Stef (firecat) wrote,

Monterey Jazz Festival

Thanks to clever_doberman, the OH and I had an opportunity to go to the Monterey Jazz Festival this past weekend.

The Jazz Festival is at the Monterey Fairgrounds. You pay one price to get onto the grounds, where there are usually about half a dozen musical events happening at any one time, as well as dozens of vendor and food booths scattered around. You pay separately to see acts in the Arena. Here's a good article to read to get a sense for it if you haven't been:

The OH and I don't know very much about any particular jazz artists. We decided to narrow our focus by concentrating on female artists. In order, here's what we saw:

Friday in the Coffee House venue (the smallest venue at the festival): The Helen Sung Trio ( Helen Sung is an Asian American composer and pianist. She played with bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Marvin "Smitty" Smith.

Friday in the Arena: Hiromi: The Trio Project featuring Anthony Jackson & Simon Phillips ( Hiromi is a Japanese composer and pianist. Most of her show was loud and theatrical, but my favorite of the pieces she played was a jazzified version of Beethoven Piano Sonata #8 "Pathetique".

On Friday we parked in the Fairgrounds parking lot. It was a long trek to the entrance gate. On Saturday we took a taxi to/from the fairgrounds.

Saturday on the grounds: On our way to the Night Club venue we saw the John Brothers Piano Company ( The description on the web page doesn't really tell you what it is: a couple of guys in vaguely steampunk outfits taking turns banging dramatically on a spinet piano with the innards showing. They usually play in Bay Area BART stations, and they compose all their own music. We got to watch as their piano bench almost collapsed under them.
john brothers piano company performance

Saturday in the Night Club venue: Chika Singer ( She is a Japanese singer. The city of Noto in Japan also has a Monterey Jazz Festival and she's involved with that. She performed with pianist Yutaka Shiina and a bassist and drummer whose names I didn't catch. Her vocal control is stunning, and she has almost no Japanese accent when she sings. I loved her performances of "Caravan" and "Poor Butterfly" (it made me cry).

Saturday in the Coffee House venue: Sarah Wilson Quintet ( Sarah Wilson is an American composer. She plays the trumpet and sings. She played with a violinist, guitarist, bassist, and drummer. Her band was premiering new commissioned music. This was messy, challenging music with something of a punk/DIY sensibility. E.g., it seemed to me that on some numbers the musicians were purposely playing as if they were beginners; on other numbers they had a chance to show off virtuosity. I liked it, but I had to concentrate really hard to hear it as music.

We had fair food! On Friday we had beignets and a Polish sausage. On Saturday we had fried calamari from a booth that said "Monterey High Wrestling Calamari." We also had an artisan ginger-lime popsicle.
wrestling calamari food booth

The OH and I didn't go to the Festival on Sunday because our ears were full and we didn't have enough spoons. The OH took a nap and I went to the beach next to Municipal Wharf #2. I wanted to just sit there and feel the breeze on my face and look at the birds and people, but a guy decided to chat me up. Just when I had decided I was finally old and fat enough that that kind of thing wouldn't happen any more. I was too lazy to ask him to go away so I listened to him talk about working in an old folks' home and explain to me how to distinguish among the various kinds of sea birds.

Here's where we ate in Monterey:
  • r.g. Burgers. Unusual menu item: deep-fried green beans
  • Wild Plum Cafe. While we had our brunch, many giant catering platters of baked goods were being carried out and many large boxes of fresh veggies and fruit were being wheeled in through the small eating area.
  • Krua Thai Cafe. They had a good duck curry and that really nutty chewy brown rice that some Thai places have.
  • Crepes of Brittany at the touristy Old Fisherman's Wharf. It's a small place with a few outside tables. We had savory buckwheat Crepes and an apple dessert crepe cooked by a real live Frenchman. I am always tempted to feed the wildlife (in this case, LBBs) that cluster around tourist restaurants, but I mostly avoided doing so.
  • Estéban Restaurant. I think this is the latest addition to our list of top ten or fifteen restaurants ever. They have a wide variety of tapas and "pintxos" (bite-sized dishes that cost $1-$3 each). The pitas they served with the meal were really, really fresh and hot. The menu on their web site doesn't include most of what we ordered, except the blue cheese and bacon dates. Everything was really well prepared and some of the dishes were really creative in ways that worked. We finished with a Spanish artisan cheese plate.
  • Rosine's Restaurant. This is one of those "enormous portion" type restaurants. While we were waiting in line, we admired the display cases of 12-inch-tall cakes. I had something called a Chili Egg Puff, which I've never seen before. It was kind of a souffle/pudding with eggs, cheese, and chiles and it was one of the best breakfast dishes I've ever had. They also had excellent link sausage and they cooked the breakfast potatoes well done and crispy.
  • Ocean Sushi Deli. We thought "deli" was just a twee name for it, but it really was a deli. They have over 100 items on their menu. We had brown rice goma onigiri, kyuri oshinko, futo maki, unakyu, hamachi sashimi, and unusual miso soup with carrots, burdock root, and zucchini.
We stayed at the Monterey Stage Coach Lodge. The room was small but recently remodeled and everything a small hotel room should be. There were other Jazz Festival folks staying there. Our room was near the hotel's small picnic area and it was fun to hear jazz playing through the window.

I took my Travelscoot to the festival, so I was able to go from one place to another on the fairgrounds without agony. All the venues we went to were accessible and had designated disabled seating. The volunteer staff and ushers were helpful. It's sometimes a challenge to get through a crowd in the scooter because it's lower than most people's line of sight. The OH walked ahead of me acting like a giant wedge.

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