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Monterey Jazz Festival Turns 50

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One of the world's longest-running jazz festivals celebrates a milestone anniversary this month (9/21-9/23) with a lineup of jazz stars that's likely to draw a record-breaking attendance. VOA's Doug Levine previews the 50th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival.

Only a few living today can say that they performed at the very first Monterey Jazz Festival in October 1958. Pianist Dave Brubeck is one. He appeared there with Louis Armstrong, Gerry Mulligan, Billie Holiday, The Modern Jazz Quartet and others now long gone.

Saxophonist Sonny Rollins also played at Monterey's debut, and along with Brubeck, will return to the main stage to help celebrate the festival's golden anniversary.

The original location at the county fairgrounds in Monterey, California is where all the action takes place. But, what began as a jazz festival has, over the years, become so much more. In 1966, rock and blues were introduced via Jefferson Airplane and Muddy Waters. Later, Janis Joplin, Blood, Sweat and Tears, and Ray Charles filled the bill, with Latin jazz and funk groups eventually making their presence known.

With nine stages of non-stop music, this year's festival merges the past, present and future. Along with Brubeck and Rollins, appearing are veterans Ornette Coleman, Jim Hall, Dave Holland, Kenny Burrell and Ernestine Anderson. Trumpeter Terence Blanchard, the 2007 Artist-In-Residence at Monterey, will debut his composition "Requiem For Katrina" with the Monterey Jazz Festival Chamber Orchestra, and bandleader Gerald Wilson is set to give the world premiere of his commissioned work "Monterey Moods." Sunday afternoon (9/23) is reserved for the winning high school bands from the annual Next Generation Festival.

Returning to Monterey for her third time since 1999 is vocalist Diana Krall, who will have fans rushing out to buy her new CD, The Very Best Of Diana Krall.

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