2016 SLO Jazz Festival Experience

05/15/2017 | Sandi Sigurdson


Food, friends, music and jazz, jazz, jazz from dawn to dusk? Sounds like the perfect day! My previous experience at the SLO Jazz Festival taught me to just give into the day and the music.

This was my second SLO Jazz Fest so I knew to arrive at the downbeat of the first set. Like most spring days in San Luis Obispo, it was a perfect sunny morning and my husband and I were lucky enough to have VIP tickets.

Situated in the heart of Downtown San Luis Obispo, Mission Plaza was the center of the SLO Jazz Fest and was alive with happy food and wine vendors. With our exclusive VIP seats, we were escorted to a comfy seating area under a shaded trellis, where we were offered our choice of complimentary beverages and delicious food from El Matador, a local Mexican spot, and Novo, a premier restaurant in SLO. Now, it was time for the jazz music to begin!

From an early age, I’ve adored jazz from the star-studded concerts at the Hollywood Bowl to lively nights at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Although I’m no expert, I’m a certified aficionado and my husband is a die-hard blues man and faithful jazz companion. To say the least, we were not disappointed by the SLO Jazz Fest in San Luis Obispo.

Scott Andrews, SLO Jazz Fest's Founder and a talented musician in his own right, lovingly curated a 10-hour festival, alternating between soulful tunes and out-of-your-seat music. Kicking off the day at the Main Stage, we enjoyed the first group featuring Steve McCann’s soaring interpretations of great standards and his beautiful vocals, backed by his all-star swing band. These performers were just the right toe-tapping music to ease into the day. Also, let me tell you… the sound throughout the concert venue was superb!

As morning turned to early afternoon, the attentive VIP concierge staff circled, offering appetizers and beverages from Central Coast favorites like Cass, Wild Horse and Figueroa Mountain, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Before the next performance, we moved up to the garden in front of the mission with another great view of the stage and an “above it all” panorama of the SLO Jazz Fest.  We glided through the Mo Chi Sextet’s Tribute to Miles Davis, led by trumpet master John Worley. 

We then took a walk through the crowd back towards the Broad Street Stage, greeting friends and grooving with strangers.  Between every Main Stage event, there were other fantastic styles of jazz, too. My personal favorite was the Zongo All- Stars, an Afro-Cuban ensemble. They had the crowd on their feet dancing and jumping around – super fun to be a part of! At the SLO Museum of Art Stage, we enjoy performances by young, local musicians, too. One of the reasons Steve and I support the SLO Jazz Fest is because of their commitment to music education, ensuring our American heritage lives on with the next generation.

By the late afternoon, the Brazilian percussionist Airto took the Main Stage with his daughter, Diana Purim, and they absolutely killed it.  I first saw Airto with his silky-voiced wife, Flora Purim, at Monterey Jazz ages ago. This guy is a legend to say the least and his band, fronted by his daughter, delighted the crowd.

By this time, the sun had set, the plaza continued to fill with concert goers and the music just got hotter as the Pete Escovedo Latin Jazz Orchestra fired up. Steve and I had taken advantage of the 3rd VIP seating option, claiming seats directly in front of the stage. Let me tell you… Pete Escovedo brought the house down! It was a thrilling climax to an extraordinary day of music, all in the heart of San Luis Obispo.

Hope to see you at the 4th Annual SLO Jazz Festival!

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