San Jose Jazz partners with Ukrainian artists for Winter Fest
Long a showcase for rising stars of the Bay Area jazz scene, San Jose Jazz Winter Fest is focusing this year on a part of the world whose arts and culture — and the people who create it — are under fire.
“Winter Fest: Counterpoint with Ukraine” is being co-curated by the Am I Jazz? Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, with the goal of “exposing the intimate stories of Ukrainian artists fighting to keep their cultural identity that the Russian war in Ukraine seeks to erase.”
The festival runs Feb. 16-March 3; the one-year milestone of Russia's fullscale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, will be marked by a concert by GEORGE, a quartet led by drummer John Hollenbeck, that will feature a performance by Kyiv-born, Barcelona-based dancer Alina Sokulska. SJZ'S High School All Stars will open the show at downtown San Jose's Tabard Theatre with Ukrainian folk songs, some arranged by students under Hollenbeck's tutelage.
The festival as a whole blends the music of American jazz artists with Ukraine-based visual and performing artists.
Collaborative efforts include Vietnamese musician and composer Vân-ánh Võ and vocalist Olesya Zdorovetska, a Dublin-based performer, composer, curator and educator originally from Kyiv. Their Feb. 23 concert at Tabard will also feature a dance performance by Sokulska.
SJZ Collective, made up of current and former educators from San Jose Jazz's Summer Jazz Camp, will team with Ukrainian trumpeter Yakiv Tsvietinsky March 3 to pay tribute to the late trumpeter
Roy Hargrove. Set for the SJZ Break Room, this concert will also be live-streamed on SJZ'S Youtube and Facebook pages.
Other Ukrainian musicians in the festival lineup are saxophonist Borys Mohylevskyi , trumpeter Dennis Adu , guitarist Igor Osypov , DJS Karine and Shakolin, and U.s.-based pianist Vadim Neselovsky .
The American artists performing include vocalist Jazzmeia Horn with the Marcus Shelby Orchestra, trumpet Ambrose Akinmusire and multi-instrumentalist Rafiq Bhatia, vocalist Madison Mcferrin, singer/ drummer Kassa Overall, pianist Orrin Evans and drummer Mark Guiliana.
The Winter Fest collaboration also has a visual
arts component: the West Coast premiere of “Unidentified Figures,” a series of six larger-than-life-size paintings by Ukrainian artist Lesia Khomenko. The work will be exhibited Feb. 15-March 5 in the Unzipped Pavilion in downtown San Jose's SOFA District.
Khomenko based her paintings on photographs she collected of soldiers with their faces and backgrounds digitally obscured. Ukraine's martial law prohibits taking photos of military facilities, soldiers and equipment.
“Contemplating the original photos, I see that retouching doesn't remove strategic information from them; on the contrary, it adds new information that layers up just like characters' skins in video games,” Khomenko
said in a statement. “In the digitalized world of information warfare, pop culture exists side by side with a real war, and I, being an evacuated civilian, tend to mix up the images.”
Khomenko is set to give a talk about her work on
March 4 in the SJZ Break Room.
General admission tickets to most Winter Fest shows include a $10 donation to benefit Nova Ukraine, a nonprofit providing humanitarian aid directly to Ukraine. Prior to the Russian invasion, Nova Ukraine supported artistic and educational projects, and Winter Fest organizers agree that these efforts should continue.
“I was fortunate to witness one of our fest's guest musicians, Dennis Adu, perform in Bulgaria this past summer, and the experience can only be described as a clarion call for the world to pay attention to the Putin regime's effort to erase Ukrainian culture,” SJZ Executive Director Brendan Rawson said in a statement. “I don't believe the West fully understands how deeply rooted this conflict is in an effort to deny the distinctiveness and agency of the Ukrainian people. The necessity to make this project happen was immediately apparent.”
Olga Bekenshtein, founder of the Am I Jazz? Festival, said the multidisciplinary festival allows Ukrainian artists to “display sacred practices of ancient culture, fragile instants, love, dreams, aspirations—pieces of our lives worth fighting for.”
Tickets are $10-$35 in advance and $15-$40 at the door. For tickets and a complete schedule of Winter Fest events, visit https://sanjosejazz.org/festivals/winter-fest.