The Bad Plus

Sonoma Jazz+ 2009 keeps jazz out of the big tent


Despite a mission statement promising to “present and preserve jazz,” it’s probably time to just roll over and accept that the Sonoma Jazz+ Festival’s gonna book whoever they’re gonna book. We could say, you know, Lyle Lovett has some sax players in his band. Joe Cocker, you know, he might play some solos. And hey, they added that tiny little “+” to their name to represent past headliners like Steve Winwood, Boz Scaggs, Steve Miller, LeAnn Rimes, Michael McDonald, Bonnie Raitt and Kool & the Gang. Who are we to be snobs?

But since no other local media outlet seems brave enough to protect this American art form—and since the local jazz programmers we called up don’t want to be quoted saying “You mean that bullshit thing they call a jazz festival?” (actual quote)—it’s up to us. There are plainly no jazz artists headlining Sonoma Jazz+ 2009 this year. Around here, we’d even be cool if, like, Rick Braun was playing. But Chris Isaak?

Sonoma Jazz+ does many great things, not the least of which is providing large financial support to music programs in area schools. They also have a second stage, and a “Wine and Song in the Plaza” program that is alive with small jazz combos. But in light of PR maven Michael Coats’ assertion that since 2005 they’ve already booked any jazz headliner who could fill a 3,800-seat tent, our suggestion is to honor jazz by please just calling the festival what it actually is: the Sonoma Music and Wine Festival.

The-very-good-but-not-jazz acts scheduled include Joe Cocker, Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, Ziggy Marley, Chris Isaak, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Shelby Lynne and Keb’ Mo,’ all coming to Sonoma May 21&–24. Tickets go on sale to local residents on March 7; to the world at large on March 9. For details, see

Simultaneous with the creative definitions emanating from Sonoma is the encouraging news from the Healdsburg Jazz Festival announcing its initial lineup. Bona fide jazz headliners John Handy, Randy Weston, Airto Moreira, Esperanza Spaulding, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Denny Zeitlin and Julian Lage lead a list-in-progress to appear May 29&–June 7. For updates, see [ ]


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