The 2023 Monterey Jazz Festival’s slate of performers is the final one to be curated by outgoing Artistic Director Tim Jackson. He’s stepping down after 32 years with the organization and programming his swan song has been a bittersweet experience, “depending on the day.”
“I’m looking forward to a great year with a ton of great artists I’ve worked with for years. I’ve chosen a blend of old friends and new faces,” he says, “and I think it’s a lineup that will put smiles on a lot of faces.”
Those old friends include Herbie Hancock, composer and trumpeter Terence Blanchard and guitarist John Scofield. “Herbie was there for the first festival I programmed in 1992,” Jackson says. “Terence and John have both played here many times. I’m proud of this program.”
In the following pages, take a partial peek at the 66th annual Monterey Jazz Festival (MJF) lineup Friday, September 22 through Sunday, September 24.
Friday 8:45-10:00 pm
Jimmy Lyons Stage
Hancock is one of the rare jazz performers who needs no introduction. His career has spanned nearly eight decades and the list of artists he has performed with is a veritable who’s who of modern American music. The keyboardist has appeared at MJF many times, beginning in 1963 when he supported the legendary Miles Davis, who wrote in his autobiography, “Herbie was the step after Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, and I haven’t heard anybody yet who has come after him.” His seminal work with The Headhunters set the stage for fusion jazz, playing stadium-sized shows and introducing the genre to a new generation of listeners. Over the years, he’s garnered 14 Grammy Awards.
He clearly enjoys playing the MJF. “There’s a lot of camaraderie that happens at Monterey when musicians get to see each other because we don’t get to do that because we’re traveling so much,” he says. “It’s a family atmosphere there. The weather is great, it’s right by the ocean. It’s a very relaxing place.”
Sunday 8:15-9:15 pm
Jimmy Lyons Stage
Every few decades or so, an artist comes along who shakes up the norm and changes the game of their chosen instrument. Bassist Thundercat (aka Stephen Bruner) first came to prominence as a founding member of crossover thrash pioneers Suicidal Tendencies and has since joined the ranks of Charles Mingus, Jaco Pastorius, Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and Christian McBride (among others) who have upset listener’s expectations of what can be done with a bass.
Thundercat’s career has expanded to include collaborations with Kamasi Washington, Cameron Grave and Ronald Bruner Jr. (as The Young Jazz Giants) and he has taken home Grammys for his contribution to Kendrick Lamar’s track “These Walls” from the album “To Pimp a Butterfly,” and one for Best Progressive R&B album for his own 2020 offering “It Is What It Is.”
His MJF appearance is a highly anticipated event and is a prime example of Tim Jackson’s long-standing policy of bringing out-of-the-box type artists to the forefront of the festival.
Another of Jackson’s “old friends” is this guitarist extraordinaire. As this year’s Showcase Artist, Scofield is making several appearances in a variety of settings—including a documentary film “Inside John Scofield,” detailing his life and career. He’s known as one of the fathers of modern jazz guitar, but his roots are in rock ‘n’ roll and American music. His project, Yankee Go Home, reimagines diverse tunes by Leonard Bernstein, The Grateful Dead, Buddy Holly and Stevie Wonder. “I’m reconnecting with a lot of my teenaged rock ‘n’ roll roots,” he told MJF, “naturally colored by my 50 years of Jazz practices.”
Yankee Go Home performs Saturday from 1:50-2:40 pm on the Jimmy Lyons Stage. He will be featured on the West End Stage from 8:30-9:30 pm with Scary Golding, a collaboration between funk group Scary Pockets and veteran keyboard man Larry Goldings. On Sunday at the Pacific Jazz Café, Scofield performs solo from 7:45-9:00 pm.
Also on Sunday at the Pacific Jazz Café, “Inside Scofield,” a documentary by German filmmaker Joerg Steineck will be screened from 12:00-2:15 pm.
Sunday 3:10-4:00 pm
Jimmy Lyons Stage
Tim Jackson certainly scored a coup by booking 2023 Best Album Grammy Winner Samara Joy for the 66th annual MJF. She’ll be only 23 at her appearance here, but her voice and technique belie her age. Joy was born into a musical family and attended SUNY’s Purchase College, where she was named Ella Fitzgerald Scholar and graduated magna cum laude in 2021. She took top honors at the 2019 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, the same year she released her debut recording “Samara Joy.” Her 2023 album “Linger Awhile” was nominated for Outstanding Jazz Album—Vocal at the NAACP Image Awards and was awarded with another Grammy for Best Vocal Jazz Album.
Zach Westfall Quartet
Four shows on Friday beginning at 3:30 pm
A Monterey Peninsula native, southpaw bassist Westfall attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. He remained on the East Coast for a number of years before returning to the Monterey Peninsula in 2018, and now makes his living as a full-time musician. His quartet features a selection of the finest young jazz players the area has to offer: Ben Herod on saxophone, guitarist Adam Astrup and drummer Mike Shannon. Westfall says they will perform “original arrangements of jazz standards.” This band is definitely in the “I saw them back when” category, as they are certain to appear on bigger stages in the future.
Latin Jazz Collective with John Nava
Friday 4:30-5:30 pm
The Latin Jazz Collective is led by premier percussionist John Nava, saxophonist Stu Reynold and drummer Martin Binder. Performing a mix of original compositions and unique interpretations of jazz and Latin standards, this dynamic, high-energy seven-piece outfit gets audiences on their feet and on the dance floor.
Made up of a cadre of seasoned professionals who have performed with some of the biggest names in the business, the Latin Jazz Collective is a must-hear experience.
For more information, visit www.montereyjazzfestival.org or call 831/373-3366.