|Brazil on the Bay 2009|
|Best Annual Brazil Music Festival immediately follows Carnaval San Francisco in the heart of wine country|
Imagine a small town with more than 100 wineries nearby, gourmet restaurants and bakeries, galleries on every street, and live jazz three or more nights a week. A genuine American small town, Healdsburg is at a comfortable juncture of hip and historic. It’s the perfect place for a great jazz festival. Healdsburg is awash in creativity, drawing the most innovative chefs, the best winemakers, and fine artists in every medium. It’s a living metaphor for jazz.
Like the town it inhabits, the Healdsburg Jazz Festival is more interested in quality than quantity, more focused on high standards and fresh ideas. Founded 11 years ago, the jazz festival started small, with an unusual purpose. Something called “smooth jazz” was taking over the radio airwaves, and there was talk about a “smooth jazz” festival coming to Healdsburg.
Fans of the authentic jazz art form knew that jazz impresario Jessica Felix had recently moved to Healdsburg from the Bay Area. Jessica had already booked a few concerts in local venues, and was easily persuaded to start a hometown festival that celebrated real jazz.
From the beginning, Jessica insisted on booking quality musicians, treating them well, and introducing them to the community. Jazz bassist Charlie Haden calls Jessica a “jazz angel” for the way she treats musicians and for her unswerving dedication to music. Jessica doesn’t do it alone. An orchestra of volunteers works all year, planning publicity, logistics, fund-raising, and events.
The festival has grown from a three-day event in a local movie house to a ten-day jazz experience. For a week-and-a-half at the beginning of June each year, Healdsburg — maybe the hippest small town in California — is the center of the jazz world.
In addition to performances, the festival sponsors films, lectures, and workshops. The community has also embraced the festival. Local businesses sponsor events, families open their homes to musicians, and restaurants offer special menu items, often named after jazz tunes. San Francisco
jazz musicians say Healdsburg has better, more respectful listeners than the Bay Area.
The Healdsburg Jazz Festival is now on the radar of jazz fans from all over the world. When she founded the festival, Jessica wondered whether a rural community would support a jazz festival the way an urban city might, but it went together like a good jazz combo, thriving on the alchemy of talent, improvisation, and creative freedom.