Proof, friends, that I truly won the parental lottery: It's early September, and I have decided I want to go to the Monterey Jazz Festival, in a BIG way. My Aaron Burr-crush Leslie Odom Jr. is headlining the Saturday main stage, and I am a jazz fiend. Sadly, Roommate David, who loves jazz more than anyone I know, is on call that weekend and can't go. So I text my parents, expecting them to laugh...and instead:
Before I knew it, we had called each other half a dozen times, and my parents had not only booked flights but also bought us tickets...all before my lunch break. And that, friends, is how I found myself in mid-September driving us down to oh-so-charming Monterey, for a weekend of some of the best jazz performance I've ever experienced!
Held at the Monterey County Fairgrounds, the Jazz Fest is anything but bougie - and that just adds to the experience. Locals mingle with tourists and weekend warriors as snatches of music drift through the air - a high school jazz band in one building, an open-air soul-funk group in an amphitheater, snippets of the greats coming from the history presentations. I was in heaven.
We made our way over to the Yamaha tent and had a blast discussing instruments...they even let me demo a flute, the first time I've touched one since senior year of college! For those concerned, I definitely still know all the Notre Dame fight songs...#nerd.
Parched after my masterful performance (HA!), we hit up one of the beer gardens, where I started with a Brother Thelonius. 100% of the sales from this jazz-themed beer went straight to supporting jazz education in California - the entire festival benefits several different jazz organizations and has provided major funding since its inception 61 years ago!
We spent the day bouncing around from building to building, seeing as many different artists as possible. Highlights: the California High School All-Star Jazz Band, Monsieur Periné's Latin/Afro/Caribbean/French melange of magic, Bruno Mars-esque Con Brio and their high-energy dance party in the amphitheater, and The Suffers, full of soul and so charismatic.
We took a quick dinner break and headed to the pier for fantastic seafood at the Old Fisherman's Grotto - being seated right by the windows and watching the sea lions frolic in the bay was a beautiful, amusing setting for a meal!
As soon as we had finished with our dinners, it was immediately back to the mainstage for the evening's highlights - the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra teaming up with the Gerald Clayton Trio to premiere the festival's annual commissioned work. This year's piece was a nine-part "jazz symphony," if you will, following the trajectory of America over the last year or so. It was all-encompassing - atonal and grating alternating with incredibly lush and harmonious, overlaid with the spoken word and resolving in an absolute maelstrom of sound. I about died and went to heaven, and loved it all the more for sitting next to my father while a father-son duo made magic onstage.
And of course, the main event (for us, anyway) - Leslie Odom Jr, who made my month when he opened his set with a stripped-down, jazzed-up version of his iconic "Wait For It" from "Hamilton." From there on out, we enjoyed a rollercoaster through the best of jazz and classic Broadway - selections from "Rent," "Spring Awakening," and "Hamilton" interspersed flawlessly with original, pared-down jazz pieces that showcased his small ensemble to perfection. He even cracked jokes and riffed on his recent Nationwide Insurance commercial - the man is, in my opinion, a flawless human being and I can't wait to see him AGAIN in a few weeks at my beloved Orchestra Hall over Thanksgiving!
We took it so, so easy on Sunday - a leisurely brunch at First Awakenings, an old sardine factory, then a slow, gorgeous drive up the coast and over the mountains back to Redwood City. We provisioned ourselves, Schweg-style, for the afternoon...
...and, as Dave was still on call, and as Dave is one of my parents' favorite people ever, we had a fantastic dinner al fresco at home. Dad's perfect filet mignon, twice-baked potatoes, crusty fresh-baked sourdough bread, and an Italian salad - plus, of course, plenty of champagne!
I headed back to my parents' hotel with them and watched the Emmys before calling it a night. They flew home early Monday morning, and I immediately reset the Schwegfam countdown clock...exactly 30 days to our New York trip!
In short - I fell madly in love with the Monterey Jazz Festival, and am beyond jazzed that my parents shared the experience with me. Already looking forward to a repeat trip next year!