Sept. 26--James Person, a former Cal State San Bernardino administrator and counselor, put the Monterey Jazz Festival on his bucket list. Attorney Moni Law of Berkeley joined her parents, Moody and Norma Law of Claremont, at the 56th annual outing of the world's oldest continuous jazz festival and vowed to take attending Monterey into the second generation of her family.
It took years for Denise LaCroix of Glendora to accept the festival invitation from Chino friends Jennifer and Joseph Johnson, but she never plans to miss another.
Monterey Jazz Festival is admittedly a dually grueling and exciting event featuring 500 artists on eight stages in five concerts over three days. Repeatedly named the world's best by fans and musicians, the festival celebrates America's only original art form with a blend of legendary, pioneering and master musicians, young lions forging adventurous avenues into established traditions and talented teens representing the best and brightest young players in America.
Once you go, patrons predicted, you'll return. The atmosphere, artists and international camaraderie are happily addictive.
Person, now an Alzheimer's Society volunteer, put the festival back on his list of things to do after a 47-year absence. The 72-year-old first attended MJF in 1966 and still remembers the "magic of (saxophonist) Charles Lloyd doing 'Forest Flower Sunrise" and "Forest Flower Sunset." He added the festival to his 13,000-mile cross-country trek to see friends and relatives around America.
Moody Law, a past Pomona Valley NAACP president, carried a copy of a Jazz Times magazine with guitarist/singer George Benson on the cover, confidently predicting "Benson has never put on a bad show and he won't at Monterey. He's going to be great."
Moody and Norma, the first African-American female administrator with the state Department of Corrections, celebrated their 26th MJF trip. Daughter Moni, a counselor for Berkeley's rent control board, first joined her parents' musical trek three years ago. She'd already seen famous educator/activist Angela Davis at the festival, but when former Monterey Bay Blues Festival secretary and board member Doris Jones glimpsed Moni, she gasped and did a double take.
"It seems our first lady is here too," commenting on Moni's strong resemblance to first lady Michelle Obama. Moni admitted she's aware of the similarity and does do look-alike programs.
"I absolutely love this festival and understand now why my parents keep coming back every year," Moni said. "I plan to come for the next 30 years."
The festival represents romance and music for Cloyed and Maxine Miller of Rancho Cucamonga and Patti Kreider and her husband Roger Born. Both couples had their first date at MJF.
"I was coming here before I saw her. She was with another guy when I first met her in 1976 and I asked her if she was serious about him," Born recalled, laughing at his boldness. "She said 'I was' and that opened the door for me to ask her to go to Monterey Jazz Festival with me. I proposed to her at the festival two years later. We celebrate our love and music every year."
The Millers' first date was at the 12th annual MJF in 1969. They keep coming back for the music, atmosphere and the people. The latter includes patrons and performers.
LaCroix, a caterer and legal secretary, finally accepted girlfriend and retired speech pathologist Jennifer Johnson's invitation to join her and her husband Joseph, a Los Angeles County fire inspector, at Monterey nine years ago. Falling in love with the diversity of ages among fans and artistry of musicians, LaCroix now asks "when do I start packing?" when the Chino couple contacts her about the annual trek. The Johnsons and LaCroix cited jazz being an American art form, inspirational improvisations and virtuoso performances as reasons for their repeated returns.
Jennifer Haydu, a former Woodland Hills resident now living in Monterey, was introduced to MJF by an ex-boyfriend who was "an amazing jazz drummer." Now an usher and jazz devotee, she said "I've met people who've been coming to this festival longer than I've been alive. It's a great festival because of the cultural climate, the high caliber of the music and the ability to interact with people from all over the world."
Artist quality builds annual anticipation for retired California Youth Authority employee Bashiri Thumbutu of Claremont and his wife Tengemana, a Cal Poly Pomona employee. "There's nothing like Monterey to titillate the senses," said Tengemana. She handled what she considered a disappointing set by bassist Dave Holland and guitarist Kevin Eubanks who engaged in an "avant-garde-to-the-max conversation between the two of them without regard to the audience" because it was balanced by "perfect" performances by vocalese master Bobby McFerrin and his daughter Madison, John Coltrane's son Ravi, George Benson and Gregory Porter.
Pitzer College professor Halford Fairchild has been a jazz fan all his life, but he never made it to Monterey because of classroom conflicts. This year he resolved to go to his first MJF with Cal Poly professor Lloyd Ferguson. "This has been a spiritual experience," Fairchild concluded.
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