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Best Jazz Diva: Vivian Lee
As a musician, Vivian Lee brings silky-smooth vocals and warmhearted energy to every performance. She plays all around town and celebrated her ninth straight year at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee. Behind the scenes, Lee's just as energetic in her efforts to keep jazz alive in Sacramento. She organizes Sunday jazz concerts at JB's Lounge at the Red Lion Hotel Sacramento. Featuring some of the best local and national talent, the concerts have become go-to events for area jazz fans.
Best Jam Band: Izabella
With infectious music, the rock- and-soul jam band Izabella knows how to bring people to their feet. The band boasts members from Berkeley and Sacramento, including SAMMIE Hall of Famers Brian Rogers and Sam Phelps. Their whirlwind touring schedule takes them all over the country, so check them out the next time they swing through Sacramento.
Best Excuse To Go to Winters: The Palms Playhouse
The Palms Playhouse brings some of the best alternative, folk, blues and country musicians in the United States to play tiny downtown Winters. Having once been a small-town opera house, the intimate, beautifully decorated venue has gorgeous acoustics and has hosted acts ranging from jazz legend Mose Allison to folk icon Utah Phillips. 13 Main St., Winters; (530) 795-1825; palms play house.com
Best Blower of the Blues Harp: Rick Estrin
There's a lot to like about Rick Estrin, frontman of The Nightcats (formerly Little Charlie and The Nightcats). It could be his sharp lyrics, his swanky, '40s- inspired get-ups or his soulful vocals. Maybe it's that he's considered one of the best blues harmonica players in the world. Or that you can catch him all the time right here in Sacramento.
Best Folk Song Lyricist: Justin Farren
Justin Farren excels at writing quirky, delicate songs with lyrics that evoke Paul Simon, while his masterful guitar playing reminds of us of Dave Matthews. A musical star in our midst, Farren does exhibit one hallmark of the true folk singer: humility.
Best Happy Feet With a Heart: Instituto Mazatlan Bellas Artes de Sacramento
Whether performing in China, Mexico or Sacramento's Memorial Auditorium, the dancers of the Instituto Mazatlan Bellas Artes de Sacramento leave audiences mesmerized with a stageful of complex footwork, swirling skirts, flowing ribbons and respect for cultural heritage. But the institute-which offers dance classes for all ages and levels- is just as concerned with giving back to young people through outreach and education for low-income children.
Best Remodel That Keeps the Bar Low: JB's Lounge at the Red Lion Hotel Sacramento
The folks at the Red Lion took an underwhelming hotel bar and created a showplace, transforming the space into a world-class performance venue, with a newly renovated sunken bar, a top-notch sound system and a modern vibe. Blues, jazz, Latin or funk, JB's has got it all in style. 1401 Arden Way, Sacramento; (916) 922-8041