The thrilling weekend got off to an explosive start in the Arena on a warm Friday night with a high energy set from Hiromi: The Trio Project featuring Anthony Jackson and Simon Phillips (who was perhaps playing the largest drumset ever seen at the Festival in 54 years), followed by the debonair John Pizzarelli Quartet and Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Big Band featuring Terence Blanchard (who would appear at least three more times over the weekend).
The Arena’s Saturday shows got the day off to a blistering start with An Afternoon in Treme when the Soul Rebels Brass Band marched into the Arena and took the stage by storm, alternating with the rowdy Dumpstaphunk, with actor Wendell Pierce as emcee in a tribute to the New Orleans Neighborhood that has spawned many important musical traditions. Augmented by trumpeters Kermit Ruffins and Terence Blanchard (subbing for Glen David Andrews), the set got the Arena on its feet and the sawdust in the air. Huey Lewis and The News followed, performing a crowd pleasing set of Memphis favorites and original hits to an appreciative crowd.
The evening shows were a varied bunch, beginning with Geri Allen and Timeline, performing “The Dazzler,” the Monterey Jazz Festival commission for 2011, featuring tap dancer Maurice Chestnut. Joshua Redman and James Farm put in an inspired set, followed by Herbie Hancock, who performed a set of his own jazz standards.
Sunday’s Arena shows began with a youthful start with the winner of the Next Generation Jazz Festival, the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, making their fourth appearance on the Jimmy Lyons Stage in the last five years, followed by the outstanding Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, which featured the country’s finest high school student musicians. Alumni Benny Green, Donny McCaslin and Joshua Redman made special appearances with the NGJO – Donny McCaslin’s solo proved to be of the most exciting of the weekend! India.Arie and Idan Raichel made an inspiring and uplifting appearance, making very different and peaceful music. The evening’s performances in the Arena began with a setting sun and the Still Ahead Orchestra performing the music of Miles Davis and Gil Evans, bringing tears to some members of the audience in a profoundly moving experience. Sonny Rollins then closed out the weekend, performing an energy-filled 100-minute set that belied his 81 years.
The announcement of 2012 Monterey Jazz Festival Arena and Grounds artists will be made in March 2012, when tickets for the 55th Monterey Jazz Festival will be available for purchase.The 55th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival will take place on the Monterey Fairgrounds,September 21 - 23, 2012, with over 500 artists performing on 8 stages for 3 nights and 2 days of the world's best jazz.