Like the 62 that came before it, the 63rd annual Monterey Jazz Festival was supposed to be a communal live music experience. Instead, it will be virtual due to the pandemic, but still features an ambitious and diverse program with top-shelf jazz.
“Once we realized we had to jettison the live event, we first had to get over the disappointment. It took a minute,” Artistic Director Tim Jackson says.
Then a consensus emerged to go virtual: “We all realized we couldn’t just do nothing,” Jackson says.
The team decided to first dip into MJF’s vast video archives, but that presented its own challenge. “It was overwhelming,” Jackson says. “There’s just so much.”
It’s a good problem to have, and for listeners it means this year’s festival will feature never-before-seen historical footage, as well as contemporary work. True to its roots, the event will be not only a celebration of legendary jazz royalty, but also a springboard for emerging jazz players. And in addition to music, there are conversations about music and social justice. There’s even a cooking demonstration.
“We worked hard to assemble a program that would accurately reflect the experience of being at the festival,” Jackson says. “The sounds, sights, foods, people, history, local color, political conversations. I’m hoping we’ve come close to accomplishing that.”
Friday includes appearances by Herbie Hancock, Christian McBride, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, artist-in-residence Christian Sands and the late Roy Hargrove.
Saturday’s session includes Diana Krall, the Kenny Barron Trio, and a performance of Dave Brubeck’s Cannery Row Suite, acknowledging what would be Brubeck’s 100th birthday this weekend. Jackson is especially looking forward to violinist Regina Carter playing Ella Fitzgerald classics “Judy” and “I Can’t Believe You’re in Love with Me.”
Sunday’s finale offers a tribute to legendary producer Quincy Jones; a Sonny Rollins tribute featuring Jimmy Heath, Joe Lovano, Branford Marsalis and Joshua Redman; the Anat Cohen Tentet; jazz vocalists Dee Dee Bridgewater and Cécile McLorin Salvant; and pianist Gerald Clayton’s quartet.
Viewing is free, with requests for donations along the way. Donations will be split three ways between the NAACP, Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the roughly 500 artists who’d been booked and whose gigs for the foreseeable future have been canceled.
You can stream via YouTube at home, or upgrade to drive-in movie style at the Monterey Fairgrounds (with screenings of Clint Eastwood’s True Crime and Play Misty for Me) or other VIP options.
It’s a challenge to be social and distanced at once. Perhaps shared virtual jazz music can help bridge that gap.
63RD MONTEREY JAZZ FESTIVAL 5-7pm Fri-Sun Sept. 25-27. By donation. 373-3366, montereyjazzfestival.org