TRAVERSE CITY — The Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour comes to Traverse City next week to celebrate its 55th anniversary, with a little help from Elk Rapids Zero Hour Jazz Lab students, who will open the performance at the City Opera House.
“It is our third national tour since our 50th anniversary and something we do every couple of years because we can’t go everywhere and people can’t come to Monterey,” said Tim Jackson, artistic director of the tour. “We want to broaden our reach.”
The 46-city tour started in Santa Cruz Jan. 10 and will end there April 30.
Music director is renowned bassist Christian McBride, who won his third Grammy in January. Dee Dee Bridgewater is the vocalist. She has two Grammy awards as well as a Tony award for her portrayal of Glinda the Good Witch in “The Wiz,” a Broadway musical. She also is host of National Public Radio Jazzset.
Other musicians include: Oscar Peterson protégé Benny Green on piano; saxophonist Chris Potter; drummer Lewis Nash, who has one of the longest discographies in jazz today with performances on more than 400 albums; and Ambrose Akinmusire, who Santa Barbara Independent reviewer called “everyone’s favorite trumpeter wunderkind.”
Akinmusire, 30, was a member of the 1999 and 2000 Monterey Jazz Festival High School All-Star Band. He won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition and the Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition in the span of one week in 2007 after earning his master’s degree in music from UCLA.
All six are renowned jazz musicians who exemplify the spirit and ideas of the Monterey Jazz Festival, Jackson said.
“We are a festival,” he said. “We want to have serious fun. We put music and the quality of the musician first. We want to make sure the music reaches people’s spirits, touches their hearts and makes them feel something.”
Elk Rapids Zero Hour Jazz Lab band director Dave McKeon said the 17 jazz musicians in the group are excited about their half-hour opening act that starts at 6:30 p.m. before the Monterey Jazz Festival concert.
Their appearance is actually a fund-raiser. The jazz group has been paying its own way for two years because of school budget cuts. The group will get a percentage of ticket proceeds, McKeon said.
The Jazz Lab was founded in 1991. It meets at 6:50 a.m. daily to practice until 7:40 a.m., McKeon said.
“This all came about through help of Mike Brand and Diane Baribeau from the Wharton Center in East Lansing, which has a close relationship with the City Opera House,” McKeon said. “It’s a great boon for our community to have this kind of collaboration between the Opera House and the Wharton.”
The Monterey Jazz Festival is one of the longest consecutively running jazz festivals. It started Oct. 3, 1958, founded by San Francisco jazz radio broadcaster Jimmy Lyons. It has presented nearly every major jazz star from Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong to Esperanza Spalding and Trombone Shorty.
The actual Monterey Jazz Festival is a three-day affair in September filled with music, commissioned jazz composition, in-depth conversations with artists, panel discussions, exhibitions and clinics held on 20 acres at the Monterey County Fairgrounds.
Tickets for the Traverse City performance are $47 or $32, and $15 for students. They can be purchased weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m at the City Opera House box office, 106 E. Front, by email to boxoffice@cityoperahouse or by calling 941-8082.