The Monterey Jazz Festival, held this year from Sept. 21 to Sept. 23, is a quaint little village that exists for two and a half days in mid-September with a diverse population base decked out in obscure instrumental band T-shirts and at least three other layers of clothing. During the day, the sun scorches. The fog, Monterey Bay’s greatest native product, burns off by the end of the morning, leaving a light breeze and open skies. Mother Nature has a way of selling the shady seats. When the sun drops out of sight, that crisp Pacific air exerts itself mightily. Mother Nature has a way of selling commemorative sweatshirts too.
Across the 20-acre fairgrounds, there are three outdoor stages and three indoor venues, plus a smattering of more informal performance spaces. An active attendee is never not listening. At any given point during the festival, there are at least two acts you’d love to see and one you could roll the dice on. Casting as wide a net as the “jazz” label can muster, Monterey offers something for everyone, but rarely does it pay off to park yourself in front of one stage until the end of the night. There’s also little room for pretension, which is great for both listeners and performers, whose audiences can swell and diminish at the whim of a jam-packed schedule.