The Continuing Voice of the Monterey Jazz Festival

Apr 2, 2017

Monterey flourishes as the longest, continuously running jazz festival on the planet.

You won’t find a blue-ribbon pie at this northern California fairground this weekend. But the place will be filled with multiple stages and wall-to-wall music. Here's Meridee Duddleston's take on the Monterey Jazz Festival.

In 1958, when the Monterey City Council was persuaded to open its fairground to a long weekend of jazz, the organizers looked for big names to headline. Dizzy Gillespie introduced Louis Armstrong, who was by then a movie star, performer and composer. He sang and scatted in his signature style.

America’s art form is characterized by constant change. In 1983, Bobby McFerrin was doing his thing with jazz vocals. He asked the audience what they wanted to hear. A barrage of requests followed. “Let’s start with the letter A," said McFerrin, as he launched into an unforgettable rendition of “Take the A Train.”

Bobby McFerrin at the Monterey Jazz festival, 1983
Credit Monterey Jazz Festival Archives

You can hear a recording of part of his performance through this link at the Stanford University Library website.

Held later in the summer season than Montreux and Newport, the Monterey Jazz Festival is always the third weekend in September, the last of the "Big Three" jazz festivals. It might have been a grand experiment when it first started, but Monterey flourishes as the longest, continuously running jazz festival on the planet.