Monterey celebrates 62 years of jazz

Between its arena and seven stages, the 62nd annual Monterey Jazz Festival hosted an impressive lineup of artists spanning across the many subgenres of jazz at the Monterey County Fairgrounds from Sept. 27 through Sept. 29.

Funk jam band Cha Wa made several appearances on Saturday, successfully bringing the essence of New Orleans to the Jimmy Lyons and Garden stages. Many songs featured were from the group’s sophomore album “Spyboy,” with some yet to be released.

Cha Wa performs at the 62nd Monterey Jazz Festival on Saturday. Photo by Malia Savella.

The band delivered a performance that was as theatrical as it was musical; lead singer J’Wan Boudreaux, member of the Golden Eagle Mardi Gras Indian tribe, led the audience through stories of his tribe and black power alike between songs. Coupled with a lively percussion section, solid vocals and chantable lyrics, Cha Wa packed a groovy, rich punch. Their single “Wildman” came out on Sept. 20.

In the realm of blues came Mississippian Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, who is currently on a North American tour. Against drums and bass, Ingram’s guitar licks and powerful Southern vocals rang out, making a limited arrangement sound full. With songs like his single “Fresh Out,” Ingram is set to revitalise the classic blues genre.

Blues-rock group Larkin Poe, comprised of sisters Rachel and Megan Lovell, also occupied the Jimmy Lyons and Garden stages on Saturday. The duo played a gritty country set made perfect for rallying to, with plenty of Georgian influence. Lovell’s slide guitar solos suspend time, and the two know how to play in order to captivate an audience. Their performances of “Black Betty” and “Bleach Blonde Bottle Blues” made for great crowd-pleasers, the latter from their latest album, “Venom and Faith.”

Dizzy’s Den hosted quaint duo Pamela Rose and Terrence Brewer, whose vintage jazz cover gig felt straight from the 1940’s. Brewer’s romantic jazz guitar was a perfect match for Rose’s Doris Day-reminiscent vocals, and the two were strong both in their solos and their dueting.

Pamela Rose performs on Saturday at Dizzy’s Den stage. Photo by Malia Savella.

Both are local to San Francisco; “Cold outside your window, 105 degrees in San Jose,” sang Rose over the intermission to “A Foggy Day in London Town,” which garnered some laughs from the crowd. Moments like these made the endearing, on-stage relationship between Rose and Brewer light up the dark event hall.

The festival also supported a myriad of young artists. San Diego’s Zion Dyson carried an impressive swing jazz performance, her unique vocals interlaced with professional scatting. Among the many school groups was the Tucson Jazz Institute Concord combo, who were recognized by the festival as the Top High School Conglomerate Combo of 2019. Their Art Blakey arrangement and cover of “Home Fries” were nothing short of award-worthy.

Overall, the 62nd Annual Monterey Jazz Festival gave attendees a diverse listening experience with something for every jazz-lover in between.

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