By ANGELINA MARTIN
Every year, thousands gather at the Monterey Fairgrounds to celebrate one of America’s most original and enduring musical genres of all: jazz.
As the longest continuously-running jazz festival in the world, the nonprofit Monterey Jazz Festival has hosted almost every major artist known to music aficionados, from Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Tony Bennett to Trombone Shorty, Diana Krall and Esperanza Spalding.
This year’s 61st Annual Monterey Jazz Festival is fast-approaching, and with headliners including Norah Jones with Brian Blade and Chris Thomas, Jon Batiste with the Dap-Kings, Dianne Reeves and countless others, the three-day celebration with over 120 performances may be worth taking the trip from the 209 to the 831.
Along with Reeves and Jones, artist Tia Fuller and Ingrid Jensen will serve as the festivals artists-in-residence — an appropriate and timely selection, MJF Executive Director Colleen Bailey said.
“I am so pleased that in a year when there is so much attention being paid to the inclusion of women, the 61st Monterey Jazz Festival will celebrate the talents of exceptional women jazz artists,” she said.
The festival first began in 1958 and has since been held during the third full weekend in September on the 20-acre, oak-studded Monterey Fairgrounds. More than 500 top jazz artists perform throughout the weekend on eight stages spread throughout the grounds, which include four outdoor and four indoor venues.
This year’s festival aims to provide a wide and diverse overview of the jazz world and beyond, including the past, present and future of music. Some of the arena headliners are large bands, like Jazz at the Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, the Anat Cohen Tentet and Oscar Hernandez & the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, while other shows are tributes, like a Fuller and Jensen homage to the late Geri Allen.
There will be collaborations between fantastic artists at the upcoming festival as well, including Charles Lloyd & the Marvels with special guest Lucinda Williams and the Snarky Puppy offshoot Bokantè.
The smaller shows on the grounds aren’t to be missed either, featuring performances by guitar slingers Adam Rogers & Dice, a touch of the avant-garde with Thumbscrew and Mary Halvorson and Afro-Cuban music from John Santos Sextet, among many others.
In addition to the star-studded lineup set to rock out at the fairgrounds in September, some of the greatest student bands in the country will also take the stage.
As a nonprofit, Monterey Jazz Festival is devoted to education by presenting year-round local, regional, national, and international programs. Schools in Monterey County and thousands of students have been the benefactors of the Festival’s educational efforts through the Traveling Clinicians Program, Summer Jazz Camp and Monterey County All-Star Bands, which embark on annual performance trips each summer.
There’s plenty of thought that goes into selecting who will play in the festival, MJF Artistic Director Tim Jackson said.
“As we enter our seventh decade as the world’s longest continuously-running jazz festival, I remain inspired and committed to producing and presenting the world’s finest jazz artists, while making sure that we represent the music and the musicians in an inclusive, exciting and fun manner,” he said.
The Monterey Jazz Festival will run Sept. 21-23 at the Monterey Fairgrounds, located at 2000 Fairground Road in Monterey, California. Tickets are on sale and can be purchased online at montereyjazzfestival.org or by calling 888-248-6499.