Celebrated jazz pianist, Oscar nominee and composer Kris Bowers has been commissioned by the Monterey Jazz Festival to write and present a piece at this year’s event, celebrating the festival’s 65th anniversary.
Bowers has a long history with the festival: He competed at Monterey’s 2004, 2005 and 2006 Next Generation Jazz Festival with the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts and was selected as the pianist to the 2006 Next Generation Jazz Orchestra. With the NGJO, Bowers performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center, at the Umbria Jazz Festival, and at MJF49 with jazz singer Kurt Elling. More than 800 students have been selected to the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra since its inception in 1971, and more than 20,000 student musicians have competed at the Next Generation Jazz Festival over its 50-year history.
“We reinstated our commissioning program in 1994, with the goal of focusing on new young composers as well as jazz legends,” says Tim Jackson, Artistic Director of Monterey Jazz Festival. “Kris, as an alumnus of our Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, is a perfect example of the type of artist we like to work with; young, exciting, innovative and with a unique viewpoint.”
Growing up in California, Kris has a deep attachment to the ocean, especially the Central Coast region, which he and his wife visit every year. Upon learning that the Monterey National Marine Sanctuary celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2022, Kris was inspired to create a piece highlighting the role of ocean sanctuaries. He drew upon the story of Persephone’s abduction, soundtracking the separation of a mother and daughter whale after leaving their sanctuary, and their eventual reunion. Kris’ “ÁSYLO” (meaning “sanctuary” in Greek) highlights the majesty and depth of the ocean, the beauty of whale song, and his own personal connection to the Pacific.
“I’m so incredibly honored to have been commissioned for this piece by the Monterey Jazz Festival,” says Bowers. “Having started going to the festival as a kid and participating in the High School Jazz Competition, I established a relationship with the Monterey Bay pretty early on. Now as an adult, my wife and I have developed a deep love and relationship with that area, visiting at least once or twice a year to immerse ourselves in nature and be near that part of the Pacific Ocean. It has become a second home for us and I’m excited to pay homage to that area with this piece.”
Bowers has become one of the film and TV industry’s most in-demand composers, writing for hit shows like Bridgerton, Dear White People and When They See Us, and acclaimed movies like King Richard and Green Book. His forthcoming credits include the drama series We Own This City and The Haunted Mansion.
The Monterey Jazz Festival first started commissioning original works from artists in 1959. Previous commission artists include such jazz legends as Dave Brubeck, Duke Ellington and Gerald Wilson. Contemporary commission artists include Wayne Shorter, Maria Schneider, Billy Childs, Miho Hazama, Carla Bley, Toshiko Akiyoshi, and Christian McBride.
Monterey Jazz Festival celebrates its 65th Anniversary September 23-25, 2022, in the beautiful grass filled, oak-studded Monterey County Fairgrounds, nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Big Sur mountains, just minutes from downtown Monterey.