Iconic Tonic

This year’s Monterey Jazz Festival, the first since 2019 after a pandemic hiatus, offered a pared-down experience, with considerably fewer acts, attendees and total festival hours. But the return of something beloved provides a special kind of energy, and this year the festival tried something new: a semi-official festival “After Hours” that turned Monterey Peninsula establishments into weekend jazz clubs.

Pearl Hour, MidiCi and Estéban Restaurant in Monterey, Wild Fish in Pacific Grove, Seaside’s Deja Blue and Carmel’s Hotel Carmel and Coffee Bank each participated in what could become a new tradition. However, the ground floor bar at Monterey’s Hyatt Regency, in its own return, made clear it is still the place to see and be seen when the Jazz Fest comes to town.

On Saturday night it was difficult to find a seat in what is otherwise a sprawling lounge and dining room. The Immanuel Wilkins Quartet stood at the bar cracking jokes and humming along to the band (which featured a revolving door of star musicians), while 22-year-old bandleader and trumpet player Giveton Gelin stood leaning against the host stand with a cocktail in hand, greeting a constant stream of new fans who offered their admiration of his festival set.

If there were any remaining concerns about the legitimacy of this after-party, all doubts were cast aside when George Benson and his crew arrived at the far side of the bar and stayed for hours, quietly confirming for everyone else that the Monterey Jazz Festival was, indeed, back.

Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel & Spa is at 1 Old Golf Course Rd., Monterey. 372-1234, hyatt.com

Christopher Neely covers a mixed beat that includes the environment, water politics, and Monterey County's Board of Supervisors. He began at the Weekly in 2021 after five years on the City Hall beat in Austin, TX.

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