It is almost here.
The weekend I look forward to more than any other in the year, the weekend that brings tens of thousands of the jazz faithful together in one of the most scenic spots on the planet.
Yes, it’s time for Monterey.
The curtain rises Friday night on the 56th annual Monterey Jazz Festival and it looks to be a monumental weekend. The event as always features such an abundance of musical options that no one can possibly take it all in. Choices need to be made and so I’m here to contribute my two cents’ worth in helping you prioritize. Two thoughts first:
* There is an excellent Monterey tips item posted here at JazzWest.com . It contains indispensible advice, particularly for first-time festival-goers.
* This festival is the first since the death of Dave Brubeck and you can expect the legendary pianist-composer’s music and spirit to be much in evidence this weekend at the Monterey County Fairgrounds. That said, let’s also remember another remarkable performer who recently left us, Mulgrew Miller. He performed at the 2012 festival and I count myself fortunate to have been on hand to see and hear Miller deliver an impressive, intimate performance that defined the very best in piano jazz. The artist is sorely missed by his fans, of which I count myself one.
The preliminaries concluded let’s begin with the Friday night lineup. Vocalist Gregory Porter is likely to dominate the proceedings, performing in both the Arena (8 p.m.) and Dizzy’s Den (10:30 p.m.). I am intrigued to hear the Los Angeles-born, Brooklyn-based, perpetually cap-wearing singer’s blend of jazz and soul in a live setting. Porter has the potential to be for many of us the find of the festival in the way Trombone Shorty was in his first Monterey appearance.
Joe Lovano, by contrast, is familiar to most and this year serves as Artist in Residence. My plan is to skip the Arena’s closing act, Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club (Latin jazz in its many forms holds scant charms for me) and head over to the Night Club to catch Lovano and Us Five (11 p.m.).
I will certainly be on hand for the Arena’s middle act, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. The ensemble will perform a specially commissioned tribute to Dave Brubeck that promises to be the emotional high point of the entire weekend.
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