© 2024 WBGO
Discover Jazz...Anywhere, Anytime, on Any Device.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The Monterey Jazz Festival returns for its 65th edition: A photo gallery

The Monterey Jazz Festival, which bills itself as the longest running jazz festival in the world (notwithstanding the pandemic year of 2020), returned to the storied Monterey Fairgrounds last week for 3 days of special performances and premieres. Celebrating its 65th anniversary, the festival, which has a daily capacity of 20,000 people, had large crowds all weekend, with Saturday being sold-out. “I felt a real sense of both intention and purpose from both the audience and the particularly the artists,” Tim Jackson, the festival’s artistic director, told WBGO. “The musicians seemed very happy to be at Monterey and brought their ‘A-Game.’ The vibe was great!”

Real bands, rather than headliners with backing bands, seem to have been a theme during this year’s festival, with groups like Artemis, The Cookers, SuperBlue, The Bad Plus, Kinfolk, Nicholas Payton’s New World Order, Butcher Brown and others holding forth at the five venues on-site. When asked about acts that were crowd-pleasers, Jackson had a little difficulty choosing. “There were so many great performances it is hard to single out just a few,” he explained. “However, Veronica Swift, Butcher Brown, Samara Joy, Las Cafeteras, Moodswing Reunion (with Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride & Brian Blade), Gregory Porter, and the Reunion Trio (with Bruce Forman, John Clayton & Jeff Hamilton) really resonated with audiences.”

The festival also premiered its own all-star ensemble that will be touring the U.S. in 2023. The Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour features Kurt Elling, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Lakecia Benjamin, Christian Sands, Yashushi Nakamura and Clarence Penn. Noted Cuban pianist and composer Chucho Valdés presented his major piece, La Creación (The Creation), a three-movement suite for small ensemble, voices, and big band that tells the history of creation according to the Regla De Ocha, the Afro-Cuban religion commonly known as Santería. That suite, with musical direction by keyboardists Hilario Duran and John Beasley, was also featured at the Detroit Jazz Festival, SFJAZZ, Berklee Performance Center and Jazz at Lincoln Center.

In addition, the festival has a long history of commissioning pieces to specifically premier at the event. This year, they asked keyboardist and composer Kris Bowers (known for his scores for films and TV series such as Green Book, Bridgerton and Dear White People) to create a suite to be performed at the festival. “Our commission this year with Kris was amazing, Jackson said. “He wrote a 35-minute, multi-movement suite, featuring himself on two grand pianos, a guitarist, bassist and a 12-piece string section that commemorated the 30th anniversary of the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary. Entitled ASYLO , a Greek word meaning ‘safe place,’ the work chronicled the birth, life, death and rebirth of a mother whale and her calf. It was a multimedia feast with music and video that was truly inspiring.”

Next year’s festival will take place September 22-24, 2023.

Enjoy this gallery of stunning photos from this renowned jazz festival.

For over 27 years, Lee Mergner served as an editor and publisher of JazzTimes until his resignation in January 2018. Thereafter, Mergner continued to regularly contribute features, profiles and interviews to the publication as a contributing editor for the next 4+ years. JazzTimes, which has won numerous ASCAP-Deems Taylor awards for music journalism, was founded in 1970 and was described by the All Music Guide, as “arguably the finest jazz magazine in the world.”