There are any number of Northern California jazz festivals that have been around longer than the one in Healdsburg, but none save the granddaddy of them all in Monterey has a history thicker with interconnected relationships. The Wine Country web emanates from festival founder and guiding spirit Jessica Felix, whose longstanding friendships with jazz artists dating back to the 1970s serve as the foundation for her programming. Year after year, she coaxes some of the music’s mightiest improvisers to Sonoma County, pampering players like family while serving up singular musical encounters to lucky locals.
The festival launched its third decade with a roster celebrating the 50th anniversary of ECM Records. Running from May 31 to June 9 at venues around the picturesque town, the lineup included an unprecedented duo pairing Ralph Towner with his Oregon co-founder Paul McCandless (a longtime Northern California resident), and the protean trio of drummer Jack DeJohnette, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, and bassist Matthew Garrison.