A Tribute to Sonny Rollins

Featuring Jimmy Heath, Joe Lovano, Branford Marsalis, Joshua Redman, and Gerald Clayton, Scott Colley & Lewis Nash

In celebration of MJF’s 60th Anniversary, we are proud to present an exclusive concert in tribute to the Colossus, tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins. Now retired, Sonny is one of the last surviving "alumni" of the 1958 Festival, and has performed at MJF seven times. This tribute will feature tenor saxophone masters Jimmy Heath, Joe Lovano, Branford Marsalis, and Joshua Redman, with Gerald Clayton, Scott Colley & Lewis Nash. 

“I consider Sonny Rollins one of the 'Mt. Rushmore’ artists in jazz,” says Monterey Jazz Festival Artistic Director Tim Jackson. “His long career is both pervasive and astonishingly creative. I am proud that he was presented in almost every decade of the festival’s history, including our 40th and 50th anniversaries, as well as the inaugural MJF in 1958. When he emerged from one his self-imposed ‘retirements’ in 1972, he played the Monterey Jazz Festival. To have these four gentlemen represent Sonny and his music is also a thrill.”

“Jimmy Heath is a peer of Sonny’s and they went through the “jazz wars” together as comrades-in-arms for decades,” continued Jackson. “Joshua, Joe, and Branford each have Sonny in their musical DNA and have taken that inspiration and created their own musical styles and direction. And what a rhythm section! Power, nuance and swing are what Gerald, Scott and Lewis will bring to the bandstand. In a year when we recognize our 60th anniversary, I think it is fitting the we acknowledge this genius of the tenor saxophone and send him our love from the Monterey bandstand to his home in Woodstock, New York.”


Jimmy HeathJimmy Heath will also be in conversation with Ashley Kahn at 2pm on Sunday, September 17 in the Pacific Jazz Café.

Jimmy Heath has long been recognized as a brilliant instrumentalist and a magnificent composer and arranger. The middle brother of the legendary Heath Brothers (Percy Heath, bass and Tootie Heath, drums) and father of Mtume, he has performed with nearly all the jazz greats of the last 50 years, from Howard McGhee, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis to Wynton Marsalis. In 1948 at the age of 21, he performed in the First International Jazz Festival in Paris with McGhee, sharing the stage with Coleman Hawkins, Slam Stewart, and Erroll Garner. One of Heath’s earliest big bands (1947-1948) in Philadelphia included John Coltrane, Benny Golson, Specs Wright, Cal Massey, Johnny Coles, Ray Bryant, and Nelson Boyd. Charlie Parker and Max Roach sat in on one occasion.

During his career, Jimmy Heath has performed on more than 100 albums including seven with The Heath Brothers and 12 as a leader.  Jimmy has also written more than 125 compositions, many of which have become jazz standards and have been recorded by other artists including Art Farmer, Cannonball Adderley, Clark Terry, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, James Moody, Milt Jackson, Ahmad Jamal, Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, J.J Johnson, and Dexter Gordon. Jimmy has also composed extended works (seven suites and two string quartets) and he premiered his first symphonic work, Three Ears, in 1988 at Queens College (CUNY) with Maurice Peress conducting.

After eleven years as Professor of Music at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, Heath maintains an extensive performance schedule and continues to conduct workshops and clinics throughout the United States, Europe, and Canada.  He has also taught jazz studies at Jazzmobile, Housatonic College, City College of New York, and The New School for Social Research.  In October 1997, two of his former students, trumpeters Darren Barrett and Diego Urcola, placed first and second in the Thelonious Monk Competition.

Joe Lovano ©Tomas OvalleJoe Lovano, the saxophonist, composer and producer, is fearless in finding new modes of artistic expression. With a Grammy win for his 52nd Street Themes and 14 other nominations, he has won DownBeat Magazine’s Critics and Readers Polls countless times as Tenor Saxophonist, Musician of the Year, Jazz Album of the Year and Triple Crowns from DownBeat. He has also gotten numerous awards from JazzTimes and the Jazz Journalists Association for Tenor Saxophone, Album of the Year and Musician of the Year.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio on December 29, 1952 he attended the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston where years later he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate. Since 2001 he has held the Gary Burton Chair in Jazz Performance and is a founding faculty member since 2009 of the Global Jazz Institute at Berklee directed by Danilo Perez. He is a guest lecturer at New York University’s Jazz Program, Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music as well as Clinician at Universities around the globe. He has toured with jazz greats such as Woody Herman Thundering Herd, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Jack McDuff, Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, Paul Motian Trio, Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra, Carla Bley Band, Elvin Jones Jazz Machine, Saxophone Summit and has created a body of work for his own large ensembles including strings, woodwinds, voice as well as his Horn-rich Nonet and more recently his UsFive group with double drummers which has been gathering kudos worldwide.

Since 1991 Lovano has been recording as a leader for Blue Note Records. Joe Lovano Quartet: Classic! Live at Newport featuring Hank Jones was recorded in 2005 and released in 2016 marking his 25th recording for the label. Joe has also performed and recorded with a long list of jazz greats including Woody Herman, Mel Lewis, Bob Brookmeyer, Paul Motian, Bill Frisell, Tony Bennett, Abbey Lincoln, Charlie Haden, John Scofield, Gunther Schuller, Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, Ed Blackwell, Herbie Hancock, Dave Holland, Hank Jones, Dave Liebman, Michael Brecker, Dave Douglas, Judi Silvano, Ravi Coltrane, Chucho Valdez, Ornette Coleman, and many others.

Branford Marsalis ©Jim StoneBranford Marsalis grew up in the rich environment of New Orleans as the oldest son of pianist and educator Ellis Marsalis, and was drawn to music along with siblings Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason. His first instrument, the clarinet, gave way to the alto and then the tenor and soprano saxophones when the teenage Branford began working in local bands. A growing fascination with jazz as he entered college gave him the basic tools to obtain his first major jobs, with trumpet legend Clark Terry and alongside Wynton in Art Blakey’s legendary Jazz Messengers. When the brothers left to form the Wynton Marsalis Quintet, the world of uncompromising acoustic jazz was invigorated. Branford formed his own quartet in 1986 and, with a few minor interruptions in the early years, has sustained the unit as his primary means of expression. Known for the telepathic communication among its uncommonly consistent personnel, its deep book of original music replete with expressive melodies and provocative forms, and an unrivaled spirit in both live and recorded performances, the Branford Marsalis Quartet has long been recognized as the standard to which other ensembles of its kind must be measured. Its most recent recording, Four MFs Playin’ Tunes, was named Best Instrumental Jazz Album in 2012 by iTunes.

Branford has not confined his music to the quartet context. In addition to guest turns with a legion of giants including Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock and Sonny Rollins, he has excelled in duets with several major pianists, including his boyhood friend Harry Connick, Jr. and the longtime pianist in his quartet, Joey Calderazzo. Branford’s first solo concert, at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral, is documented on his latest recording, In My Solitude. Branford formed the Marsalis Music label in 2002, and under his direction it has documented his own music, talented new stars such as Miguel Zenón, and neglected older masters including one of Branford’s teachers, the late Alvin Batiste. Branford has also shared his knowledge as an educator, forming extended teaching relationships at Michigan State, San Francisco State and North Carolina Central Universities and conducting workshops at sites throughout the United States and the world.

Joshua Redman ©Jim StoneJoshua Redman is one of the most acclaimed and charismatic jazz artists to have emerged in the decade of the 1990s. Born in Berkeley, California, he is the son of legendary saxophonist Dewey Redman and dancer Renee Shedroff. He was exposed at an early age to a variety of musics (jazz, classical, rock, soul, Indian, Indonesian, Middle-Eastern, African) and instruments (recorder, piano, guitar, gatham, gamelan), and began playing clarinet at age nine before switching to what became his primary instrument, the tenor saxophone, one year later. In 1991 Redman graduated from Harvard College summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. in Social Studies. He had already been accepted by Yale Law School, but deferred entrance. He found himself in New York City instead, gigging regularly with some of the leading jazz musicians of his generation:  Peter Bernstein, Larry Goldings, Kevin Hays, Roy Hargrove, Geoff Keezer, Leon Parker, Jorge Rossy and Mark Turner (to name just a few).

In November of that year, five months after moving to New York, Redman was named the winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition.  Redman was quickly signed by Warner Bros. Records and issued his first, self-titled album in the spring of 1993, which subsequently earned Redman his first Grammy nomination.  Over a series of celebrated recordings including Spirit of the Moment/Live at the Village Vanguard, Freedom in the Groove and Timeless Tales (for Changing Times), Redman established himself as one of the music’s most consistent and successful bandleaders, and added soprano and alto saxophones to his instrumental arsenal. In 2000, Redman was named Artistic Director for the Spring Season of the non-profit jazz-presenting organization SFJAZZ. Joshua Redman has been nominated for 3 Grammys and has garnered top honors in critics and readers polls of DownBeat, JazzTimes, The Village Voice, and Rolling Stone. He wrote and performed the music for Louis Malle’s final film Vanya on 42nd Street, and is both seen and heard in the Robert Altman film Kansas City.

Gerald Clayton ©Craig LovellGerald Clayton, the four-time GRAMMY-nominated pianist/composer formally began his musical journey at the prestigious Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, where he received the 2002 Presidential Scholar of the Arts Award. Continuing his scholarly pursuits, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Piano Performance at USC’s Thornton School of Music under the instruction of piano icon Billy Childs, after a year of intensive study with NEA Jazz Master Kenny Barron at The Manhattan School of Music. Clayton won second place in the 2006 Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Piano Competition.

His debut recording, Two Shade (ArtistShare), earned a 2010 GRAMMY nomination for Best Improvised Jazz Solo for his arrangement of Cole Porter’s “All of You.” “Battle Circle,” his composition featured on The Clayton Brothers’ recording The New Song and Dance (ArtistShare), received a GRAMMY nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Composition in 2011. He received 2012 and 2013 GRAMMY nominations for Best Jazz Instrumental Album for Bond: The Paris Sessions (Concord) and Life Forum (Concord), his second and third album releases. He has performed and recorded with such distinctive artists as Diana Krall, Roy Hargrove, Dianne Reeves, Ambrose Akinmusire, Dayna Stephens, Kendrick Scott, John Scofield Ben Williams, Terell Stafford & Dick Oatts, Michael Rodriguez, Terri Lyne Carrington, Avishai Cohen, Peter Bernstein and the Clayton Brothers Quintet. Since 2013, Clayton also has enjoyed an extended association with saxophone legend Charles Lloyd.

Scott Colley ©Tomas OvalleScott Colley is the bassist of choice for such jazz legends as Herbie Hancock, Jim Hall, Andrew Hill, and Michael Brecker. His remarkably empathetic skills, strong melodic sense and improvisational abilities have served him well in groups led by colleagues Chris Potter, Adam Rogers, Brian Blade, David Binney, and Kenny Werner. But it is as a composer and bandleader in his own right that Colley has flourished in recent years, as evidenced by a string of recordings, beginning with his 1996 debut Portable Universe, (Freelance) and continuing with 1997's This Place (SteepleChase), 1998's Subliminal (Criss Cross), 2000’s The Magic Line (Arabesque) 2002’s Initial Wisdom (Palmetto), 2007’s Architect of the Silent Moment (CAM jazz), and the 2010’s Empire (CAM jazz). His most recent CD, 7, with his band Current, will be released in April 2017.

Appearing on more than 200 albums to date, he has worked with a variety of musicians from guitarists Bill Frisell, Pat Metheny and Adam Rogers; saxophonists Michael Brecker, Chris Potter and Clifford Jordan; pianists Herbie Hancock, Kenny Werner, Edward Simon; and drummers Brian Blade, Antonio Sanchez, Bill Stewart, and Roy Haynes. 

Lewis Nash ©Cole ThompsonDrummer Lewis Nash grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, and by the age of 18, he was a first-call sideman for visiting musicians. He moved to New York in 1980 to join Betty Carter's band. Since then, Nash’s versatility has made him one of the most in-demand drummers of the past several decades--recording and touring with Tommy Flanagan, Oscar Peterson, Sonny Rollins, Ray Brown, Gerald Wilson, Horace Silver, Ron Carter, Hank Jones, Benny Carter, Milt Jackson, Art Farmer, McCoy Tyner, Joe Lovano, Christian McBride, Branford Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Pat Martino, Clark Terry, Diana Krall, Joe Williams, Nancy Wilson, and many others, and has made three recordings as a leader. Recognized as one of the foremost brush stylists of his generation, Nash is also renowned for his passion and dedication to jazz education, fostering the careers of a long list of younger players; and has served as a clinician and educator at schools, workshops and major educational jazz festivals worldwide. In 2012, Jazz in Arizona opened The Nash, a non-profit, 2,600 square-foot performance space in Phoenix, named in his honor.