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MJF67, Sept. 27-29, 2024

Crescendo in Blue

The best festivals have a vibrant yet misty architecture to them. It’s not until we have taken in the full esthetic construction—built carefully, artist by artist, stage by stage—balancing one experience against another that we feel the rhythm of the entire library of sound that’s been curated on our behalf.

This remarkable rising of sight and sound is the crescendo of our collective spirits bathing in the blue notes of jazz, where we take all the challenges faced in daily life and find sweet release, if only for a few days, they return to us on the wings of bluebirds smiling at us with dignity, elegance and of course optimism.

Our festival theme “Crescendo in Blue” was created for you, my new Monterey Jazz family. It will give you a sense of the tremendous scope of jazz—past, present and future—as it exists in the world with its remarkable diversity of voices and nationalities. It will make you want to dance, laugh, sing, perhaps cry as we revel in the joy of this boundless art form we gather to explore, affirm and celebrate each September. It’s my hope that when you leave our Monterey Jazz Festival, you’ll have another perspective about the possibilities of greatness in your own life.

"We carry their work with us daily as we curate and rotate our private exhibitions—its jazz—music that uplifts and inspires."


There’s nothing more inspiring than observing great artists paint and frame a personal vision on the canvas of our collective narrative. We carry their work with us daily as we curate and rotate our private exhibitions—its jazz—music that uplifts and inspires.

This year on the Jimmy Lyons Stage we add another series of sonic masterworks to hang on the walls of our sonic museum—a Crescendo in Blue!

Fresh off another Grammy win, Samara Joy returns brilliant and vibrant, arousing harmonic and lyrical precipitation like the rain you can taste and smell before the first drop falls. I’m excited to present the legendary Stanley Clarke N•4EVER who like a tonal tailor, weaves soul into a funk-tinged tapestry without ever losing a thread of blues or a stitch of jazz, and we find ourselves dressed-to-the-nines in layers of electro-acoustic orchestration—band interplay and storytelling swinging wildly in the wind. We also welcome the luminous and legendary Mavis Staples, whose place among the pantheon of great American artists is not so much that of a musical stylist as that of a sonic storyteller; she’s telling her story, our stories. We’re thrilled to welcome back Monterey favorites Joshua Redman featuring Gabriella Cavassa and José James along with new voices, Lila Downs, Somi, Mumu Fresh, and Keyon Harrold featuring PJ Morton. Native son Kyle Eastwood presents “Eastwood Symphonic”—a tribute from a son to his father—a dazzling remix of quintet-meets-symphony—infused with jazz adaptations from Clint Eastwood’s iconic films.

José James lifts us up and lilts on a fresh take on '70s summer of soul with his live version of the recently released 1978—reminiscent of neon-spectacled fashion with collars so wide they could double as sails on a large ship—we sail right into the groove colored deep blue!

"The blues is deeply rooted in the life of Monterey Jazz."


The blues is deeply rooted in the life of Monterey Jazz. I’m proud to feature Bobby Rush and The Blind Boys of Alabama, legendary progenitors and generators of home-grown rhythm and uninhibited lyricism that hits at the heart of our collective yearnings. Free from second-guessing, we rise out of the blues by singing and playing the blues.

Then there’s the dazzling keyboard wizardry of Hiromi’s Sonicwonder and the soul-filled Cory Henry adorned with the fervor of streetcorner evangelists proselytizing the holy gospel of funk and swing!

Speaking of gospel, we gather to witness the salvation of the blues transformed as gospel dressed in its Sunday’s finest. John Nash and the Monterey Peninsula Community Gospel Choir along with Tammy Hall and the Texas Southern University Gospel Choir remind us we’ve come this far by faith. This year we’re spreading the joyous sound throughout the festival, culminating with one of gospel music’s chief sonic prophets Donald Lawrence and Company. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, because he’s sermonizing more than just a congregation of notes and sounds, he’s reminding us like the blues, we triumph and celebrate by stompin’ the blues away… say amen somebody!

Another highlight is our Artist-in-Residence Jason Moran, celebrating Duke Ellington’s 125th anniversary along with the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra (under the direction of Gerald Clayton)—with all the verve and power of swing… HEY; trading twelves, HO; rhythmic shifts and WHEW: twirling phrases like dancers tossed back and forth in the famed but threadbare Savoy Ballroom. Jason and Gerald hold it together like a Swiss watchmaker—design, functionality and soulful precision encased in an elegant timepiece.

This year’s Commission Artist is Robert Glasper, who has emerged as a major contributor to our cultural stew. Adding formal and traditional ingredients from other forms of American music, he collaborates with soul & neo-jazz singer YEBBA. This pepper and spice fuses perfectly in the creation of a new work for MJF.

The grounds will feature a diverse and innovative mix of sights and sounds featuring a new wave of exciting artists: Christie Dashiell, Avery*Sunshine, Jahari Stampley, Marquis Hill, Jackie Venson, Endea Owens & The Cookout, James Brandon Lewis, Stephane Wrembel, Julia Keefe Indigenous Jazz Ensemble, Harriet Tubman, Sunny Jain’s Wild Wild East, and the Brandee Younger Trio.

In addition to this buoyant buffet of artists, we remain committed to education and community engagement and to that end are doubling down on our HBCU Jazz Combo Challenge, providing students the opportunity to perform and advance their professional development while soaking in the life affirming experience of rubbing shoulders with the world’s finest jazz community. Along with our local bands and regional programs, we add another anchor in our commitment to showcasing our Next Generation Women in Jazz Combo and the Berklee Institute for Jazz & Gender Justice Quartet. With your support, we’re leveraging the power of the arts to regenerate and renew the human spirit.

"In step with the scholarship that has always been an equal partner in jazz, we continue our ongoing discussions around vital aspects in the jazz universe. Not as nice-to-have-add-on, but as something absolutely core to the American experience as it is lived and taught."


In step with the scholarship that has always been an equal partner in jazz, we continue our ongoing discussions around vital aspects in the jazz universe. Not as nice-to-have-add-on, but as something absolutely core to the American experience as it is lived and taught. With conversations around Duke Ellington, vinyl records, and Clint Eastwood soundscapes, Ashley Kahn helps us uncover new narratives and new ways of thinking about jazz as an understanding of our full history.

Our work in preserving the rich legacy of great artists is at the heart of this year’s festival with ceremonial commendations of Duke Ellington’s 125th along with centennial tributes to both Sarah Vaughan and Max Roach. Discover their sonic trail woven into the fabric of each stage.

Riffing our festival theme Crescendo in Blue, we invite you to experience Monterey as a global destination filtered through the feeling and language of our Monterey Jazz Festival. Observe marine life scatting in the deep blue “Trading Fours.” Witness the “Kind of Blue” foamed waves as a sonic and visual two-some dancing along 17-“Miles” Drive. Explore the Monterey Fairgrounds where nature drips blue in design and backdrop over the sights and sounds of the festival. Venture out to spaces where vineyards arouse gustatory senses as they resonate in red, white and blended wines with sensual “Blue Notes” found in the sonic textures of jazz. Traverse the iconic Bixby Creek Bridge, connecting the ongoing dialogue around who we are and what we aspire to become—we find ourselves suspended between blue sky above and the blue water below.

My friends… Welcome back home to your Monterey Jazz Festival—baked in the sweet heat of sixty-seven summers, now relaxed, cooling into autumn—arriving to us again, here and now, thawed by fiery blue notes in protest, warmed by the blues and its clarion call to face hard times with hopeful optimism—is still best served fresh with a down-home heaping of jazz.

And like songs on repeat, we repeat the songs that endure—Blue skies, smilin’ at me, nothin’ but blue skies, do I see.

Crescendo in Blue!

Darin Atwater, Artistic Director
Monterey Jazz Festival