JAZZ FESTIVAL ORGANISERS IMPROVISE
by Norman Warwick
Tim Jackson was named General Manager of the Festival in 1992, when he took over the duties of programming the legendary event from its retiring founder, Jimmy Lyons. He became Artistic Director in 2011. Credited with revitalizing and widening the Monterey Jazz Festival’s musical spectrum, expanding the educational components to new heights, Jackson returned to the artistic vision of the Festival’s early days by reinstating an Artist-In-Residence and commissioning program. Monterey has consistently been named one of the top three jazz festivals in world by readers of JazzTimes Magazine, winning the top spot in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2013, 2014, and 2016.
Projects under Jackson’s leadership include the restoration and digitization of the Festival’s extensive audio archive collection housed at Stanford University, and the establishment of Monterey Jazz Festival Records (in partnership with Concord Records) for the Festival’s 50th anniversary in 2007. The label won a GRAMMY in 2009 for their release Live at the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival by the MJF/50 All-Stars, which featured Terence Blanchard (the Festival’s 2007 Artist-in-Residence), NEA Jazz Master James Moody, Nnenna Freelon, Benny Green, Kendrick Scott, and Derrick Hodge.
Jackson has served as Artistic Director for Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour. These five tours in 2008, 2011, 2013, 2016, and 2019 have performed to over 115,000 fans in 60 cities in 22 states. Artists featured have been: Ambrose Akinmusire, Melissa Aldana, Kenny Barron, Johnathan Blake, Terence Blanchard, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Regina Carter, Gerald Clayton, Ravi Coltrane, Kurt Elling, Nnenna Freelon, Benny Green, Derrick Hodge, Gregory Hutchinson, Kiyoshi Kitagawa, Russell Malone, Christian McBride, Raul Midón, James Moody, Yasushi Nakamura, Lewis Nash, Nicholas Payton, Chris Potter, Jamison Ross, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Christian Sands, Joe Sanders, Kendrick Scott, and Bria Skonberg.
Born in San Jose, California, and a flutist since his teens, Jackson got his start in music production at age 19 at Half Moon Bay’s Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society. He also co-founded and is Artistic Director of the nonprofit Kuumbwa Jazz, presenting live jazz and educational events in Santa Cruz, since 1975.
Other activities Jackson has produced for MJF include two published books, including 1997’s Monterey Jazz Festival: 40 Legendary Years and 2007’s The Art of Jazz: Monterey Jazz Festival / 50 Years.
The line-up curated by Monterey Jazz Festival artistic director Tim Jackson for 2020 will air between 5-7 p.m. all three days on the Festival’s YouTube channel featuring never-before-seen archival footage plus new performances made expressly for the event, interspersed with personal messages from the Festival’s family of artists, volunteers, patrons and board members.
A pre-festival radio show airs Sept. 21-24 at 5 p.m. on SiriusXM Real Jazz channel 67. Instructions and links to access the online festival and its auxiliary events are at www.montereyjazzfestival.org.
Festival performers this year will include Jamie Cullum, Britain´s great jazz pianist who will also no doubt be gathering material for his excellent BBC Radio 2 programme, from fellow performers like Herbie Hancock, Diana Krall, Dianne Reeves, Roy Hargrove, Regina Carter and Lila Downs, among others, with exclusive iconic tribute collaborations tipping hats to jazz legends Dave Brubeck, Quincy Jones, and Sonny Rollins. The one-time-only free YouTube showings are donation driven with all proceeds going to support the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the jazz artists featured at the virtual festival.
´We recognize that jazz comes from the heart of Black culture, and during these volatile times where America is facing its legacy of racial injustice, we asked ourselves what the Monterey Jazz Festival could do to support the Black community,´ said Festival Executive Director Colleen Bailey.
´Our historical legacy has always been to serve as a platform for artists to share social justice messages.´ she told The Los Angeles Time writer.
There are a few aspects to the virtual presentation that provide an avenue to actually be together. A few community partners have stepped up to collaborate on local watch parties.
Local restaurants Casa Munras and Estéban Restaurant have invited jazz lovers to view the festival while dining on a three-course prix fixe meal curated by Executive Chef Gus Trejo outside on its patio with socially distanced seating. There is a 44-person limit for each of the three nights, but that´s enough to generate some atmosphere I would have thought.
According to this on-line report, The Monterey County Fair and Event Centre, where the festival usually takes place, is hosting two nights of drive-in style watching parties. The Fairgrounds has been hosting drive-in movies this summer, so the structure is there to view on a large screen on the main stage during the two-hour virtual MJF63. A bonus double-feature aspect includes the movies of Festival board member The Friday audience will see True Crime and the Saturday congregation will see, in celebration of its 50th anniversary, Play Misty For Me.
For those coming from out of the area, package deals with the Monterey Marriott are available offering a two-night stay that includes both virtual and drive-in packages, hotel welcome amenity, valet parking. For more information visit the Festival’s website.
´I think we felt, one, we needed to mark the dates,´ said Elizabeth Welden-Smith, the festival deputy director. ´That was really important for this legacy event. And two, that we still needed to create a space for people to come together.
So one of the things I’m excited about with the virtual festival, in addition to the really awesome content we are going to be streaming live on YouTube, is that it means there will be an interactive chat function. So we will have artists who will be chatting and available to talk with people and Tim Jackson will host. It’s not going to be hanging out on the grounds at the picnic tables on the Saturday afternoon, as we have known it in the past, but it still is a way for us to connect.´
Another asset tied to presenting the 63rd Annual Monterey Jazz Festival in an online setting is that it maintains the continuity of the event, famous as the longest continuously running jazz festival in the world.
When the organization had to announce it couldn’t present the festival live several months ago, Jackson said he intended to try and retain the line-up as he had designed it for the following year as best he could.
´We still hope to do a repeat of this year’s line-up next year,´ Welden-Smith said about what would be the 64th annual event. ´That is still the plan. But performing arts organizations don’t have a crystal ball and we’re not really sure what is going to be possible for next year. We have the best intentions; we’ll just have to see what we’re able to make happen in 2021.´
Sidetracks & Detours Jazz Correspondent, Steve Bewick, (left) has no doubt been excited to see Monterey Jazz Festival at least refusing to yield to Covid19 and might be looking forward to playing some of the featured artists on his fcum radio on-line programme Hot Biscuits. That said he has expressed to us the opinion that whilst the music conveys well on such virtual productions, he feels the absence of cameraderie and chat and general live events of live communal shows. We´re hoping to talk more to him about this, but meanwhile it seems the Monterey Jazz Festival management team are even trying to re-create some of the feel of live jazz and are to be applauded for doing so.
So, we hope you get a chance to visit the Monterey Jazz Festival web site to see what there is you might fancy and that you might even feel able to support them by tuning in.