Tuesday, September 23, 2008

43,000 Fans Attend 51st Monterey Jazz Festival

43,000 Fans Attend Jazz-Filled 3-Day Party, September 19 - 21, 2008
The Monterey Jazz Festival presented by Verizon wrapped up its 51st edition Sunday night with a weekend that was as mellow and laid back as it was filled with inspired, passionate and visionary performances by some 500 world-renowned and legendary artists. As the weather alternated from a cool mist to sunny heat, the music also represented a cross section of the jazz scene as it presently sounds, with a few surprises thrown is as well.

Kicking off the weekend was the powerful and exuberant Joshua Redman Trio with Matt Penman and Brian Blade, a mysterious and rich set from Cassandra Wilson, and the vibrant and tropical Cuban Lullabies from Maraca. On the other end of the Grounds, New Grooves burned with the unpredictable jazz-rock of Rudder and the deep fusion-laden Christian McBride Band, whose old-school distorted version of “Bitches Brew” was a crowd pleaser. Other music included classic bop from the George Young Quartet, hot and percussive sounds from the Berklee Latin Jazz All-Stars, picturesque and engaging originals from Matt Wilson’s Arts and Crafts, Brazilian-klezmer clarinet from Anat Cohen and the delicate yet powerful classic vocals from Spencer Day. As the balmy night closed, the Monterey mist closed in and set the stage for a hot Saturday.

Under clear and sunny skies, Saturday’s shows started off with a musical explosion from Ledisi, who had the Arena crowd in the palm on her hand. Maceo Parker got the Arena crowd on their feet with his triumphant funk, which was followed by the Derek Trucks Band as they delivered a transcendent show. Kicking off the evening’s concerts, the Maria Schneider Orchestra performed a lush set featuring debut of the MJF Commission Willow Lake, which was powerful in its beauty and grace. Christian McBride followed with his new acoustic Quintet, performing a masterful set of bebop. Nancy Wilson with special guests Terence Blanchard and Tom Scott delivered a highly emotional set to a rapt crowd to close the night. Elsewhere on the grounds, Herbie Hancock made a guest appearance with the Terence Blanchard Quintet in the Night Club to the delight of the audience, followed by Bill Frisell and Matt Wilson, making an eccentric foray into space-age Americana. Ryan Shaw blew away the crowds at the Garden Stage with his old-school soul, as did Ledisi and Maceo Parker in their second appearances of the day. Later that evening, Tuck & Patti gave an inspiring performance to an ecstatic, standing-room-only audience on the Garden Stage. Drummer Antonio Sanchez and his band hypnotized the audiences in Dizzy’s Den, followed by the Maria Schneider Orchestra (also performing their second set of the day, with all-different material). Even with the day’s blistering performances, Saturday came to close with a feeling of calm and serenity, as a slight night chill moved onto the Fairgrounds.

Sunday continued the mellow vibe of the Festival with perfect Central Coast weather. As the winning bands from Monterey’s Next Generation Festival performed in the Night Club, the Next Generation Orchestra was getting it on for the second time in the Arena. Following the NGJO was the sublime debut of Jamie Cullum, who brought an energetic edge to his performance, perhaps not seen on the Arena stage since the Monterey Pop Festival of 1967. Literally leaping off the piano, Cullum’s set was one to remember. The Festival shifted into finale mode with Kurt Elling and his elegant presentation of Dedicated to You, the abstract-yet-accessible continuous improvisation of the Wayne Shorter Quartet and a crowd-pleasing high-tech set from Herbie Hancock -- which highlighted the vocal talents of Amy Keys and Lionel Loueke. Elsewhere on the Grounds, highlights include Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band as they performed a spiritual and intense set; Kyle Eastwood performed to a packed Garden Stage and his father, film icon Clint Eastwood, spoke with Jamie Cullum about music and film to a full house in Dizzy’s Den. The Jamie Davis Big Band delighted the Garden Stage crowd with his rich vocals, and Christian McBride reprised his Quintet’s performance in Dizzy’s Den, as did Kurt Elling with Ernie Watts and the Laurence Hobgood Trio (with a special guest appearance by Jamie Cullum as well)! Barbara Dennerlein and Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express laid it down in the Night Club for the Hammond B-3 Blowout while across the Grounds, Trio M with Myra Melford, Matt Wilson and Mark Dresser played two inspiring sets in the Coffee House to a beaming audience.

Throughout the weekend in the evenings, Lyons Lounge was pumping with the sounds of 4onefunk and DJ Quantic, which added a dimension of excitement and counter-culture flavor to the Festival. Right next door on the expanded Lyons Lane, student musicians performed on the ZonePerfect stage, fans viewed Arena simulcasts in the Sharp Experience Truck, while gamers played Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and Wii games in the Best Buy Gaming Tent, all of which combined to make Lyons Lane an unqualified success!

As the Festival came to a close, satisfied fans departed the Grounds with the feeling of camaraderie, family, and the shared love of an American art form. The 43,000 fans that attended MJF in 2008 equaled attendance figures for MJF/49 in 2006, and as the Monterey Jazz Festival continues to realize the dream of MJF Founders Jimmy Lyons and Ralph Gleason in its 51st year, the annual gathering of artists and fans continues to grow in scope and breadth without sacrificing their original vision. The yearly gathering that celebrates America’s musical art form has become a staple in people’s lives worldwide. 2008 marked a calm and serene festival setting, in contrast to the intense and wild 50th anniversary in 2007, but the stellar and inspired performances were no less memorable. The weekend was summed up by Artist-In-Residence Christian McBride on the Arena stage, as he announced his New Quintet (now named Christian McBride & Inside Straight) -- on Saturday night: “This is one of the greatest places in the world to play. This is a cradle of creativity and great people coming together for a celebration.”

The 52nd Annual Monterey Jazz Festival presented by Verizon will take place on the Monterey Fairgrounds September 18 - 20, 2009 with over 500 artists performing on 9 stages for 3 nights and 2 days of the world's best jazz. MJF/52 Artists-In-Residence will be Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

Announcements regarding MJF/52 Arena and Grounds artists, as well as information on Ticket sales will be available in late March, 2009.

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