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Review: Monterey Jazz Festival 2012

55th annual event featured an all-star lineup

Gregory Porter, Monterey Jazz Festival, 9/12
Melody Gardot, Monterey Jazz Festival, 9/12
Bill Frisell, Monterey Jazz Festival, 9/12
Tony Bennett at the Monterey Jazz Festival in September 2012.
Trombone Shorty, Monterey Jazz Festival, 9/12
Dee Dee Bridgewater, Monterey Jazz Festival, 9/12
Esperanza Spalding, Monterey Jazz Festival, 9/12
Pat Metheny, Monterey Jazz Festival, 9/12

Driving or strolling through the idyllic locale of Monterey, Calif., recently, one couldn’t avoid the constant and satisfying reminder of the cultural significance befalling the bayside town on this weekend. Signs and banners beamed into public space the simple and potent phrase “55th MONTEREY JAZZ FESTIVAL,” laid out boldly and bluntly, in numbers-a nice, symmetrical numerical milestone, at that-and capital letters. No extra marketing ploys or design quirks were necessary to deliver the message, speaking volumes with minimal means: this festival, spread out over multiple stages on the Monterey County Fairgrounds over the third weekend of September, is an all-American and global treasure.

Doing the math, in fact, the very word “Monterey,” as name, place, festival paradigm, have been integral to what jazz is about for roughly half its life so far. Veteran status notwithstanding, as the oldest continuous large-scale jazz festival in the world, the programming, especially since Tim Jackson took over the task nearly 20 years ago now, has hardly a sentimental fossil. Artists with wide open ears, including Jack DeJohnette, Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell, Chris Potter and the wunderkind trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, appeared more than once over the weekend.

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Originally Published