Jazz is Life

The 60th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival

60 years of Monterey Jazz Festival Posters

60 years of Monterey Jazz Festival Posters

It was one of those moments. You know it, that difficult realization of a painfully obvious fact of life. “I am getting old.” I discovered that I was born the same year as the Monterey Jazz Festival (MJF).

We are both Baby Boomers.

From their website:

“The Monterey Jazz Festival is the longest running jazz festival in the world. It is held annually on the 20-acre, oak-studded Monterey County Fairgrounds, in Monterey, California. This has been the site of the Festival since its inception in 1958. More than 500 top jazz artists perform throughout the weekend on 8 stages spread throughout the grounds.”

My husband and I have a long history with jazz music and this year we promised to take our son to the Monterey Jazz Festival.

Jazz is a generational thing. 

I loved Saturday morning cartoons from my childhood, “Meet George Jetson", (followed by a bright trumpet riff) and Jane his wife. Johnny Quest, Top Cat, and I bet you don't remember from 1962 “Wally Gator is a swinging alligator in the swamp.” I remember. Most of the Hanna-Barbera cartoons started with jazzy introductions. You must remember how Bugs Bunny ran amok to Raymond Scott's classic 1937 tune, "Powerhouse" featured in vintage Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. 

Jazz is a fun time.

Me, Brad Wirth and Janice Wirth ready for the Redlands Christmas Parade. Band was everything. 

Me, Brad Wirth and Janice Wirth ready for the Redlands Christmas Parade. Band was everything. 

 

When I was in High School, Dave Brubeck Quartet’s 1959 “Take Five” was a music lesson in time signatures at the University of Redlands Summer Music Academy. “Now what sounds different about this piece? Answer… it has five beats per measure rather than the usual four beats.” I was so fortunate to hear Dave Brubeck live at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 2010.

Jazz is a music lesson.

My daughter is not Annie Hall, but still very fashionable. Hilary Whelan in black and white at our Manhattan apartment in 2008. 

My daughter is not Annie Hall, but still very fashionable. Hilary Whelan in black and white at our Manhattan apartment in 2008. 

And oh, the movies! James Bond, Pink Panther, and I remember releasing a big “sigh” at Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron the dancing to the 1951 “An American in Paris.” I marveled at “All That Jazz” based the life of Bob Fossie, and I had to visit New York, the Jazz Queen Mother after experiencing the sweeping black and white photographic scenes of Manhattan moving through George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” in Woody Allen’s 1979 “Annie Hall.”

“To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin.”

Twice we have traveled to Manhattan, and both times we took our children to hear jazz performances at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola at Lincoln Center. 

Jazz is exotic, romantic travel.

My son, Patrick at MJF 2017

My son, Patrick at MJF 2017

Raising my children brought a new generational relationship to jazz. Our son Patrick was in marching band, and upon our wise parental encouragement, he joined the Buchanan High School Jazz Band. His participation took us to new and exciting places like Tulare, Hanford, Madera, Modesto, Stocton, and Monterey. We started with the Next Generation High School Jazz Festival in the spring and grew to attend the “Big Boys” playing in the fall.

This year's Buchanan's Jazz Band was awarded the opportunity to play at MJF on Saturday. We missed them, but we saw Paul Lucckesi, Buchanan's inspirational "energizer bunny" Jazz Band Director. I remember one introduction to the Buchanan High School Jazz Band given by Mr. Lucckesi,  “Jazz is either angry or beautiful. That was angry, now we’re going to try beautiful.”

Jazz is a proud parent sitting in the audience.

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This year, Jazz is a walkabout to the Monterey Jazz Festival.

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The Monterey Fair Grounds are kinda...scary? This artwork is within the Fairgrounds, but was not the scene at the Monterey Jazz Festival. 

The Monterey Fair Grounds are kinda...scary? This artwork is within the Fairgrounds, but was not the scene at the Monterey Jazz Festival. 

After a traditional brunch at the Old Monterey Cafe, we settled into the Garden Stage under the oaks and the low-flying airplanes. The Monterey Fair Grounds are in the local airport flight path, so jazz sessions are frequently punctuated by passing aircraft. This wasn’t our first time to MJF and we enjoyed recalling our memories of hearing Dave Brubeck, Jamie Cullen, Kurt Elling, and Arlo Guthrie live in concert.

Every time we listen to live jazz we exclaim out-loud: "We need more live music!" We heard  a very professional student arrangement of “Body and Soul” performed by the University of Nevada, Los Vegas Jazz Ensemble. We appreciate MJF's embracing student performances and took in a little East Coast urban attitude by the Philadelphia based University of the Arts “Z” Band.

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But the professionals stood up, stood out, and hit you right in the chest with driving big band hardcore blues  - The Rodger Fox Big Band with Chris Cain from New Zealand.

One of the few female musicians we saw was with The Rodger Fox Big Band. She was inspirational.  MJF needs to support more women artists. 

One of the few female musicians we saw was with The Rodger Fox Big Band. She was inspirational.  MJF needs to support more women artists. 

Suffering from FOMO – Fear of Missing Out, and melting under the beautiful coastal sunshine, we moved to the indoor “Dizzy’s Den” for a little bit of beautiful jazz by O.E.N.I Trio from Madrid, Spain, and Joe Lovano Classic Quartet. 

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We drank a few Brother Thelonious beers in tribute to the Great Jazz Master, and talked about past jazz festivals. We walked past the rows of merchandise and before leaving on the shuttle bus, had a bite to eat from one of the numerous food vendors.

Jazz is a trip down memory lane.

I like being as old as the Monterey Jazz Festival. We have quite the history together, and I look forward to travels filled with music and memories. 

My future wanderings will take me far and wide to exotic locations, but jazz will be a day with family on a magical visit to a place where the saxes are sexy, the brass is big, the horns honk, the vocalists belt it out, and the pianos twinkle songs that are either angry or beautiful.

“See you later alligator!” 

Jazz is a life filled with magic.

I'm not the only one as old as the Monterey Jazz Festival. I'm in good company. 

I'm not the only one as old as the Monterey Jazz Festival. I'm in good company.