Lavay Smith, Red Baraat and Buddy Guy – SFJAZZ has them all

Lavay Smith – © Berkeley Agency

Continuing its celebration of Women’s History Month, SFJAZZ this week presents a series of performances by Lavay Smith and her Red Hot Skillet Lickers. Starting on Thursday, March 15th, this glamorous San Francisco-based artist will take over the Joe Henderson Lab with a succession of concerts covering a range of themes which includes great performers, styles of jazz and memorable places in the US.

With her “lush vocal style recalling both Bessie Smith and Dinah Washington” (Los Angeles Times), Lavay Smith is described by The Seattle Times as “the best thing to come out of the jump/swing revival”. She and her seven-piece Red Hot Skillet Lickers – led by arranger and pianist Chris Siebert – have also won plaudits from the San Francisco Examiner: “First-rate vocals…magnificent arrangements…the best combo in town”. 

First off in this eight-concert jazz jamboree is a performance called simply Satch & Fats, a tribute to two of the greatest names in American jazz, whose legacy of fabulous numbers makes it almost impossible to select just a few. This is followed by Red, White and Blues, featuring music inspired by memorable places in the United States. Expect to hear numbers such as Count Basie’s Goin’ to Chicago, and from there take a musical trip to Los Angeles on Route 66.

There’s a performance devoted to Taboo Jazz – featuring numbers associated with Cab Calloway of Cotton Club fame, and the Queen of Jazz whose voice reigned supreme for more than half a century, Ella Fitzgerald. And finally, there’s a tribute to Harold Arlen, the man who wrote some of the greatest hits of the 30s and 40s – including Over the Rainbow, Blues in the Night, Stormy Weather and It’s Only a Paper Moon.

Saturday at the Joe Henderson Lab is Jazz Girls Day, a special session devoted to a performance by some of the aspiring stars from the jazz faculty – all of whom are aged between 13 and 18. The focus of this program by rising young female artists will be on ensemble techniques, improvisation and musicianship.

And just when you thought that  SFJAZZ had provided more than enough entertainment for one week, the Brooklyn ensemble Red Baraat – described by NPR as “the best party band in years” – takes to the stage of the Miner Auditorium on Saturday evening. Their Festival of Colors is a riotous mix of Indian bhangra rhythms, go-go music, jazz, hip-hop and Crescent City brass funk in celebration of the Hindu holiday of Holi. Bay Area singer and songwriter Bhi Bhiman opens the show.

And then – yes, there’s more – for one night only, Buddy Guy is at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre on Saturday, March 17th. Described by SFJAZZ as “the greatest living blues artist in the world”, Buddy Guy – a multi-GRAMMY-winner and inductee of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – is also credited with inspiring several prominent rock artists, including Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck. The boy from Lettsworth, Louisiana, who at the age of seven made his first guitar from a piece of wood, two strings and a few hairpins, has created his own legend and now at the age of 81 will be wowing the Bay Area with his own brand of Chicago blues.

For more information on all these performances, and for tickets, visit the SFJAZZ website.


Information sourced from artists’ websites:

Lavay Smith

Buddy Guy



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