60th Annual Monterey Jazz Fest

Last weekend Monterey hit a milestone: 60 years of hosting one of the most exciting musical events worldwide, known and hailed internationally as the Monterey Jazz Fest. And they didn’t hold back for this special anniversary: topping the lineup with Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, all three days of the festival were jam-packed with acts such as the Roy Hargrove Quintet, Kenny Barron, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Common, Joshua Redman, Pedrito Martinez, all three of the Claytons (John, Jeff, and Gerald), Joe Lovano, Regina Carter, Branford Marsalis, and Jimmy Heath (to name a few). Not only was this year’s fest particularly star-studded, but it also included a diverse spread of genres while keeping the focus centered around jazz.

I was fortunate enough to perform at this year’s festival with the UCSC Jazz Combo, after spending the summer researching jazz for this archive! As a result I came to MJF with a much more critical ear and better-informed playing – read my experience of the event and our performance over on the Muse-Tripper blog.

The archive currently has two videos on previous years: tape #6, which contains footage from MJF 1970 (including an Ellington performance), and tape #91, the full documentary Monterey Jazz Festival: 40 Legendary Years, released in 2006. The latter is an in-depth film featuring interviews with the musicians and festival organizers, including performances by John Lewis, Dizzy Gillespie, Patrice Rushen, Joshua Redman, Clark Terry, Mundell Lowe, Dave Brubeck, John Hendricks, Jim Hall, Gerald Wilson. It can be found for sale on Amazon, although the full documentary is up on YouTube as well.

That documentary has a bit about MJF co-founder Ralph Gleeson that caught me: at 1:41:48, “By 1967, Ralph Gleeson wrote that rock music had more to say about what was happening in America than Jazz. And he convinced Myers to add rock to the Saturday Afternoon line-up.“ This led to an influx of Blues and rock to the festival, which in the 60s almost ruined the festival’s reputation as being a Mecca for jazz artists. But it returned to its roots in the 70s, and today is internationally recognized as one of the premier jazz spots in the world, while still incorporating branching genres into its line-up. Now, in 2017, the festival continues its reputation by featuring acts such as hip hop artist Common, bluegrass star Chris Thile (with jazz pianist Brad Mehldau), and experimental groups such as the Hammond organ/drum kit duo Amendola vs. Blades. Yet the festival remained thoroughly jazz-oriented; nobody could argue with the authority brought by Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Roy Hargrove, Joshua Redman, and Branford Marsalis – and that’s only a handful of the high-profile names topping the line up this year. 

The open approach MJF takes to jazz really interests me, especially as someone who is just starting their musical career. So I really focused on that aspect of the festival in the post mentioned above. If you’re interested in finding out what Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Roy Hargrove, and Common all have in common (pun intended), go check it out!

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