Donna Grantis Jazz Fest

Donna Grantis plays guitar during a solo in on the Nightclub stage during the 62nd Monterey Jazz Festival on Sept. 27, 2019.

For Donna Grantis, the three-day Monterey Jazz Festival was more like a three-hour event.

The Canadian who wields a ferocious guitar and special effects pedal boards played a Friday night—as in 10pm—set at the Night Club. She arrived in Monterey with her five-piece group that afternoon. By sunrise the next morning, Grantis was on the way back to the airport in San Jose.

From a performer’s point of view, the festival is part of a routine. As it is with any tour, they reach a new town, unload at the hotel and maybe find something to eat before heading to the venue, in this case the storied Monterey County Fair and Event Center.

“There’s a lot to do—getting equipment set up, thinking about my pedals, getting my picks in order,” Grantis explains. Some of the boards are connected, so she can access a dozen or more effects. And if that's not complicated enough, as she set up on Friday trumpeter Bria Skonberg and her band were tearing down, trying to fit all the packing and unpacking, passing back and forth, into a 30-minute window.

“That’s how these festivals go,” Grantis says. “Half an hour is plenty of time.”

Yet with hundreds of artists and more than 10,000 fans milling around over three days, even a glimpse of the Jazz Festival excited Grantis, who was playing the event for the first time.

“One of the things that’s really special about the Monterey Jazz Festival is its history,” she explains. “I was thinking about all the performers who played there in the past.”

What truly captured her imagination, however, were a few details passed on by her driver on the road toward Monterey. He happened to mention 1967’s Monterey Pop Festival and Jimi Hendrix. Grantis had no idea the event occurred at the Fairgrounds.

“On the main stage, that’s where Jimi Hendrix set his guitar on fire,” she exclaims with zeal. “I’m a huge Hendrix fan. That was really cool.”

Grantis hopes to return to the Jazz Festival. As for the few hours she spent in Monterey this time around, she says it was “long enough to meet a few people and chat with a few musicians.”

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