About This Festival
You can always go to the jazz clubs of New York and New Orleans to hear the greats, but where can you spend three days hearing nearly all of them in one place? Every year, the Monterey Jazz Festival packs in the talent and the jazz fans for a jaw-dropping musical experience.
An international icon, the Monterey Jazz Festival has been a model for other music festivals, such as the Monterey Pop Festival, Woodstock, and many other multi-stage and nonprofit festivals around the world. If you love jazz, this is your festival.
Monetery Jazz Festival History
The longest continuously-running jazz festival in the world, the Monterey Jazz Festival has presented nearly every major artist in the world. No, seriously. Since 1958, the festival has featured jazz greats from Louis Armstrong to Miles Davis to Billie Holiday to Dave Brubeck. Even contemporary masters like Wynton Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Trombone Shorty and Diana Krall have shown up at Monterey.
As long as the festival has been held, it’s been among the oaks of the 20-acre Monterey Fairgrounds. In addition to the lineup of musical performances, the Monterey Jazz Festival features jazz conversations, panel discussions, workshops, exhibitions and clinics. The festival’s celebration of the best in jazz brings people from all over every year—many of whom make it an annual vacation.
Monterey Jazz Festival Strategy
Plan your schedule for the three days, but be flexible. There's a lineup of more than 500 top jazz artists performing throughout the weekend on eight stages. You’ll usually wish you could be in three places at once.
Lines aren’t always things to skip. Go early and stand in line if there’s someone you really want to see. And stay until the very end. If you’re in the Arena for Sunday’s final show, don’t run out early to skip the traffic. Check out what’s happening on your way out at Dizzy’s Den and the Night Club. There’s usually something still happening.
Monterey Jazz Festival Tickets
If you get Grounds tickets, you can get into everything except the Arena. Arena tickets allow you into all events at all stages. It’s worth it. If you want Arena tickets, it’s best to buy as soon as ticket sales open in the spring. Often, where you sit in the Arena is based on how many season ticket holders return—a good reason to get season tickets if you love the festival.
Even if you get seats in the back, it’s worth your while to be in the Arena. Big screens allow you to see what’s on stage, but above all, you can hear the performance. And that’s why you’re at a jazz festival, right?
Don’t get so lost in the performances that you don’t duck into a panel discussion or workshop. Even if you’re not a musician yourself, these can often provide great insights into jazz, as well as some of your favorite performers.
As a non-profit, Monterey Jazz Festival is devoted to education, and student bands are often the best way you can see the results of such focus. Be sure to catch some young musicians during the course of your weekend, and one day you might be able to say you saw them way back before they were famous.