Blue Note Jazz Festival
Charles Krug Winery, St. Helena
July 29-31, 2022
Photos by Paul Piazza
The first-ever Blue Note Jazz Festival was a music lovers dream. Held at the Charles Krug Winery in Saint Helena, this event drew artists and fans from all over the country for a weekend of top tier sounds from the worlds of jazz, hiphop, and r&b. With all of that appeal, plus the world famous Napa Valley ambience, the festival menu was set for a very tasty weekend.
The event was co-hosted by comedian Dave Chapelle and jazz pianist Robert Glasper and the pair had a knack for keeping the crowd engaged and responsive. And often in stitches. This was all in evidence on the first night when Chapelle came out and introduced the headliners, which were Glasper and his amazing jazz collaborators in Dinner Party (Terrace Martin and Kamasi Washington) and the headliner’s performance took all kinds of unexpected turns.
Chapelle started things off by joining Dinner Party with a rap and then was joined by Katt Williams who came out and tried his hand at some comedic rhymes as well. Next out onstage were Yasin Bey (aka Mos Def) and Talib Kweli for a few moments. Kweli didn’t stay long, but after all of the extra guests left the stage, and Dinner Party started attempted to proceed with their original compositions, they were again joined by Yasin Bey, who dropped in for an impromptu rap that dropped subtle samples from some of his legendary work.
When Dinner Party commenced once again, Chapelle came stealthily onstage and whispered something in Glasper’s ear while he was on the piano and moments later, Snoop Dogg joined the group. The crowd went ecstatic as Snoop Dogg, with Dinner Party as his backing band, launched into a number of hits. The guys in Dinner Party looked very much like they were enjoying it as much as the crowd was enjoying this rare collaboration.
The entire day and weekend were full of moments of musical joy. Earlier that same evening, Chaka Khan had walloped the crowd with a fantastic set of r&b classics while at the same time on the opposite end of the winery grounds, jazz saxophonist Kenny Garrett had put on a spirited performance with his tight-knit group. Sometime in between all of that, Chapelle was joined by Bey and Kweli and the trio did a live recording of their popular Midnight Miracle podcast.
It was that kind of vibe all around. Another performance that was stunning on the first day of the festival included the immensely talented saxophonist Kamasi Washington and his group who took the audience to another solar system. And earlier than that, the remarkable young duo of Domi and JD Beck performed a scorching set of songs from their debut album, released mere hours before they hit the stage.
As the weekend continued, such luminaries as Thundercat, Erykah Badu, Maxwell, and Chief Adjuah performed at various intervals. It’s hard to understate just how loaded this lineup was for the weekend. Truly unmatched levels of talent and collaboration. Another incredible aspect of this festival was being able to see studio and touring legends like Isaiah Sharkey (Paul Simon, D’Angelo, Lala Hathaway) and Chris Dave (Anderson Paak, Kenny Garrett, Mint Condition).
So for a debut festival, there is no question that the Blue Note Jazz Festival made a significant impression that will resound for quite some time and it remains to be seen what the future will hold for this one. Here’s to hoping it will become an annual occurrence. and the pair had a knack for keeping the crowd engaged and responsive. And often in stitches. This was all in evidence on the first night when Chapelle came out and introduced the headliners, which were Glasper and his amazing jazz collaborators in Dinner Party (Terrace Martin and Kamasi Washington), and the headliner’s performance took all kinds of unexpected turns.