It often feels like the musical year here in Monterey County is split between before and after the Monterey Jazz Festival.
The start is accompanied by great anticipation, like cracking the spine of your favorite author’s latest book. And there’s that feeling when you finish the last word and close the book with a feeling of sadness that you’ve reached the end. So another year has passed and the event’s coda deserves a few more words.
Sunday’s main stage program traditionally begins with a performance by the festival’s Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, a big band-style student ensemble that was designed and implemented in 1971 by festival founder Jimmy Lyons. This year marks the 50th anniversary of that debut, and with it, the first live conducting experience for six-time Grammy-nominated pianist, songwriter and educator Gerald Clayton.
Last year, the new artistic director and conductor guided and educated the outstanding students who were chosen for the orchestra through the Zoom video platform due to the pandemic. He and Christian Sands, festival artist in residence, worked together, along with several other jazz artists and festival staff, to create and perform an online audition process, orchestral chair allocation, rehearsals and a diverse program of educational options that culminated in the Next Generation Orchestra’s only live performance in 2020 for the 63rd Virtual Monterey Jazz Festival. Most of the other ensembles were archival documents from previous festivals.
It was a very heartwarming experience to welcome Clayton’s first performance on stage and to hear the students perform the repertoire he had so skillfully chosen and presented, including a piece by his father, bassist, composer, educator and conductor. of big band John Clayton. Pianist Sands and Next Generation alumnus saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins were guest performers with the group. I want to add that Wilkins has to win the MVP award for seeing so many sets in both Saturday and Sunday appearances on the Jimmy Lyons stage. On Sunday, he had to sprint between the main stage and the Courtyard stage where he did a series of sets with his own quartet.
At the culmination of the next generation set, the Carsbia Anderson Festival Education Committee Chair introduced local Congressman Jimmy Panetta. The surprise guest took the stage to speak before presenting the Congress recognition certificates to Clayton and Katie Thiroux, director of the Next Generation Women in Jazz Combo. The Next Generation Women had performed earlier on the Courtyard Stage.
âIt’s no wonder this festival has become the cornerstone of our community,â said Panetta. âAnd that’s very understandable, because look, I think we all know jazz music is about harmony. It’s a question of rhythm. It is about improvisation. And that’s what we see when listening to all the artists this weekend. We saw it from Herbie Hancock on Friday, from Ledisi on Saturday and from George Benson today. And of course, this orchestra right now. And so it’s my absolute privilege to be able to recognize the people who make sure that we can continue to hear this type of music on this very stage.
Panetta then thanked the audience for doing what was necessary during the last 18 months of the pandemic, improvising and living life in a way that protected the community through all protocols, including vaccination. which allows live music events to take place. Festival artistic director Tim Jackson then thanked Panetta and the audience before the curtains closed and preparations for the next set began.
Overall, despite the sleek festival, the lucky ones who got a seat (attendance was capped at 50% of capacity) were extremely grateful to be at this year’s festival. In my experience of attending and covering the event over the past 30 years, I have never seen so many standing ovations. Almost every act has had at least one. Really, the music was exceptional. But it also shows how thrilled those in attendance were to hear the music live again and be a part of what will go down in history as one of the most interesting and unique episodes in the long run. rich career of the Monterey Jazz Festival.
More live music on the horizon
The Carmel Sunset Center will host the first live indoor event since closing at 8 p.m. Thursday, featuring maverick country superstar Marty Stuart and his fabulous superlatives, on Stuart’s birthday, nothing less. Only a few seats remain for what was once a sold-out event ($ 39 to $ 59). Hurry and get yours if they haven’t already disappeared. Strict COVID protocol in place. Please check the venue website (https://www.sunsetcenter.org) for current information.
Stuart is a five-time Grammy Award-winning country artist, although that genre is too simple a word for what this artist who sings gospel and plays bluegrass can do. He is one of the most recognized and important roots musicians in America. It sells out year after year at major venues such as the Grand Ole Opry and Madison Square Garden. Come be a part of another great sold-out show at the beautiful Sunset Center.
Another show coming to the Sunset on October 7 at 7:30 p.m. is from John Hiatt and the Jerry Douglas Band, another great creator of American music with one of the best backing bands. Long famous and talented storyteller, Hiatt will delight fans of roots music in his songs with his keen observations of life’s twists and turns. Look for more information in next week’s topic. Tickets are two-tier, costing $ 118 and $ 84. Tickets for the Sunset Center shows can be purchased online at www.sunsetcenter.org.
Friday (8 p.m.) in Monterey at the Golden State Theater, the Wailin ‘Jennys will be back for another wonderful mix of vocals and music from three separate singers / songwriters. Founding members Ruth Moody and Nicky Mehta, along with Heather Masse, continue to create some of the most exciting and exquisite music in the folk-roots scene. Check them. Tickets are $ 34 to $ 59, available at www.goldenstatetheatre.com. The COVID protocols for this show can be found on its eventbrite.com link run from the venue’s website.