The Monterey Jazz Festival is the longest continuously-running jazz festival in the world.
Co-founded by Jimmy Lyons and Ralph J. Gleason in 1958, the nonprofit Monterey Jazz Festival has presented nearly every major artist in the world -- from Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Dave Brubeck, Tony Bennett, and Miles Davis, to contemporary masters Diana Krall, Wynton Marsalis, Trombone Shorty, Esperanza Spalding, and Terence Blanchard. In 2019, the Festival takes place September 20-22.
It is held annually during the third full weekend in September on the 20-acre, oak-studded Monterey Fairgrounds, located at 2000 Fairground Road in Monterey, California. This has been the site of the Festival since its inception in 1958. The Arena (seen above) was also the site of the fabled 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, which was inspired by their organizers visiting the jazz festival in 1966. The Monterey Jazz Festival is an international icon and model for subsequent music festivals, including the Monterey Pop Festival, Woodstock, and many other multi-stage and nonprofit festivals across the world.
More than 500 top jazz artists perform throughout the weekend on 8 stages spread throughout the grounds. Nearly every major artist has appeared at Monterey, with many memorable performances.
Outdoor venues include the Arena (Jimmy Lyons Stage), the Garden Stage, the Jazz Education Pavilion on the West Lawn, and the Courtyard Stage. Indoor venues include the Night Club (Bill Berry Stage), Dizzy's Den, the Jazz Theater, and the Coffee House Gallery.
The Arena features 5 concerts throughout the Festival weekend, each concert is approximately 4 hours long. All Arena Seating is reserved seating. Arena Packages and Tickets also allow access to 7 additional Grounds stages and all Grounds activities at no extra cost.
Grounds Stages include simulcasts of Arena concerts in the Jazz Theater, and access to 7 additional stages and activities. Grounds Stages are General seating.
Gates open at 6:00 pm on Friday night, 11:30 am on Saturday, and 11:00 am on Sunday. Nonstop, live jazz entertainment continues until approximately midnight on Friday and Saturday; 11:30 pm on Sunday.
The media has extensively covered the Festival since 1958. Stories have been seen in many prominent national and international newspapers like the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Seattle Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Der Spiegel, and many more. National TV and radio outlets like NPR, CNN and affiliates from all major networks have profiled the festival, elevating Monterey County to the national stage. Major magazines like Time, Newsweek, DownBeat, and JazzTimes have also provided coverage of the Festival over the years.
As a nonprofit, Monterey Jazz Festival is devoted to education by presenting year-round local, regional, national, and international programs. Schools in Monterey County and thousands of students have been the benefactors of the Festival’s educational efforts through the Traveling Clinicians Program, Summer Jazz Camp and Monterey County All-Star Bands, which embark on annual performance trips each summer. The Festival now spends over $500,000 annually on its programs, including the Next Generation Jazz Festival, gathering the best student bands from across the nation each spring, the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, selecting the country’s best musicians for summer tour each year, and the Artist-In-Residence program, which brings an renowned artist to work with young musicians in performances and clinics at the Next Generation Jazz Festival, Summer Jazz Camp, and at the Monterey Jazz Festival.
The estimated economic impact of Festival attendees is approximately $30-40 million dollars on the region, and $20 million directly into the local economy according to a study by Monterey Institute of International Studies in 2005. The Monterey Jazz Festival is funded by ticket sales, corporate sponsors, and local, regional, state and national grants.
Under the artistic leadership of Tim Jackson since 1992, the Festival widened its musical scope with expanded grounds performances; published books for the 40th and 50th anniversaries in 1997 and 2007; began an extensive restoration and digitization of the Festival’s 50-year audio archive collection housed at Stanford University; and established Monterey Jazz Festival Records (in partnership with Concord Records).
MJF Records won a GRAMMY in 2009 for the release Live at the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival by the MJF/50 All-Stars, which featured Terence Blanchard James Moody, Nnenna Freelon, and Benny Green. This group toured the United States in 2008, performing for 44,000 fans in 52 cities.
In 2010, another All-Star group featuring Kenny Barron, Regina Carter, Kurt Elling and Russell Malone, toured 33 cities in the United States, performing for over 26,000 fans.
In 2013, the Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour 55th Anniversary Celebration, featuring vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, bassist and musical director Christian McBride, pianist Benny Green, drummer Lewis Nash, saxophonist Chris Potter, and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, made appearances in 40 cities across North America, playing for 35,000 fans.
In 2016, Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour featured Raul Midón, Ravi Coltrane, Nicholas Payton, Gerald Clayton, Joe Sanders, Gregory Hutchinson, and Kendrick Scott, performed 28 shows in 17 cities in 10 states, including a five-night run at Birdland in New York City.
In 2019, the Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour 60th Anniversary Edition features Cécile McLorin Salvant, Bria Skonberg, Melissa Aldana, Christian Sands, Yasushi Nakamura, and Jamison Ross. They will perform 26 shows in 23 cities across 17 states from March 15-April 14, 2019.
As an internationally-recognized leader in artistic live presentation, the JazzTimes Readers Poll has named the Monterey Jazz Festival “World’s Best Festival” in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2013, 2014, and 2016.
2009: No Poll