Entertainment » Vol. 2

The Monterey Jazz Festival Comes to Mechanics Hall

By Mary Ouellette

For fifty years, the Monterey Jazz Festival has been delighting audiences as the longest running annual jazz festival in the world, promoting and preserving the legacy of jazz and its deep roots in American history. The very first festival was held in 1958, when founders Jimmy Lyons and Ralph Gleason saw their dream come to fruition. The first festival hosted the great talents of jazz pioneers Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong and Billie Holliday, just to name a few. Since its inception, the event has been held every year in September on the Monterey Fairgrounds, now considered hallowed lands. Fifty years later, the event is still thriving and growing strong.

Terence Blanchard - photo courtesy of www.montereyjazzfestival.org

Terence Blanchard - photo courtesy of www.montereyjazzfestival.org

While the event calls Monterey, California home, this year you don’t have to travel west to take in the marvels of today’s esteemed jazz greats both new and old because they’re taking the show on the road. This year will mark the first time in the event’s fifty year history that the show has traveled, taking its magic from coast to coast, allowing a broader audience to experience a taste of what the Festival has to offer both in music and spirit.

On February 26 at Mechanics Hall, the Monterey Jazz Festival transports its magic from California to the legendary Worcester stage. An all-star band of Monterey Jazz Festival greats will dazzle audiences with a selection of standards as well as a perfect blend of jazz through the ages, from bebop to modern. While this show will undoubtedly appeal to experienced jazz fans, it also offers the unique opportunity for new fans to attend a celebrated jazz festival for the first time and to get a great taste of all of the different styles that the musical genre has to offer.

All-star bands have been a part of several of the festivals of the past and have become an integral part of the program. This year is no exception; artists who comprise the 50th Anniversary all-star touring band include Grammy award winning trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard, revered pianist Benny Green, legendary saxophonist James Moody, soulful vocalist Nnenna Freelon and the support of a rhythm section composed of bassist Derrick Hodge and Kendrick Scott on drums. Each a star in his or her own right, the unique blend of jazz stylings ~ classic and contemporary ~ that they bring together as a group is unparalleled.

Nnenna Freelon

Nnenna Freelon

With musical reputations that precede them for this year’s appearances, the all-star band has deeper roots with the Festival as well. Take, for instance, saxophonist James Moody, who has been a part of it since the Sixties when he made his first appearance. Benny Green was the beneficiary of The Monterey Jazz Festival’s educational programs in the 70s and is now giving back tenfold. The power of music truly speaks through these artists.

The Monterey Jazz Festival is much more than simply an annual event, albeit a great one; the organization has built a formidable jazz community cultivating and promoting the education and passion of jazz through a non-profit organization that reaches out to jazz musicians nationwide.

To experience this historical event, please visit the Music Worcester website for tickets:

www.musicworcester.org/caldecfeb.html
The show starts at 8 p.m. and ticket prices range from $36 -$39.

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