A 1/2 dozen picks from SFJazz's 30th annual festival

Buika. CAMI photo.

As usual, SFJazz presents a tempting array of diverse artists spanning multiple genres- it's hardly strictly just jazz. There are 28  different shows this year- and while it would be easy to select twelve, selecting almost half the schedule seems gratuitous, so I've narrowed it down to a 1/2 dozen. I'm passing on some huge names- Branford Marsalis, Ornette Coleman, and Gilberto Gil among them, and focusing instead for the most part on shows I think will be rewarding or different enough to take a risk on checking out. This leaves out many of the "traditional" jazz concerts on this year's schedule, but I'm betting there'll be plenty of those to check out when the SFJazz Center new building opens next year, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (January 21st), 2013.

The picks are in order of preference, starting at the top:

The Robert Glasper Experiment  November 1
Listen to Robert Glasper for just a few minutes and it becomes obvious he's absorbed a lot of music on a profoundly deep level. His last SFJazz show was one of the best concerts I saw all year and I'm looking forward to his return in support of his excellent recent album, Black Radio. He fronts two bands, and this one leans toward a harder, hip-hop influenced sound. Casey Benjamin is along on the sax, Mark Colenburg takes the drums (why no Chris Dave this time around?) and the formidable Derrick Hodge anchors on bass.

Buika  November 16
One of NPR's "50 Great Voices," the MaJorcan native (pronounced "BWEE-kah") appeared in Almodovar's last film and has recently released a double album titled En Mi Piel- a fusion of Spanish, Roma, flamenco and jazz influences. She's collaborated with Cucho Valdez, Chick Corea and Anoushka Shankar, Seal and Nelly Furtado to name just a few. Heading West after completing a four-night stand at NY's Blue Note Cafe for her first SFJazz gig, she's come a long way from her days impersonating Tina Turner in Vegas.

Marc Ribot and David Hidalgo  October 24
This description from SFJazz sounds really enticing, and Hildago is an incredibly talented and versatile musician: 

The West Coast debut of the Border Music project brings together two supremely cosmopolitan guitarists, Marc Ribot and David Hidalgo, the latter of Los Lobos fame. As lead guitarist and vocalist of the legendary East LA band, Hidalgo has been a creative force straddling the border of rock, R&B, cumbia, Tex-Mex and country for four decades. Ribot, meanwhile, is a celebrated denizen of New York’s wild and wooly “Downtown” scene, where his Los Cubanos Postizos (The Prosthetic Cubans) devised ingeniously bent arrangements of classic Arsenio Rodriguez tunes. In creating the Border Music project, Ribot and Hidalgo have mashed up their two primary bands, with Los Lobos drummer Cougar Estrada joining Ceramic Dog bassist Shahzad Ismaily, keyboardist Anthony Coleman and percussionist EJ Rodriguez. The amalgam is rootsy and mercurial, thoughtful, soulful and hugely entertaining.

Sounds good to me.
Sonny Rollins  September 30
He's Sonny Rollins. Enough said.

Eliane Elias  October 19
SFJazz brings the Brazilian-born New Yorker to town in support of her new album Swept Away, a collaboration with bassist Marc Johnson, who'll be joining Elias onstage with Rubens de la Corte on guitar and Rafael Barata on drums for a night of smoldering bossa nova.

Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers  November 10
The first time I saw and heard Lavay Smith was in the upstairs room of the now-defunct Paradise Lounge, a long, long time ago. I had never seen anything quite like her. Here was a woman of the moment singing the sounds of the past and doing it with authority, authenticity, a whole lot of sass and no small amount of sex appeal. All these years later, the lady and her band are still going strong, and have only gotten better with time.