For those who are somehow wired for jazz, there are many venues big and small to find the music, and sink into the groove. Eugene has the Jazz Station, the center of the scene in this area, and every year some top jazz artists come through the larger venues in town.
It didn’t used to be that way. The Eugene I moved to in 1959 was not so musically inclined. Shows featuring Paul Revere, the Kingsmen, Merilee and The Turnabouts, etc. performed at places like the Wheeler Pavilion, and the long gone Cascade and Torquilstone clubs. Great fun, the kind your parents warned you about, but jazz wasn’t on the program.
That left it up to us to explore the jazz world from afar, and it didn’t take much exploring to discover this event called The Monterey Jazz Festival.
This year was the 60th anniversary of the crown jewel of music festivals, my third time there, and my first time with media credentials from KOCF.
The MJF is at the Monterey Fairgrounds each September. Decades of production and artistic experience have polished it’s operations to near perfection. The Jimmy Lyons Arena is a vortex of creative energy that inspires amazing, breakthrough performances. It’s where Jimi lit his guitar, and Janis went supernova at the Pop Festival 50 years ago. 2 words describe the MJF above all, Family and Mission, qualities it shares with the OCF.
The Family feeling begins immediately upon entering, and it’s all encompassing. Greeters reach out to first timers and veterans alike, the sounds of great music and the smells of great food surround you. It goes without saying that the best musicians of the genre are there, several who may not be on the formal schedule, but this is jazz, people sit in, and jams happen all the time.
It’s not just jazz either. Blues, Soul, Funk, Rockers, and Rap can be found. This year Common was a main arena act. With that variety one thing remains constant: Musical Excellence.
There are also student bands, ranging from junior high to college level jazz students, all well worth hearing. That commitment to jazz education is The Mission. MJF is a year long enterprise, supporting musical education in many areas, including the American Music Program in Portland. Their band has won several national competitions, with people like Esperanza Spalding as alumni.
Like the OCF, words just can’t capture the whole experience. You simply have to try it for yourself, and let it speak to you in your own terms. As the MJF says, 500 Musicians, 8 Stages, 150 Shows. The quantity and quality of music makes it a Best Buy for your musical adventure bucks.As Adventurers and lovers of music, we seek communion in our shared experience. If you’re looking for that, I believe you”ll find something extraordinary at the Monterey Jazz Festival.
Want To Take A Ride..?
Freeformations, Sunday at 10am
Wednesdays at 7pm