SAN JOSE -- The 25th annual San Jose Jazz Summer Fest was quite the blowout: scores of acts on a dozen stages around downtown. If you were there, you likely heard jazz, zydeco, blues, salsa, funk and spacey digital-future music. You saw folks dressed to the nines, others -- many more of them -- dressed down for a weekend of music, picnics and barbecue in Plaza de Cesar Chavez. It was hot fun in the summertime.

Snapshot: The festival opened Friday with Bootsy Collins leading his Mothership on the Main Stage. Lanky Collins, who once launched James Brown's jams with his bounding pogo bass lines, was in glittering attire. The crowd was on its feet, moving in place, ready, and perhaps anxious, to fly its P-Funk flag. Around the corner at the Salsa Stage, the scene was a lot more relaxed: a couple hundred dancers in the street, spinning to tropical sounds -- like mambo sunbursts, played by San Francisco's Pacific Mambo Orchestra, which recently scored a Grammy.

Snapshot: Saturday night at the intimate Blackbird Tavern Stage, a young couple set their three toddlers down on a blanket for a nap. There was barely space to fit them: the family was surrounded by a forest of listeners -- all standing, rapt, as jazz drummer Akira Tana led his Otonowa Project through its gemlike arrangements of classic Japanese songs. The quartet -- recently returned from a goodwill tour of northern Japanese villages devastated by the 2011 tsunami and earthquake -- gave a performance that seemed love-filled and compassionate. At times it felt like a lullaby; no wonder the children slept. It was exquisite.


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The way this festival works, you have to arrive early. Saturday's noon show on the Main Stage featured Snarky Puppy, a big-buzz instrumental fusion band that's been developing an avid fan base. Its performance gave a jolt, like a second cup of java. It was tight. It was fine. But the band's virtuoso power drummer got on this listener's nerves; too many cleanly hammered grooves for what still felt like Saturday morning.

Snapshot: This listener walked across the street to the Fairmont Hotel, where one of the ballrooms doubles as the Silicon Valley Stage. An old pro was performing: drummer Leon Joyce Jr., who used to play with Ramsey Lewis. Joyce wore a natty suit and tie. He looked like he was having a ball. His trio played "It Might as Well Be Spring" and "Here's that Rainy Day." Great tunes, nice and relaxed; that was the mood. Joyce didn't overplay; in fact, he gave the impression of underplaying -- until you realized it was an illusion. The illusion was dispelled when Joyce turned into a one-man samba band on "Speak Low," a Kurt Weill tune that jazz musicians have played for decades.

Joyce is from the old guard, a treasure. There was a posse of emerging jazz musicians at the festival, too; one day, presumably, they'll hold down the 50th annual summer fest:

Snapshot: Keyboardist Kris Bowers, from Los Angeles, won the 2011 Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition -- "which basically means he's one of the best pianists in the world," said the emcee introducing Bowers at the Jazz Beyond Stage.

Bowers is a definitely a talent, and he's been confounding some of his mentors by turning his jazz chops in nonorthodox directions. No saxophone. No trumpet. No swing, not in any traditional sense. Bowers plays looping, hip-hoppy tunes with riffing melodies, warm keyboard textures and nail-hard grooves from his drummer, with an electric guitar out in front. It's a kind of brainy, digital ecstasy music: the room was packed with fans, mostly in their 20s -- a knowing crowd, on its feet, bobbing to the grooves, into the scene. Maybe this is the new bebop.

Snapshot: Down the block at Cafe Stritch, another young lion held forth, playing straight-ahead jazz. This was Ben Flocks, a saxophonist who grew up in Santa Cruz, lives in Brooklyn and is ready for prime time. The club was full; it was an older crowd than the one at Jazz Beyond, with a lot of straight-ahead jazz aficionados checking out the kid on tenor. With a bare-bones trio -- Dan Robbins on bass, Sammy Miller on drums -- Flocks played a 90-minute set of tunes made famous by Sonny Rollins, the master. His solos were reminiscent of Rollins, too: joyful eruptions of improvised melody, bubbling with rhythm. He blew the crowd away.

Contact Richard Scheinin at 408-920-5069, and follow him at www.twitter.com/richardscheinin.