Back Stage

Crewmember Eileen Flynn and volunteer Greg Davey work on painting a sun as part of the set. After the 2020 festival went virtual, volunteers flocked back this year in reunion.

There’s no music on a sunny afternoon at the Monterey Fairgrounds just a few days before the Monterey Jazz Festival takes to the stage. Instead there are other sounds – crunching tape being peeled off the audience chairs by volunteers, the thrushing sound of a paintbrush. Sharen Carey of Big Sur is six feet up on a ladder working on the edge of a green hill that will be on the stage right backdrop this year, across from a brilliant sun.

Carey’s lost count of how many years she has volunteered backstage, but she started because her late friend, Paul Vieregge, persuaded her – although she’s not a jazz fan – to get involved. “The reason I keep coming back is that these folks have become like family to me,” she says.

Many volunteers are indeed family. Vieregge’s granddaughter, artist Chelsea Belle Davey, is a devoted painting volunteer. Her 4-year-old son Ty helped this year with a roller. And Davey’s dad, Greg Davey, is in town from Mammoth Lakes, wielding a bucket of black paint and covering up screw heads and other blemishes.

The attention to backstage details is not incidental – it was part of a deliberate effort to make the Monterey Jazz Festival a welcoming destination for all. “My grandfather wanted to make this a safe place for Black artists to come play in the ’50s,” Chelsea Davey says. “Here, they were treated the same as every other artist. We’ve got to dress this place up a little.”

These days, the mission of the design elements has evolved, along with the festival itself. Jeff Rogers, a graphic designer based in Dallas, handles the visuals for the festival, from the set design to the program to video footage.

“A hurdle we are trying to get over is not just speaking to the regulars,” Rogers says. Some of that will happen with the aforementioned video footage, one way of telling the story of what MJF is. And the festival itself is evolving this year, and not just as far as Covid safety (see story, p. 22). While the events of MJF are fewer – there are just two stages, and tickets (long since sold out) were capped at 50 percent of the usual – MJF is also promoting jazz music at unaffiliated venues this weekend, part of a new After Hours series.

“We have been thinking for a long time that the vision for MJF is a takeover of Monterey County,” MJF Executive Director Colleen Bailey says. “You see Car Week – it’s gone from being one event, Concours, to every city has its own take. Some is elite, some is the opposite. It’s just a lot of fun things and there is a place for everybody in it.

“This is an opportunity to kind of test that, and say: What would that look like for the MJF?”

What it will look like is a series of more diffuse events on small stages, some indoors and some out, at venues around town. In some ways, this After Hours format takes jazz back to its roots – experienced not on a big stage, but in a club environment with the shuffle of background noise and a cocktail in hand. And it features a mix of local jazz artists plus visitors who are here for Jazz Fest, all while promoting local businesses that took a hit from Covid-19 restrictions.

Rogers’ design theme for this year aims to capture that spirit. It features a lot of bright colors and a sun instead of the letter “o,” also represented stage left with a giant sun and rays that are shades of gold, orange, pink. “It’s to kind of express this new day, this hopeful idea,” he says.

For the longest continuously running jazz festival in the world, it is a new day. “We’re learning as we go,” Bailey says.

64TH MONTEREY JAZZ FESTIVAL happens Friday-Sunday Sept. 24-26 at the Monterey Fairgrounds. Sold out. For complete lineup, visit

This year’s Monterey Jazz Festival will look and feel a little different, but there are lots of ways to listen in.

Local venues are bringing live jazz to smaller stages all over town during the Peninsula’s big jazz weekend with a new After Hours series. The event at Esteban is a benefit for the nonprofit MJF, and the CSUMB event is co-hosted with MJF; all others are hosted by the venues independently.

For more details about the lineup and these After Hours events, visit

Adam Astrup, Pete Lips and Miranda Perl

6pm Thursday, Sept. 23. MidiCi, 467 Alvarado St., Monterey. No cover.

Robert Papcica Trio

8pm Thursday, Sept. 23. Pearl Hour, 214 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey. No cover.

Andrew Speight

9pm-midnight Friday, Sept. 24. Hyatt Regency, 1 Old Golf Course, Monterey. No cover.

Ben Herod Quartet

10pm Friday, Sept. 24. Pearl Hour, 214 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey. No cover.

Bill Spencer, Tom Langan and Janice Perl

5pm Saturday, Sept. 25. MidiCi, 467 Alvarado St., Monterey. No cover.

West Coast + Bee-Bop

6:30-9pm Saturday and Sunday Sept. 25-26. Wild Fish, 545 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove. $5.

The David Morwood Jazz Band

7pm Saturday and Sunday Sept. 25-26. Hotel Carmel, 4th and San Carlos, Carmel. No cover.

The Leon Joyce Trio

7:30pm Saturday, Sept. 25; 7:30pm Sunday, Sept. 26. Deja Blue, 500 Broadway Ave., Seaside. $25.

Tony Lindsay (of Santana) and Janice Maxe-Reid

7:30pm Saturday, Sept. 25. Coffee Bank, 26135 Carmel Rancho Blvd., Carmel. $30.

Monterey Jazz Festival’s Next Generation Women in Jazz Combo

8pm Saturday, Sept. 25. Esteban Restaurant, 700 Munras Ave., Monterey. $75 (includes dinner and donation).

Next Generation Jazz Orchestra and the Texas Southern University Jazz Ensemble

8pm Saturday, Sept. 25. CSUMB’s RND Amphitheater, Seaside. Free; RSVP required at

Zach Westfall Group

8pm Saturday and Sunday Sept. 25-26. Pearl Hour, 214 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey. No cover.

David Morwood All-star Band

9pm-midnight Saturday, Sept. 25. Hyatt Regency, 1 Old Golf Course, Monterey. No cover.

Shakira Robinson, John Nava

6-11pm Sunday, Sept. 26. Hyatt Regency, 1 Old Golf Course, Monterey. No cover.

Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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