The most exhilarating feeling is traveling down Highway 68, on a gorgeous Monterey day, with “Africa Brass” cranked up at the maximum level and headed towards the Monterey Jazz Festival. Monterey is a whirlwind of a magical jazz musical adventure. Music is literally coming at you from all directions and most of the time, you are torn between which direction to go next. This is the 47th annual Monterey Jazz Festival and is presented by MCI. They have been a major sponsor for the last 20 years and have contributed more that 2 million dollars to the event. That, my friends, is support of jazz music in its highest form and certainly needs to be commended!
Monterey is a great place because the energy is extremely high and richly saturated with jazz connoisseurs from all parts of the country. Everyone is happy and eager to experience the music, the food, the friends, family and all of the encounters of new jazz lovers you so often come across. Also, it is such a nice diversion from our regular routine to have your thirst quenched daily in the waters of jazz music.
Three days and nights filled with many of the finest performers in the business. This year’s festival included players like, Regina Carter, Terence Blanchard, Bill Charlap, Don Byron, Jason Moran, Jack DeJohnette, Marion McPartland, Lynne Arriale, Uri Caine, Christian McBride, John Santos, Claudia Villela, John Calloway, Kitty Margolis, Charlie Hunter, Paula West and a whole host of other outstanding players. Even Clint Eastwood jumped on the piano and played a few notes.
I was the Master of Ceremonies all 3 nights in the Night Club stage and I spent time enjoying the acts that were on my stage as well as running across the fairgrounds to catch a glimpse of the many venues Monterey has to offer. Five different stages of jazz and blues as well, a little something for everyone. Having such responsibilities on one of the stages, you can imagine that I could not wander off very far or spend too much time in any event other than my own but, even just a few minutes of watching these notable musicians fills you with the spirit and essence of their creations.
Who got off? Terence Blanchard, Regina Carter, Don Byron with Jason Moran and Jack DeJohnette, Bobby McFerrin and Savion Glover were a few of my favorites as well as the Swedish Band E.S.T! It is so nice to be in a place where you walk by and everyone is talking and giving their opinions on jazz music. The Jazz Republic!
Unfortunately, two of our jazz heroes Clark Terry and Frank Wess, are ill and were not able to attend. But, of course, we send out much love and many prayers for a safe, strong and very fast recovery.
Although the focus is primarily on jazz music, The Monterey Jazz Festival is also one of the greatest contributors to jazz education programs for the youth. Nearly half a million dollars is invested every year for programs like the Traveling Clinicians program, Summer Jazz Camp, The Latin Jazz Program, and the Monterey Jazz Festival High School Honor Band. With sponsors like MCI, Starbucks, See’s Candies, Down Beat, Tower Records and more, this is a festival that will always have world class music and really make a musical difference in the future of our children.
Well, you would think that after being at the jazz festival all day long, that everyone would go back to their hotels, motels, bed and breakfast places or wherever they go to lay their heads down and rest up for tomorrows adventures. NOT A CHANCE!
The Hyatt Hotel in Monterey has a tradition of holding late night jam sessions where many of the major acts from the festival mix with the general jazz public for impromptu musical collaborations, drinks, conversation, and a damn good time. You never know who will get up and blow their horn! One of the things that really make the hang at the Hyatt special is that it is a time when musicians, who are so busy with their tour schedules, get a chance to hang out with players and old friends that they may have not seen in years. It is also a time when young and upcoming players new to the game, get a chance to meet and possibly play a tune or two with some of their musical inspirations. It is the jazz A-list party and everyone is invited!
I have been in attendance for several years now and I have always come away with a pleasurable musical experience and a few surprises as well. I would also like to give much love to the staff at Monterey. Paul Fingerote, Tim Jackson, Shawn, Jan, Zorina and everyone that works in the office does such a superb job to make sure that you indulge in quality music and have a safe and pleasurable experience. If you missed it this time, I’m sure that next year’s festival will be of an even higher caliber!
One quick note for those of you who live in the Monterey area,
LeRoy Downs, “The Jazzcat”, will be a special guest host on your favorite local jazz station
Saturday September 25, 2004 at 1:30pm!!!!!
Mike Jacoby of KRML has invited me on to talk about jazz music and of course, “Raising the Standards”, and you know that we have to do that!
Hope you can tune in!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Click here for lots of great photos