Monterey Jazz Festival Commissions: A Brief History

The Forgotten Places, performed by the Ambrose Akinmurire Quartet +5
©2015 Monterey Jazz Festival / Jim Stone.

Each year, Monterey Jazz Festival commissions an artist to create a musical composition to debut at the Festival. The program was begun by Founder Jimmy Lyons in 1958, who encouraged performers to write new works to showcase at the Festival.

Many memorable and important works have been composed and debuted at Monterey since 1958—including Pete Phillips' Toccata for Jazz Percussion and Orchestra featuring Max Roach, Joe Morello and Shelly Manne (1958); Duke Ellington’s Suite Thursday (1960); Jon Hendricks’ Evolution of the Blues Song (1960); Dave and Iola Brubeck’s The Real Ambassadors (1962) and Cannery Row Suite (2006); Charles Mingus’ expansion on Meditation on Integration (1964) and Rebel Voices (1965); Gil Fuller’s On the Road to Monterey and Angel City Suite (1965); Mary Lou Williams' St. Martin de Porres (1965); Miljenko Prohaska’s Concerto No. 2 with the Don Ellis Orchestra (1967); John Lewis and the Modern Jazz Quartet’s Dido’s Lament (1969); Duke Ellington’s The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse (1970) and Gerald Wilson’s Happy Birthday Monterey Suite (1977). 

Over Monterey’s more than half-century history, many artists wrote music to be debuted at the Festival—both officially and unofficially—but the modern Commission Artist Program was inaugurated by Artistic Director Tim Jackson in 1994, and continues through today. Several of the commissioned works have come out on record have won GRAMMY Awards as well.

Commission Artist: Ambrose Akinmusire

The Forgotten Places
Performed by the Ambrose Akinmurire Quartet +5

Commission Artist: Aaron Diehl

Three Streams of Expression
Dedicated to John Lewis
Performed by the Aaron Diehl Quartet

Commission Artist: Wayne Shorter
To Sail Beyond the Sunset and Destination Unknown
Performed by Sound Prints: Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas Quintet
This commission and live recording from MJF56 was released on Blue Note Records on April 7, 2015.

Commission Artist: John Clayton
Suite Sweet Dave: The Brubeck Files
Performed by the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra
The commission was discussed in the January 2014 issue of DownBeat Magazine.

Commission Artist: Bill Frisell
The Music of Glen Deven Ranch
Performed by Bill Frisell’s Big Sur Quintet
The recorded version of the commission, Big Sur, was released in 2013.

Commission Artist: Geri Allen
The Dazzler: A Jazz Tap Tribute to Sammy Davis, Jr.
Performed by Geri Allen & Timeline

Commission Artist: Billy Childs
Music for Two Quartets
Performed by the Billy Childs Quartet and the Kronos Quartet

Commission Artist: Jason Moran
Performed by Jason Moran & The Bandwagon

Commission Artist: Maria Schneider
Willow Lake
Performed by the Maria Schneider Orchestra

Commission Artist: Gerald Wilson
Monterey Moods
Performed by the Gerald Wilson Orchestra
The recorded version is available on Mack Avenue records.

Commission Artist: Kurt Elling and John Clayton
Red Man-Black Man
Performed by the Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra & Kurt Elling

Commission Artist: Dave Brubeck
Cannery Row Suite
Performed by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Kurt Elling, Roberta Gambarini, Chris Brubeck, Triple Play, & vocalists and musicians from University of the Pacific

Commission Artist: Carla Bley
The Black Orchid
Performed by the Carla Bley Big Band
The recorded version of the commission, Appearing Nightly At The Black Orchid on ECM Records was nominated for a GRAMMY in 2008.

Commission Artist: Terence Blanchard
A Mood for Dizzy
Performed by the Terence Blanchard Sextet

Commission Artist: Ralph Towner
Monterey Suite: Parts I, II & III
Performed by the Ralph Towner, Gary Burton and the Monterey Chamber Orchestra

Commission Artist: Don Byron
Performed by Don Byron’s Six Musicians & Guests

Commission Artist: Gunther Schuller
Birth of the Cool Trilogy
Performed by the Joe Lovano Nonet

Commission Artist: Dave Holland
Monterey Suite
Performed by the Dave Holland Big Band

Commission Artist: Wayne Shorter
Vendiendo Alegria
Performed by the Wayne Shorter Group and the Monterey Jazz Festival Chamber Orchestra. The recorded version of Vendiendo Alegria won a GRAMMY Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album in 2004.

Commission Artist: Toshiko Akiyoshi
Tribute to Duke Ellington
Performed by the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra featuring Lew Tabackin

Commission Artist: Ray Drummond
New Works
Performed by Ray Drummond’s All-Star Excursion Band

Commission Artist: Gerald Wilson
Theme for Monterey
Performed by the Gerald Wilson Orchestra
The recorded version on Mama Records was nominated for two GRAMMYs in 1999.

Commission Artist: Cedar Walton
Autumn Sketches
Performed by Cedar Walton & Eastern Rebellion, with special guests Roy Hargrove and Vincent Herring, with strings from the Oakland East Bay Symphony

Commission Artist: Maria Schneider
Scenes from Childhood
Performed by the Maria Schneider Orchestra

Commission Artist: Billy Childs
Concerto for Piano and Jazz Chamber Orchestra
Performed by the Billy Childs Trio and the Monterey Jazz Festival Chamber Orchestra

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