Juneteenth bringing spirited musical celebrations to Bay Area

Born as an African American folk jubilee in the years after the Civil War, Juneteenth has slowly gained acknowledgement as a second Independence Day, marking an essential leap toward providing in the freedom promised in the the United States’ founding.

Congressional approval of Juneteenth as a federal holiday in 2021 capped a decades-long campaign to recognize June 19, 1865, the day that emancipation finally reached people enslaved in Texas, as a celebration for all Americans. Many cities, towns and institutions were already marking the date before President Biden signed the legislation, and the soundtrack for these celebrations has often centered on jazz, a conversational musical idiom well-suited for exploring the nature of freedom.

The longest running Juneteenth event in the Bay Area can be found in South Berkeley around the intersection of Adeline and Alcatraz. The 37th Annual Berkeley Juneteenth Festival ( takes place 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 16, and the free event features a stylistically diverse roster of acts, including the jazz and blues of the Dynamic Miss Faye Carol.

The deep roster also features the soulful zydeco of Andre Thierry, the commanding blues of Alvon Johnson, and roots reggae from of Kava Jah and the Remedy. A kids zone offers a rock-climbing wall, skating, and STEM activities, while art programs for young children include dance, storytelling, slides, jumpy houses, clowns, face painting and art projects coordinated by community organizations.

Since June 19 falls smack dab in the middle of the week this year, Juneteenth events stretch out across much of the month. In Albany, vocalist Tiffany Austin has curated a stellar free program running 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on June 23 at 1251 Solano Ave., combining Juneteenth and Father’s day, starting with rising Oakland drummer Jayla Hernandez, fresh out of San Francisco Conservatory of Music (11 a.m.).

She’s followed by vocalist Kenya Moses focusing on bossa nova (noon) and an African heritage drum workshop (1 p.m.). The energy gathers throughout the afternoon with Cuban trombonist Obrayan Calderon playing a set of salsa and timba (2 p.m.), the rocking Shelly Doty X-Tet (3 p.m.), and tenor saxophonist Howard Wiley’s signature soul-powered jazz (4 p.m.). Cellist Mia Pixley concludes the festival with a set in the Abrams Claghorn Gallery, one of Albany Juneteenth’s sponsors. More information is at

The location of the biggest Juneteenth event in the region, musically speaking, might come as a surprise. On June 15, the Healdsburg Jazz Festival presents music and family activities on the Healdsburg Plaza, a free all-day event with a triple bill led by Lafayette-reared trombone great Steve Turre. At 75, with his long braids and Fu Manchu moustache, he’s a readily recognizable figure from his nearly four-decade run in the Saturday Night Live Band.

The sextet he’s assembled for the occasion brings together an all-star New York cast that includes his son, drummer Orion Turre, and wife, vocalist Pam Turre. The group also features rising trumpeter Wallace Roney Jr., son of the late piano maestro Geri Allen and Wallace Roney, one of the greatest trumpeters of era, and veteran …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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