Pedro Square and SoFA — were the sites of free stages, with Tabard Theatre hosting the Big Band Stage and South First Street taken over by the Latin Tropical Stage, where Cuban rapper and singer Telmary Diaz kept the party going with dancers filling the street after Gregory Porter closed out the main stage on Sunday night.

Another venue that got great exposure during the weekend was the SJZ Break Room, the intimate performance space at the old Valley Title building on the corner of South First and San Carlos streets. The Break Room’s entrance got a colorful new makeover in time for Summer Fest,  which probably helped people find their way there during the festival and should do the same for San Jose Jazz’s Fall Series that kicks off Sept. 1. Check out the lineup at www.sanjosejazz.org/tickets.

GETTING LOW AT MONTALVO: I’m sure some people might raise their noses at the thought of the Montalvo Arts Center opening its historic grounds to lowrider cars, but you’ll find none of that here. The Lowrider Art Showcase on Aug. 27 sounds like a great time to appreciate the incredible detail work that goes into some of these cars, explore lowrider culture and enjoy the equally gorgeous villa and grounds in Saratoga.

Montalvo, which has really made big strides in opening its arms to a diverse range of art, partnered with the United Lowrider Council of San Jose and Local Color for the first-time event, which runs from noon to 4 p.m. and is free. Besides the cars that’ll be on display, the day will include folklorico dancers, art demonstrations, DJ music and a panel discussion in the Carriage House on the history of Lowrider magazine and the impact of lowrider art on Silicon Valley brand designs. Get more information at www.montalvoarts.org.

BADGES OF SUPPORT: Shop With a Cop Silicon Valley Foundation is best known for its annual holiday shopping spree, “Heroes and Helpers,” when it pairs law enforcement officers from throughout the Bay Area with disadvantaged kids to buy presents for their families (and themselves) with Target gift cards. But it also runs Readers Are Leaders, a 10-week literacy program for third graders, and Operation Backpack, which makes sure that kids arrive for school fully supplied.

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But, as Executive Director Darrell Cortez pointed out, some of the foundation’s work doesn’t easily fit into a tidy program. At its Fiesta with a Purpose fundraiser last Saturday at the Holiday Inn in San Jose, the sold-out crowd of 400 guests raised money for those programs but also for one particular San Jose family. Baltazar Alejo and his three daughters have been assisted by Shop With a Cop since 2014, when the girls’ mother was killed at their San Jose apartment. The family expressed their gratitude to the foundation and the audience and shared the news that the two oldest girls, who are twins, are headed off to college at UCLA and San Jose State this fall.

You can find out more about what they do at www.shopwithacopsv.org.