It looked like an ambitious undertaking when it was announced that the 50th Anniversary of the Concord Jazz Festival would include events around the community highlighted by an all-star concert at the Concord Pavilion.
That evening’s event presented by Live Nation and Concord Records was as hot as the August weather and gave the 9000 in attendance a taste of the genre’s variety.
“It was a huge success on every level,” a still excited Concord Records president John Burk told the Pioneer days after the Pavilion concert. “This was a great celebration of what started 50 years ago by Carl Jefferson. It’s almost hard to describe my feelings how all things—artistically, audience turnout and the venue—came together. I’m so joyful and happy to be a part of such an amazing concert.”
Jazz luminaries including Dave Koz, Chick Corea, Poncho Sanchez & His Latin Jazz Band, The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra, Esperanza Spalding and more lit the Pavilion stage in a concert that lasted over seven hours. The Concord Blue Devils marched through the lawn area between a set.
Burk presented a seven-minute video his company produced showing the beginnings of the festival and the record company through the construction of the Pavilion. Burk and his partner Glen Barros, along with Carlos Santana and renowned television producer Norman Lear (a former partner in the label), shared remembrances on the video.
Congressman Mark DeSaulnier and Concord mayor Carlyn Obringer delivered proclamations to Burk and Pavilion general manager Aaron Hawkins during the day on stage at the Pavilion.
Burk, a De La Salle High grad, says he hopes “we can continue a really long run of the festival. Seeing the reaction of the audience during and after the concert brought it all home. People had a great time.” The festival was last held 15 years ago in 2004 at the Pavilion.
The jazz festival began in 1969 at what is now Dave Brubeck Park adjacent to Concord High School. The festival continued in the park through 1974, providing the impetus for the construction of the Pavilion, which opened the following May as “The House That Jazz Built.”
Jazz at DVC photo gallery
Local auto dealer and jazz devotee Jefferson developed the idea of the festival and guided it through its years in the park and then at the new Pavilion. From the festival’s success sprang the Concord Jazz record label started in Concord in 1973 when Jefferson realized that many of the legendary jazz musicians who came to the festival were unable to get their music recorded and released.
Next year is the 100th anniversary of Brubeck’s birth in Concord. Burk and festival organizers are hopeful they can replicate this year’s success in 2020. “We want to keep our heritage alive,” Burk added. Concord Records has been headquartered in Southern California for nearly two decades.
Concord Jazz is now part of Concord Music, the largest independent music company in the world with over 12,000 albums. The label has won over six percent of all GRAMMYs ever awarded.
The Take 10 days of the anniversary celebration in Concord also included a Sunday jazz concert at blazing hot Todos Santos Plaza, concerts at Diablo Valley College, The Veranda and Todos Santos Plaza and jazz-themed events at Concord Tap House, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor and Puesto in The Veranda.
The 50th Anniversary festivities conclude next Saturday, Aug. 24, with the final Java and Jazz presentation with Dr. Matthew Zebley on the Concord Historical Museum stage sharing the history of jazz, background on Concord native Brubeck and performing with his band. The Diablo Valley College educator is a composer, jazz artist and multi-instrumentalist. He will provide an in-depth look at West Coast Jazz, its composition and overall style.
Java and Jazz tickets at $5 are available at Eventbrite.com and at the door.