Healdsburg Jazz Festival Lines Up Four Days of Live Events

For more than two decades, the world’s foremost jazz musicians have traveled to the North Bay to perform in the annual summertime Healdsburg Jazz Festival.

While last year’s festival was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Healdsburg Jazz had a banner news year in 2020.

First, founding festival director and talent booker Jessica Felix retired from her position in September 2020. Following that, Bay Area bandleader and composer Marcus Shelby took the reins of the festival as the new artistic director in October 2020. All the while, Healdsburg Jazz presented a full program of online classes, events, concerts and other events to keep the community connected to jazz.

Now, with in-person events coming back to the North Bay, Shelby recently announced the complete artist lineup and programming for the 23rd annual Healdsburg Jazz Festival, taking place June 17–20, 2021. 

Healdsburg Jazz will present four days of in-person shows and events featuring award-winning local and national artists performing musical, spoken word, theatrical, and visual art commissions and collaborations. 

All Healdsburg Jazz Festival performances will take place in outdoor venues and intimate settings throughout Healdsburg. The organization is closely following all current and future COVID restrictions, protocols, and guidelines set by City and Sonoma County public health departments.

First, a pre-festival event will take place on Wednesday, June 16, at Harmon Guest House Rooftop Deck in Healdsburg; with 20-percent of sales donated to Healdsburg Jazz.

The Healdsburg Jazz Festival officially kicks off on Thursday, June 17, with the already sold-out Opening Night Gala, “Harlem of the West,” featuring a musical collective of Bay Area artists including Shelby, Stella Heath (vocals), James Mahone (tenor sax), Terrence Brewer (guitar), and Sylvia Cuenca (drums).

Next, the Festival presents a “Barbary Coast” dinner show on Friday, June 18, at Hotel Healdsburg’s Garden Courtyard. The evening features the music of Katie and the Lost Boys, a New Orleans-style combo led by Katie Cavera, plus a dramatic narration by Healdsburg council member, actress and dancer Skylaer Palacios. Chefs at the Dry Creek Kitchen will pair the music to a delectable dinner, with a Barbary Coast-themed cocktail included.

On Saturday, June 19, the Festival hosts its daylong First Annual Healdsburg Jazz Juneteenth Celebration in Healdsburg’s Mill District. This centerpiece celebration features The Dynamic Miss Faye Carol and her Trio performing a specially commissioned Juneteenth performance, as well as artists like MJs Brass Boppers, Josh Jones Latin Jazz Ensemble, Destiny Muhammad Trio and Howard Wiley Trio.

Additionally, the Juneteenth Celebration boasts appearances by Tongo Eisen-Martin (2021 San Francisco Poet Laureate), Enid Pickett (2021 Healdsburg Jazz Poet Laureate), Malik Seneferu (commissioned visual artist), and Donald Lacy (emcee, comedian).

Wrapping up the festival on June 20, the Healdsburg Freedom Jazz Virtual Choir presents “Songs for my Father,” a virtual concert celebrating dads and father figures at 11am. Finally, the Festival presents a Father’s Day concert with Grammy-nominated vocalist Kenny Washington, featuring pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Gary Brown, and drummer Lorca Hart performing music from their recent release What’s the Hurry? Pianist Tammy L. Hall and her trio will open the closing night show at the Mill District at 5pm.

“For 23 years, the organization has produced music and education and provided a source of optimism, hope, culture, and community for people from around the world, “ says Shelby in a statement.  “We are proud to present a Festival that is inclusive, diverse, and representative of our Healdsburg community and vision for the future.  This year, Healdsburg Jazz will explore the intersection of music with a range of art forms and I am proud and thankful that we are able to continue this musical legacy and annual tradition established by founder Jessica Felix.”

Visit Healdsburgjazz.org for tickets and updates.

Charlie Swanson
Charlie Swanson is a North Bay native and an arts and music writer and editor who has covered the local scene since 2014.
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