San Jose Jazz Winter Fest 2023 Lineup Announced!

Article Contributed by JP Cutler Media | Published on Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Northern California's renowned non-profit arts institution San Jose Jazz presents its 2023 Winter Fest, February 16 - March 3, co-curated by Am I Jazz? Festival, the leading-edge jazz programmer in Kyiv, Ukraine, in downtown San Jose, Calif. San Jose Jazz and Olga Bekenshtein (Founder, Am I Jazz? Festival) celebrate the rich Ukrainian culture that the Russian war on Ukraine seeks to eliminate with arts programming unlike any other ever presented before. To mark the devastating one-year milestone of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine (February 24, 2023), the co-curators program for the first-time a cross-cultural collaboration between many of today's lauded American jazz artists and Ukraine-based artists for a multi-media festival shining the light on the best of improvisational music, fine art, independent films, and dance. San Jose Jazz Winter Fest 2023 highlights the intimate stories of Ukrainian artists fighting to keep their cultural identity intact for generations to come.

San Jose Jazz Winter Fest 2023 explores our interconnected pasts and interdependent future as we collectively share in the humanity and well-being of all people. The American artists performing include Jazzmeia Horn with the Marcus Shelby Orchestra, Ambrose Akinmusire & Rafiq Bhatia, Madison McFerrin, GEORGE Featuring a solo by Dancer Alina Sokulska, the SJZ High School All-Stars playing arrangements of John Hollenbeck, Kassa Overall, Orrin Evans, Marcus Shelby Orchestra, Mark Guiliana, Vân-Ánh Võ, and the SJZ Collective. Ukrainian artists include Borys Mohylevskyi (saxophonist), Dennis Adu (trumpeter), Yakiv Tsvietinskyi (trumpeter), Alina Sokulska (dancer), Igor Osypov (guitarist), Olesya Zdorovetska (vocalist), DJs Karine and Shakolin, and U.S.-based Vadim Neselovsky (pianist).

Commissioned projects set for premiere include feature artists Ambrose Akinmusire & Rafiq Bhatia, Vân-Ánh Võ & Olesya Zdorovetska, Igor Osypov, SJZ High School All-Stars playing arrangements of John Hollenbeck, and SJZ Collective & Yakiv Tsvietinskyi Play the Music of Roy Hargrove.


A winner of both the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition and the Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition, Jazzmeia Horn is one of the premiere vocal talents in modern jazz. Horn will perform big band arrangements from her debut big-band album, Dear Love, accompanied by the Marcus Shelby Orchestra at the Mayer Theatre (Santa Clara University) to open SJZ Winter Fest on Thursday, February 16, 2023 (7:30pm). The New York Times praises, "Horn is among the most exciting young vocalists in jazz, with a proud traditionalism that keeps her tightly linked to the sound of classic figures like Nancy Wilson and Betty Carter, but a vivacity of spirit and conviction that places her firmly in the present." Shelby is a renowned composer, bassist, bandleader, and educator who focuses on the history, present, and future of African American lives, social movements and music education. The Marcus Shelby Orchestra has released five albums - The Lights Suite, Port Chicago, Harriet Tubman, Soul of the Movement: Meditations on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Transitions.

Following its U.S. debut at Big Ears Festival 2022, renowned NYC drummer John Hollenbeck brings his project "GEORGE" to the Tabard Theatre at SJZ Winter Fest on Friday, February 24. "GEORGE" includes Hollenbeck alongside Anna Webber (tenor sax/flute), Aurora Nealand (voice/sax/keyboards), and Chiquita Magic (keyboards/voice). Prior to the Russian war in Ukraine, Olga Bekenshtein approached Hollenbeck to develop big band arrangements of Ukrainian folk music in Kyiv. The war prevented the actualization of the arrangements being presented in Ukraine, but Hollenbeck insisted on working on a few pieces, which will be among his works presented at SJZ WINTER FEST along with their standard repertoire for "GEORGE." The evening will include guitar work from Igor Osypov, guest vocals by Olesya Zdorovetska, trumpet by Yakiv Tvietinskyi, and a special appearance by dancer Alina Sokulska, who has created several solo pieces to his music.

Hollenbeck further worked directly with pianist Jeremy Darrow and guitarist Ryota Sato of the SJZ High School All Stars (SJZ HSAS). Over the course of several virtual sessions, Hollenbeck instructed the artists his Ukrainian folk music arrangements that will be performed by the SJZ HSAS as well as original student works, under the direction of conductor Oscar Pangilinan along with students in SJZ’s Progressions school-based youth music program to the open the February 24 concert.

Ambrose Akinmusire & Rafiq Bhatia perform an entirely improvised duo show of trumpet and guitar. The New York Times notes of Rafiq, "His transient approach, combined with his obsession of assiduously studying the past in order to break cleanly from it, makes him one of the most intriguing figures in music today." His latest release, Standards Vol. 1, transforms cornerstone works by Duke Ellington, Ornette Coleman and more into immersive, otherworldly realms of sound that are uniquely his own.

During his 15-year career, Ambrose Akinmusire has paradoxically situated himself in both the center and the periphery of jazz, most recently emerging in classical and hip hop circles. He's on a perpetual quest for new paradigms, masterfully weaving inspiration from other genres, arts, and life in general into compositions that are as poetic and graceful as they are bold and unflinching. His unorthodox approach to sound and composition make him a regular on critics' polls and have earned him earned him grants and commissions from the Doris Duke Foundation, the MAP Fund, the Kennedy Center, The Berlin Jazz Festival, and the Monterey Jazz Festival.

The New York Times states that Rafiq Bhatia "treats his guitar, synthesizers, drum machines, and electronic effects as architectural elements -- sound becomes contour; music becomes something to step into rather than merely follow." Since 2014, Rafiq has been a member of the post rock trio Son Lux; together, they have released several critically-acclaimed albums and given hundreds of performances internationally. Rafiq's 2020 EP, Standards Vol. 1 (Anti-), renders repertoire from the American songbook "completely deconstructed, infused with brand new textures and electronic effects, dreamlike and beautiful," says the BBC.

Throughout her independent career, spanning three EPs and multiple collaborations, Madison McFerrin has earned accolades from The New York Times, NPR, The FADER, and Pitchfork, who named her a Rising Artist in 2018. Her genre-bending work has led to Questlove dubbing her early sound "soul-appella." She has appeared Lincoln Center, Central Park SummerStage and in 2021, McFerrin co-curated programming for the BRIC Jazz Festival. Most recently, Madison has performed at the Saint Joseph's Art Society in San Francisco and Joe’s Pub in New York City to support fundraisers benefiting the National Network of Abortion Funds.

Following Madison McFerrin's solo performance at The Continental Bar on Thursday, March 2, Ukrainian DJs Karine and Shakolin will spin special sets on the back patio starting at 10:30pm. Karine is a rising star on the dance scene and is a resident DJ at Closer, the most celebrated nightclub in Eastern Europe. She doubles as the venue's booker, and locates talent for festivals such as Strichka and Brave! Factory in Kyiv. Shakolin is one of the most respected young DJs in Ukraine and also spins at Closer. Currently based in Berlin, he plays sets around the globe, from ReSolute parties in New York to Berlin’s Club Der Visionaere and underground spots in Seoul, South Korea.

Kassa Overall is a jazz musician, emcee, singer, producer and drummer, a product of New York City's jazz scene who melds avant-garde experimentation with hip-hop production techniques to tilt the nexus of jazz and hip-hop in unmapped directions. He's been working at the forefront of jazz for two decades, touring and recording as a sideman drummer with artists as varied as Geri Allen, Steve Coleman, Francis and the Lights, and Yoko Ono. His work as a producer can be heard on albums by Theo Croker (Escape Velocity), Arto Lindsay (Cuidado Madame), and Das Racist (Sit Down, Man). He's also featured as an emcee and DJ on drummer Terri Lyne Carrington's Social Science. At SJZ WINTER FEST, he brings his fiery quartet for some of the best future-jazz on the scene.

Hammer4 concludes its Black Cab Jazz series curated by San Jose Jazz on a high note with pianist Orrin Evans on February 22. Across 20 albums as bandleader, pianist Orrin Evans is a deft tune deconstructor, he traverses a broad timeline of the vocabularies of swinging, blues-infused hardcore jazz and spiritual jazz/avant-garde jazz traditions, as well as the Euro-canon, with the intuitive spontaneity of an ear player. Luques Curtis and drummer Mark Whitfield, Jr. -- who played on #knowingishalfthebattle and The Intangible Between -- are Evans' partners in his working trio.

Drummer, composer, and band leader Mark Guiliana is admired and in demand across the musical spectrum for his rhythmic sophistication, creative impulse and individual sound. JazzTimes raves "Guiliana, a technical master with a rare sense of musicality, has over the past decade become one of the most influential drummers of his generation." The acoustic Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet will be featured at SJZ WINTER FEST. Guiliana's unique soundprint led Modern Drummer to declare him "at the forefront of an exciting new style of drummer," while The New York Times pointed out how he has become "a drummer around whom a cult of admiration has formed."

Dennis Adu is one of the most in-demand trumpet players on the Ukrainian improvised scene. Adu's SJZ Winter Fest performance with his quartet will be his first in front of an American audience, and features saxophonist Borys Mohylevskyi, as well as bassist and composer Marcus Shelby. Borys Mohylevskyi is a classically trained violinist who turned to sax due to a love of jazz music. He is a prominent representative of the Kyiv music scene.

Vadim Neselovskyi creates music that is truly inspired, which explains why his work has been played by jazz greats like Randy Brecker, Antonio Sanchez, Julian Lage, and Gary Burton, as well as classical artists and symphony orchestras stateside and in Europe. His great musical breadth and deft touch will be showcased during an intimate solo performance of his 2022 album, Odesa. PBS NewsHour ran a feature on Neselovskyi to highlight the release of Odesa. PBS News Hour notes, "...we take a musical journey to Odesa, Ukraine's historic port city on the Black Sea. It is a personal vision of a Ukrainian-born pianist, Vadim Neselovskyi, who teaches at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. But it is also a deeper look at the city's past and present amid war."

Vân-Ánh Võ is a fearless musical explorer who takes her Vietnamese traditional 16-String dàn tranh (zither) to dazzling heights with a distinctly jazz sensibility along with vocalist Olesya Zdorovetska. As an international soloist and collaborator, Olesya works in the fields of improvised music, Afro-Caribbean, contemporary classical, traditional Ukrainian and Sephardic music, as well as theatre and film. She is the founder of the Ukrainian-Irish Cultural Platform and co-curator and producer of Phonica, a platform for new music and poetry in Dublin.

The SJZ Collective is the brainchild of drummer/composer Wally Schnalle, and his bandmates each contribute arrangements of compositions by jazz luminaries. In previous years they have reimagined the music of Monk, Mingus, Weather Report, and Chick Corea. For SJZ Winter Fest 2023, they collaborate with Lviv, Ukraine-based trumpeter Yakiv Tsvietinskyi to play the music of Roy Hargrove. After receiving a Fulbright grant to study at Western Michigan University, Yakiv returned to his hometown of Dnipro, Ukraine and reformed the jazz education program at the M. Glinka Academy of Music, released his latest record, Minimalist, debuted new music at the Am I Jazz? Festival, and was accepted into the Focusyear program led by Wolfgang Muthspiel in Basel, Switzerland. Despite the war, he teaches at music academies in Dnipro, Lviv, and Kyiv, and performs charity concerts.

Yakiv's project "Mykola" is dedicated to his cousin Mykola, who protected Ukraine in the war with Russia since 2014. He was killed in action on May 8, 2022. It's also dedicated "to all the soldiers who have given their lives for the freedom of Ukraine during all its history."

"I cannot express how grateful I am to have this opportunity to represent my country at San Jose Jazz Winter Fest," says Yakiv Tsvietinskyi. "Despite the horrific experience that Ukrainians are going through, we never felt so supported, and so connected with the whole world. For me, playing at the festival is an opportunity to spread the message about the value of freedom and to express gratitude to the people of the country that has played a key role in supporting Ukraine."