By Michael Katz
I’ve made it no secret over the years that I consider The Monterey Jazz Festival one of the world’s great musical weekends. This morning MJF, celebrating its 55th anniversary September 21-23, released a preview of its program: Pat Metheny, Esperanza Spaulding, Trombone Shorty and a new edition of the Monterey All-Stars highlight an exciting list of performers. There had been some grumbling last year among season ticket holders that seats had to be renewed before the schedule was announced. I doubt anyone will be complaining this year.
With young trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire already announced as the featured artist and guitarist Bill Frisell as the comissioned artist, MJF needed some big names to complement such ambitious choices; they found them, and more. Pat Metheny is scheduled for a rare two performances on the main stage, the first on Saturday in a superb trio led by Jack DeJohnette with Christian McBride, then Sunday in a quartet with sax player Chris Potter, drummer Antonio Sanchez and bassist Ben Williams. That set will be followed by a duet featuring DeJohnette and Frisell.
Meanwhile, the new edition of the Monterey All Stars looks sensational. Dee Dee Bridgewater, who gave a rousing late night performance two years ago with her band, headlines this group with Benny Green, McBride, Akinmusire, Potter and drummer Lewis Nash.
The two afternoon concerts should both be real crowd pleasers. Trombone Shorty, who laid waste to the festival two years ago, will be anchoring the Saturday afternoon blues/roots show. Emerging star Esperanza Spalding will take the main stage Sunday afternoon, following the award winning high school bands and the Next Generation Band.
There is, of course, much more to come, with five stages to fill, and the Friday night main stage show yet to be announced. But the backbone of the festival looks terrific. With Pat Metheny sure to bring his devoted following into town and Trombone Shorty and Esperanza Spalding drawing a younger crowd, ticket sales figure to be brisk for MJF’s 55th.
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