Dixieland Monterey's Jazz Bash by the Bay, now in its 33rd year, is one of the longest-running jazz festivals of its kind in the world.
"I think the only one longer is the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, they're the granddaddy (of Dixieland festivals)," said Sue ("Big Mama Sue") Kroninger, music director of the Monterey event. "It's been an interesting evolution over the years. It started out as just some Dixieland fans who threw something together to see what would work and it worked itself into a fairly large organization and actually it's one of the festivals in our kind of music that has one of the best reputations in the industry. It's a thrill to be part of it."
Sacramento's event, now in its 40th year, also underwent a name change to reflect the breadth of the music offered at these "trad jazz" music festivals.
Once the Old Sacramento Dixieland Jazz Jubilee, it's now the Sacramento Music Festival. Monterey's has morphed into Jazz Bash by the Bay, presented by Dixieland Monterey.
"That came about six or seven years ago. What happened was everybody stood back and took a look at how we have evolved. It really has evolved musically and stylistically over the years," said Kroninger. "Originally it was a Dixieland festival and really that isn't an accurate description any more. It has become more of a celebration of all the different kinds of music that encompassed early American jazz.
So now the festival, which takes place at the Portola Hotel & Spa and the Monterey Conference Center in downtown Monterey, encompasses not only trad jazz — Dixieland jazz, if you will — but swing and big band jazz, blues, gospel, Gypsy jazz and even Cajun/zydeco music from New Orleans.
"I think the motive was to accurately describe what we were doing" said Kroninger, who is also a singer who performs with her own quartet at the festival. "What we really wanted to do was that, plus we wanted to get away from the old stereotype of a bunch of old geezers wearing plastic boaters and striped vests, which it really hasn't been for many, many years. It's a much more hip festival."
Bands scheduled to perform this weekend include: The Au Brothers Jazz Band, Big Mama Sue Quartet, Blue Street Jazz Band, Carl Sonny Leyland Trio, Cocuzzi/Vaché Swing All-Stars, Crown Syncopators Ragtime Trio, Gonzalo Bergara Quartet, High Sierra Jazz Band, Ivory & Gold, Old Friends, The Original Wildcat Jass Band, Pieter Meijers Quartet featuring Banu Gibson, Reynolds Brothers, Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, Titan Hot Seven, Tom Rigney & Flambeau and Yve Evans & Company.
Guest artists include David Boeddinghaus, Bob Draga, Bobby Durham, Eddie Erickson, Banu Gibson, Tom Hook, Dawn Lambeth, Grant Somerville, Dave & Linda Dance Co.
Featured events include a free Youth Jazz Clinic for Monterey and Santa Cruz County music students on Saturday morning; three high school youth bands playing Saturday afternoon and evening, a Dance Marathon Saturday night and free dance lessons to badge holders.
"We have three youth bands that play Saturday and they each play two sets as part of the festival and we also have youth band clinic on Saturday morning that's open and free to any students in the local area who like to come, no badges required," said Kroninger. "We encourage local students to come because some of these youth bands, in my book, are pro bands, they're really high quality."
When asked what she would be looking forward to over the weekend, Kroninger said she's excited about the so-called "specialty sets."
"One is by Yve Evans, who is a magnificent jazz singer from the L.A. area, she's doing a tribute to Louis Jordan. She worked on it just this year, so this is the first time she will have done it. That should be really neat," she said. "And we have a couple of other interesting sets that are singer showcases. We have a lot of singers. One on Friday, tribute to Jimmy Van Heusen, he's known as the songwriter for the Rat Pack. And the one on Saturday is a tribute to Hoagy Carmichael ('Stardust')."
The festival actually kicks off Thursday with two separate performances, one from 7:30-11p.m. with the 16-piece swing band Clicktrax Jazz Orchestra at the DeAnza Ballroom at the Portola Hotel & Spa, the other the jazz trio We3 featuring Bob Draga, Jeff Barnhart and Danny Coots from 7-8:30p.m. in the hotel's Bonsai Room.
Both are separate admission from the festival itself, $20 for the swing band, $25 for We3, available at the door.
The third featured event is the Dance Marathon, which goes from 1-11p.m. Saturday in the DeAnza Ballroom and features virtually nonstop music from the Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, Tom Rigney & Flambeau, Original Wildcat Jazz Band, Blue Street Jazz Band, High Sierra Jazz Band with Dawn Lambeth and Titan Hot Seven to close out the night.
"Somebody counted and said there were 149 sets or something like that over the weekend," said Kroninger. "So it's looking to be a really great weekend. And I think we're going to have good weather, too."
Mac McDonald can be reached at email@example.com. GO!
What: Dixieland Monterey presents 33rd annual festival: Jazz Bash by the Bay
Where: Portola Hotel & Spa and the Monterey Conference Center, 2 Portola Plaza, Monterey
When: 11 a.m. to 11:30p.m., Friday, March 1; 10 a.m. to 11:30p.m., Saturday, March 2; and 9 a.m. to 4:30p.m. on Sunday, March 3
Tickets: All-event badges are $95; day badges are $45 for Friday, $60 for Saturday and $45 for Sunday, available at 888-349-6879, 675-0298 or www.jazzbashbythebay.com. Children under 13 free with an adult; high school students also free. College students and active-duty military personnel badges are $10 per day or $20 for all-event badges with an ID at the door. Group discounts are available.
Information: 675-0298 and www.jazzbashbythebay.com