Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour
Cécile McLorin Salvant, Bria Skonberg, Melissa Aldana, Christian Sands, Yasushi Nakamura, and Jamison Ross
Cécile McLorin Salvant, vocals
Bria Skonberg, trumpet
Melissa Aldana, tenor saxophone
Christian Sands, piano and music director
Yasushi Nakamura, bass
Jamison Ross, drums
California’s Monterey Jazz Festival is the longest consecutively running festival of its kind. In celebration of its six decades, the festival’s touring arm features a diverse roster of millennial talent representing the future leaders of jazz. The tour stars vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, who enchanted a sold-out Schwab Auditorium audience in 2017. She’s joined by tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana; bassist Yasushi Nakamura; drummer and vocalist Jamison Ross; pianist and tour music director Christian Sands; and trumpeter, singer, and songwriter Bria Skonberg, who made her Penn State premiere in 2016.
McLorin Salvant, who won the 2010 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, is a singer in the tradition of the big-three jazz vocalists—Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, and Ella Fitzgerald. But the Miami native brings to her singing a theatrical flair and a contemporary sensibility that have made her irresistible to audiences and critics alike. Her 2018 release, The Window, has been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album. Each of her previous two recordings, For One to Love and Dreams and Daggers, won a Grammy in that category.
In 2013, Aldana, who was born in Santiago, Chile, became the first female instrumentalist and the first South American to win the Thelonious Monk competition. The saxophonist, who attended Berklee College of Music, has released four albums as a band leader. A Chicago Tribune reviewer writes that her latest, Back Home, “balances technical bravura with musical depth, a hallmark of her playing.”
Nakamura, who was born in Tokyo but grew up in Seattle, earned a jazz performance degree from Berklee and an artist diploma from The Juilliard School. He has recorded and performed across the planet with Wynton Marsalis, Wycliffe Gordon, Hank Jones, and others. His first album as a leader, A Lifetime Treasure, was released in 2016. His follow-up, Hometown, came out a year later.
Grammy nominee Ross, who has a bachelor’s from Florida State University and a master’s from the University of New Orleans, took first place at the Thelonious Monk competition in 2012. Jamison, his debut recording, was nominated for a Best Jazz Vocal Album Grammy in 2015. All for One (2018) is his newest release. The Jacksonville, Florida, native’s “roots in jazz and gospel give him thrilling chops and unfailing feel,” observes an NPR reviewer.
Five-time Grammy nominee Sands, who grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, started playing professionally at age 10. A protégé of the late jazz pianist and educator Billy Taylor, Sands earned two degrees at the Manhattan School of Music. A former member of bassist Christian McBride’s band, the pianist has performed at jazz festivals and clubs worldwide. His recent album, Reach, “showcases his significant talents as an imaginative composer, a clever arranger, and a skillful technician with a fluid style,” writes a DownBeat critic.
A New York Times reviewer describes Skonberg as “the shining hope of hot jazz, on the strength of a clarion trumpet style indebted to Louis Armstrong, a smooth purr of a singing voice inspired by Anita O’Day, and the wholesome glow of youth.” Skonberg, who grew up in Chilliwack, British Columbia, and moved to New York City in 2010, earned a Canadian Juno Award for her eponymous major label debut in 2016. With a Twist, her most recent album, was released in 2017.