Sunday afternoon at the Michigan Theater, the Monterey Jazz Festival concluded its month long U.S. and Canada tour. The Monterey Jazz Festival has been around for over 50 years, putting together diverse and international millennial talent who are blazing trails for the future of top level jazz music. Having originally come to this concert to see millennial jazz prodigy Cecile McLorin Salvant, I was excited when I gazed at the merchandise table and saw multiple artists’ albums for sale.
Salvant, winner of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition as well as three Grammy awards for “Best Jazz Vocal Album,” held down the majority of vocals. She started by looking out into the house. “Take a moment to appreciate who’s around you,” said Salvant. Her voice held incredible vibrancy and control, as she expertly flipped from a classic swing number to an acapella folk song. Intermittently, Salvant would leave the stage, and the charming drummer-singer, Jamison Ross, would take over vocals.
It was clear that the ensemble adored their art form. They all were in conversation, joking with each other and the audience the entire time. They weren’t afraid to address the audience directly as they explained their backgrounds and why they chose to perform the songs that spoke to them as artists.
The ensemble’s ability to storytell was incredibly impactful. They were able to communicate such depth of emotion through their intermingling sounds that the audience gave a standing ovation mid-show. There were a multitude of times that I found my steely self blubbering like a baby during arrangements. They weren’t a typical, male dominated jazz band either — a woman in front of me exclaimed “They’re all women!” once they filled onstage.
Melissa Aldana, tenor saxophone player, was the first female instrumentalist and first ever South American to win the Thelonious Monk Competition. Aldana played her original composition “El Castillo” from her time spent at Lincoln Center in New York City. Immediately following was five time Grammy nominated piano player Christian Sands. Sands played an arrangement of Puccini’s “Tosca” along with the help of bass, played by Tokyo born Yasushi Nakamura, and Ross on drums. The arrangement left everyone in the audience on their feet.
The show concluded with Canadian born trumpet player and singer songwriter Bria Skonberg heading a rendition of Valaida Snow’s “High Hat.” Snow was a Black female instrumentalist most known for trumpet and vocals in the ’30s. People were nearly jumping out of their seats while singing and dancing to the ending of a perfectly thrilling performance.