5 Reasons To Visit the Healdsburg Jazz Festival

Oudist and vocalist Dhafer Youssef will appear as a headliner at the 2019 Healdsburg Jazz Festival, set to take place May 31-June 9 in Healdsburg, California. (Photo: Courtesy the artist)

A true gem of the West Coast music scene, the Healdsburg Jazz Festival is a place to experience a boutique jazz festival committed to hosting celebrated artists on venerable stages with the culinary and wine excellence of Sonoma County within arms reach. Healdsburg Jazz Festival unites Bay Area residents and visitors alike through impeccable programming set amid a backdrop of 180 surrounding wineries and 30 gourmet restaurants, including the historic Raven Theater and the glamorous Hotel Healdsburg. This year’s edition takes place May 31 – June 9. For wine and jazz enthusiasts, this fest is heaven on earth. Here are five reasons you need to book your trip now!

The Top-Notch Headliners

Violinist Regina Carter will perform a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald at the 2019 Healdsburg Jazz Fest.

The Healdsburg Jazz Festival is a 10-day cornucopia of all things jazz, offering the highest caliber music in venues spacious and intimate, indoors and out. This year’s headliners include international stars in brilliant new pairings, including organ maestro Joey DeFrancesco with fusion drummer Billy Hart; drummer Allison Miller and pianist Carmen Staaf with Jenny Scheinman and Tony Scherr; and the Harold López-Nussa Quartet with guest trumpeter Mayquel González. Tunisian oud player Dhafer Youssef makes a much-anticipated appearance, and you definitely won’t want to miss Grammy Award-nominated violinist Regina Carter’s tribute to Ella Fitzgerald.

A Celebration of ECM Records

Andy Sheppard (left), Carla Bley and Steve Swallow are among the performers who will appear in the 50th-anniversary celebration of ECM Records at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival.

November 2019 marks five decades of continuous operation for the venerable German jazz label ECM Records, home to such icons as Keith Jarrett, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Pat Metheny and Vijay Iyer. This year, Healdsburg Jazz Festival commemorates this milestone 50th birthday with three concerts featuring trailblazing ECM artists. Up first, guitar virtuoso Ralph Towner joins reedist Paul McCandless for an intimate performance on May 31. On June 1, drummer Jack DeJohnette, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and bassist Matt Garrison — who together form a trio that nods to the spiritual influence of John Coltrane — will join forces for a riveting set. And on June 2, piano master Carla Bley will perform with her longtime trio, which includes bassist Steve Swallow and saxophonist Andy Sheppard. They’ll share a bill with pianist Ethan Iverson and saxophonist Mark Turner, two of the newest additions to ECM’s roster.

The Beauty of Wine Country

Grape vineyards in Healdsburg, Sonoma County, California.

There are many ways to get into a wine groove at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival. For starters, you can sample wines from the festival’s vineyard sponsors, such as Landmark Vineyards (known for their amazing whites), Miner Family Wines (incredible reds), SodaRock Winery and Arbor Bench Vineyards — all of whom will be sampling wines at the fest. For more information on Healdsburg Festival wine tastings, visit this page.

A Commitment to Education

Throughout its history, the Healdsburg Jazz Festival has held a steadfast commitment to jazz education in the Bay Area, spearheading educational initiatives in classrooms throughout the region.  Among those initiatives is Operation Jazz Band, which has introduced thousands of 5th-grade students to the tradition of jazz by bringing professional musicians into their classrooms. The festival also hosts a Latin Jazz Education concert geared toward improving students’ understanding of Latin Music, as well as a four-part program for Black History Month for band and choir students in grades 3-6. What’s more, the festival holds a Student Jazz Combo Competition for young musicians from across Sonoma County, with the top ensemble receiving $1,000 and the opportunity to open for a Healdsburg Jazz Festival headliner.

The NorCal Cuisine

A scene from inside Spoonbar, one of the venues hosting music during the 2019 Healdsburg Jazz Festival

“With so much great music this year at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival, it’s going to be hard to fit in time for dinner,” says the Healdsburg Jazz website. Fortunately, the fest has you covered. Several of the fest’s mid-week venues —  such as Spoonbar — will be serving up mouthwatering food from their own locally inspired menus. Plus, the Tuesday Night Concerts in the Healdsburg Plaza always feature several food booths from fan-favorite local restaurants.

Oh, and did we mention there’d be wine? The festival’s wine sponsors will have the finest of Sonoma County’s vines for purchase by the glass at many of the festival’s shows. Bottom line: Come to the Healdsburg Jazz Festival and plan to enjoy good food, great wine and phenomenal jazz.

For more info on the Healdsburg Jazz Festival, including a full artist lineup and ticket pricing, visit the fest’s website.

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