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kamasi washington News | Concerts | Festivals
Monterey Jazz 2016: Three Nights, Two Days & Seven Stages

Pat Metheny, the Branford Marsalis Quartet with Kurt Elling, vocalist Gregory Porter, The Bad Plus with Joshua Redman, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington's Mosaic Project, saxophone sensation Kamasi Washington, Cameroonian bassist Richard Bona, singer and 2016 Grammy-award winner Cécile McLorin Salvant, and fan favorite Davina and the Vagabonds are among the international array of artists performing at the 59th annual Monterey Jazz Festival, September 16-18, 2016.

Other highlights of this year's fall festival include an opening night "Tribute to Quincy Jones: The A&M Years," featuring Quincy Jones with musical director Christian McBride and conductor John Clayton, plus saxophonist James Carter, pianist/composer Dave Grusin, guitarist Paul Jackson, Jr., Sean Jones (lead trumpeter for the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra), flutist Hubert Laws, harmonica player Gregoire Maret, legendary R&B singer Valerie Simpson, and the Monterey Jazz Festival Orchestra; the Wayne Shorter Quartet featuring Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Brian Blade, with the Monterey Jazz Festival Wind Ensemble conducted by Nicole Paiement, premiering this year's commissioned work, "The Unfolding"; and R&B saxophonist Maceo Parker fronting an all-star Saturday afternoon tribute to the legendary Ray Charles.

And that's just on the Main Arena stage. Live music and other activities around the Festival fairgrounds include over 80 events, conversations, films, and musical performances, including the Donny McCaslin Quartet, the Christian McBride Trio, guitarist Bill Frisell, 12-year-old piano prodigy Joey Alexander, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Lew Tabackin featuring trumpeter Randy Brecker, the Billy Hart Quartet, French-Lebanese trumpet player Ibrahim Maalouf, trumpeter and vocalist Bria Skonberg, Hammond B3 organ master and perennial festival favorite Dr. Lonnie Smith, bassist John Patitucci's Electric Guitar Quartet, top bands from the 2016 Next Generation Jazz Festival, and many others.

Tickets are on sale now.


Multiple Grammy® award-winning composer and producer Quincy Jones

In the Main Arena, Friday night's performances kick off with a "Welcome to Monterey" set by Cécile McLorin Salvant, who earned a Grammy earlier this year for jazz vocals. She started piano studies at age five, and at eight began singing with the Miami Choral Society. After graduating from high school, McLorin Salvant decided to pursue her education in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France, and embarked on a new career as a jazz performer, while pursuing a degree in French law and her training as a classical and baroque singer. Three years later, McLorin Salvant returned to the US and won the top slot for jazz vocals in the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition... at the age of 23. More unabashed accolades followed, including a Grammy nomination and recognition as Jazz Album Of The Year by the DownBeat International Critics Poll for her first recording, "WomanChild," along with honors from the magazine as the year's Best Female Jazz Vocalist.

Up next in the arena: bassist Richard Bona and his new Afro-Cuban project with Mandekan Cubano. Originally from Cameroon, Bona remains true to his roots, with African rhythms reflected in each of his seven albums, which display his unique approach to storytelling through sounds.

Capping Friday's opening night program from the Main Arena is the all-star Quincy Jones tribute, including the man himself, a National Endowment for the Arts "Jazz Master" and one of the most decorated celebrities in the musical world, with 79 Grammy award nominations and 27 wins; Time magazine hailed the now-83-year-old Jones, who first performed at the Monterey festival in 1972, as one of the most influential jazz musicians of the 20th century. Building on his pioneering success as a film composer and producer, in 1969 Jones signed as an artist to the A&M record label, founded by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss. Monterey Jazz Festival artistic director Tim Jackson recalled that several years ago, he had the idea of bringing Jones to the Monterey festival to celebrate these first three transitional records for the label. "I knew that Christian [McBride] would probably know these albums inside-and-out to be the musical director," says Jackson, "I also wanted to a try to get as many available artists who had played on those original albums to be part of the project." Come Friday night, we'll find out if Jackson's sharp ear and brilliant programming ideas bear fruit once again.

Hard Grooves from Guadalajara, and Blues You Can Use

On the festival grounds Friday night, expect performances by McLorin Salvant; the Still Dreamin' band, a tribute to the post-bop group Old and New Dreams (a collective of Ornette Coleman alumni that formed in the mid-1970s to perform Coleman's acoustic work of Coleman after he had 'gone electric' with his group Prime Time) with Joshua Redman (also this year's 2016 Showcase Artist), trumpeter Ron Miles, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Brian Blade; the Toshiko Akiyoshi Trio; the Alfredo Rodriguez Quartet; double-threat drummer and singer Jamison Ross; Bria Skonberg; New Orleans native Sullivan Fortner, named the 2015 Cole Porter Fellow in Jazz by the American Pianists Association, and his Trio; Troker, an instrumental hard-groove band from Guadalajara, Mexico, that fuses jazz, rock, and funk with anything they find on the way; and Berklee College of Music's Mixcla +1, featuring pianist/singer and a graduate of Havana's National Conservatory of Music, Zahili Gonzalez Zamora.

Saturday afternoon serves up a healthy dose of "blues you can use," kicking off a trio of Main Arena performances with the Twin Cities' best export, Davina and the Vagabonds, to get the joint jumping on just the right note. Snarky Puppy keyboardist Cory Henry brings his Funk Apostles to the stage next, with a synthesis of Henry's many influences: Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Prince, Herbie Hancock, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, and the "Godfather of Soul," James Brown.

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Davina and the Vagabonds
Davina and the Vagabonds
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The afternoon's Big Finale — and it's a big one — is what promises to be the "ultimate" Ray Charles tribute, fronted by longtime James Brown hornman Maceo Parker. Parker still remembers coming home from school with his brothers one day and hearing "What'd I Say" on the radio for the first time: "Man, we almost tore that place all to pieces because we couldn't believe it. I'll never forget that day. It was like Christmas morning and New Years morning combined."

"I got into Ray at a very early age," adds Parker. "I'd listen to him sing and I'd try to equate that with playing the saxophone... He was always the cat for me."

Joining Parker and his all-star band for the tribute are the Ray Charles Orchestra and, of course, The Raelettes.

Singing (or playing) the blues at several smaller stages around the fairgrounds site on Saturday afternoon are The GuitArsonists with a trio of veteran six-string shooters, Daniel Castro, Chris Cain and Mighty Mike Schermer; French-Lebanese trumpet player Ibrahim Maalouf's Kalthoum, a musical, genre-crossing celebration of women "who overturned the course of history" and inspired by the most famous and beloved Egyptian singer, Oum Kalthoum; premier West Coast pianist Larry Vuckovich's Vince Guaraldi Tribute Quintet; the U.S. Navy's own 32nd Street Brass Band, incorporating the styles of jazz, funk, Dixieland, and R&B; Bop of the Baywhich gathers six top musicians from all around the Monterey Bay area — trumpeter Brian Stock (Along Came Betty), saxophonist Roger Eddy, trombonist Steve Wilson, pianist Marshall Otwell, bassist Dan Robbins, and drummer Michael Strunk — to perform their original compositions and classic hard bop favorites; two top bands from the 2016 Next Generation Jazz Festival, the Ethan Olynyk/Kenton Dick Duo from Wellington Secondary School in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada (hometown of Diana Krall), and the Pacific Crest Sinfonietta's 17-piece High School Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Grammy award-winner Dr. Thara Memory; 20-year-old Houston, TX-born pianist James Francies; and encore performances from Davina and the Vagabonds and Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles.

Saturday night's music begins on the Main Arena stage with The Bad Plus (bassist Reid Anderson, pianist Ethan Iverson, and drummer David King) with festival Showcase Artist Joshua Redman (who plays three times over the weekend). 2016 MJF Artist-In-Residence Terri Lyne Carrington steps onstage next, presenting her Mosaic Project with vocalists Valerie Simpson and Lizz Wright. Lastly, saxophonist Branford Marsalis and his Quartet (pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner), showcasing new music from the forthcoming release, "Upward Spiral," with special guest vocalist Kurt Elling that blends Great American Songbook staples, jazz standards, and standards-to-be from a diverse array of composers.

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The Christian McBride Trio
The Christian McBride Trio
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On the Festival grounds Saturday night is a veritable feast of great jazz: the Christian McBride Trio; bassist John Patitucci's Electric Guitar Quartet, the Lew Tabackin Quartet featuring trumpeter Randy Brecker; the Billy Hart Quartet, honoring the drummer's 75th birthday with pianist Ethan Iverson, Mark Turner, and Ben Street; acclaimed East African vocalist and songwriter Somi; composer and classically trained pianist Stanley Cowell, considered one of the greatest living exponents of jazz; 12-year-old Indonesian piano prodigy Joey Alexander, who's been performing to standing ovations around the world over the past few years; and Santana lead vocalist Tony Lindsay, presenting "The Soul Soldiers," celebrating the music of Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, Lou Rawls, Sam Cooke and Donny Hathaway.

A Sunday Kind of Jazz

Sunday afternoon's Main Arena music begins with the sounds of "future jazz" in the form of the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, under the direction of Paul Contos, joined by drummer and festival Artist-In-Residence Terri Lyne Carrington. Los Angeles-born 35-year-old tenor saxophone sensation Kamasi Washington presents music from his groundbreaking solo album "The Epic," released last year on the trend-setting record label Brainfeeder. "The Epic," lives up to its name as a 172-minute, triple-disc masterpiece, featuring Washington's 10-piece band, The Next Step, along with a full string orchestra and full choir. It's likely that Washington will be bringing a scaled-down ensemble, and performing a similarly scaled-down arrangement of his epic composition.

The soulful jazz singer-songwriter Gregory Porter returns to Monterey again this year to conclude Sunday afternoon's Main Arena performances.

Elsewhere Sunday afternoon, look for sets from Banda Magda, founded by Greek-born singer, film scorer, and composer Magda Giannikou, who moves from samba to French chanson, from Greek folk tunes to Colombian cumbia and Afro-Peruvian lando in songs that capture the best of mid-century pop ballads and cinematic arranging, drawing on the band's global background and unchained musicality; Bay Area Brazilian singer Claudia Villela with fellow Brazilian and pianist, accordionist, composer and arranger Vitor Gonçalves; top-selling drummer (and San Francisco resident) Tommy Igoe's 15-piece Groove Conspiracy with special guest, guitarist Drew Zingg, laying down tunes fromiconic jazz-rockers Steely Dan; the Montclair Women's Big Band, founded in 1997 by veteran trumpeter and bandleader Ellen Seeling with producer Barbara Price, and showcasing the talents of some of the best jazzwomen in the San Francisco Bay Area in their MJF debut; 20-year-old vocalist and flutist Elena Ayodele Pinderhughes, another Bay Area talent; the Monterey Jazz Festival High School All-Star Band, directed by Paul Contos; and the Monterey Jazz Festival High School Honor Vocal Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Rob Klevan.

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Gregory Porter
Gregory Porter
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Wrapping up the 2016 concert Sunday night on the Main Arena stage, one of the most influential saxophonists and composers in the pantheon of modern music (let alone jazz), Wayne Shorter celebrates his 83th year in 2016 and begins the evening with the 2016 festival commissioned work, "The Unfolding." Joined by a stellar band that includes pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade (Shorter's working quartet for many years), Shorter debuts the new piece with the Monterey Jazz Festival Wind Ensemble conducted by Nicole Paiement.

The evening's next set showcases another Monterey debut, this time featuring London-based guitarist Jacob Collier is recognized as one of the world's most distinctive, inventive and prodigious young musicians. Collier's musical inspirations are diverse: his music combines elements of jazz, a cappella, groove, folk, trip-hop, classical music, Brazilian music, gospel, soul and improvisation. He's spent the last year collaborating with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, designing and building a groundbreaking solo live performance vehicle, which brings his one-man, multi-instrumental, multi-visual format of music making to the stage in a way that has never been seen or heard before. His Monterey performance should be one for the history books!

The evening comes to a close in the Main Arena with the venerable guitar god, Pat Metheny, in a quartet performance that includes Grammy-winning drummer Antonio Sanchez, bassist Linda Oh and British pianist Gwilym Simcock.

Around the festival grounds, Sunday night performers include the Joshua Redman Quartet; guitarist Bill Frisell's "Guitar in the Space Age" featuring Greg Leisz (electric and pedal steel guitars), Tony Scherr (bass) and Kenny Wollesen (drums); a "Hammond B3 Explosion" with Dr. Lonnie Smith, the Dave Stryker Quartet with Eric Alexander on tenor saxophone and Jared Gold on organ, and the Ronnie Foster Trio; the Donny McCaslin Quartet; Berkeley vocalist and flutist Elena Ayodele Pinderhughes; New York-based pianist-composer Kris Davis; and dream-pop trio KING, with twins Paris and Amber Strother and musical sister Anita Bias.

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Montclair Women's Big Band
The Montclair Women's Big Band
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All told, the festival features 500 artists, nearly 100 performances and events on eight stages and more, for 30+ hours of live music over two days and three nights, along with food booths, shopping, art exhibits, educational events, seminars and conversations with iconic and emerging jazz artists all around the oak-studded, 20-acre Monterey County Fairgrounds & Event Center. Weekend-long highlights of the 59th Monterey Jazz Festival are a photo retropsective, "Miles, Quincy & Trane at Monterey, 1960-1972," in the Coffee House Gallery; two documentary films, "Brownie Speaks: The Life, Music & Legacy of Clifford Brown," produced and directed by Don Glande, and "Thomas Chapin, Night Bird Song: The Incandescent Life of a Jazz Great," documenting the all-too-brief life and times of a musical explorer who transcended the boundaries of jazz and dissolved the distinctions between sound and music, from Emmy award-winning director Stephanie J. Castillo; and pianist James Francies, performing on the open-air Courtyard stage; and closed-circuit simulcasts from the Main Arena stage in the Jazz Theater.

(Overhwelmed by the bounty of performances and events at Monterey this year? Be sure to check back at JazzWest.com for our tried-and-true "Survival Guide" to the Monterey Jazz Festival as the third weekend in September draws near)

For more information, or to purchase tickets for the 59th annual Monterey Jazz Festival, September 16-18, 2016, please call 888.248.6499 or visit the Monterey Jazz Festival website.

spacerPhotos: Greg Gorman (Quincy Jones); Chi Modu (Christian McBride Trio); Monterey Jazz Festival (all other images)
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