Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour 2022 | Credit: Josef Woodard

This just in: the hot ticket item that is Sunday, January 29th’s Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour concert just got a little hotter. The touring project, the Campbell Hall show of which is the first major jazz show of the year in town, is an all-star, cross-generational aggregate, including stellar veteran vocalists DeeDee Bridgewater and Kurt Elling.

And yet young up-and-comer Lakecia Benjamin has suddenly risen in the ranks of high-profile jazz artists, appearing on the cover of the jazz world-influential DownBeat magazine this month, synced with her new album Phoenix, dropping this week. To boot, just two weeks ago, the Monterey Festival officially announced alto saxist Benjamin as artist-in-residence at the festival’s gala September event.

This is not the first collaborative rodeo for the hosting vehicle of UCSB Arts & Lectures and the Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour. It makes for a great fit, as the touring package — introduced at the previous year’s festival main stage — serves the function of sending out multiple noteworthy artists to cities, such as Santa Barbara, not necessarily rich in jazz offerings. When last we saw a Monterey roadshow, in fact, the lineup featured Bridgewater alongside the young up-and-comer trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire.

Also in the S.B. line-up are Christian Sands, pianist and music director, bassist Yasushi Nakamura, and drummer Clarence Penn. But refreshed eyes and ears will be on Benjamin, who has been on a whirlwind, world-winding journey of late, and was a commanding presence as part of the “On Tour” band’s first appearance, on last fall’s Monterey Jazz Festival main stage.

A New York City native, Benjamin studied with famed alto saxist Gary Bartz and lent her sound to Missy Elliott and Alicia Keys before busting out on her own in the jazz sphere. Her new album is her fourth, following the attention-grabbing 2020 album Pursuance: The Coltranes, a celebration of not only John Coltrane, but his wife-widow Alice. Traces of influence from both Coltranes, as well as an organic R&B impulse, grace Benjamin’s sense of style.

Needless to say, there will be a lot of interwoven musical stories on the Campbell Hall stage come Sunday.

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