My husband Richard and I started coming to these jazz concerts with dear friends around 2013 and quickly became hooked. What particularly impressed us was the diversity of artists and genres of jazz, quality of the talent, and enthusiasm of the audience. The sheer beauty of sitting under the trees at the Tennis Court and listening to great music was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I can’t remember every artist that we heard, but we have quite a few of their CDs to remind us (and trust me, we listen to them often).
Jazz at Filoli was founded in 1987 by Filoli’s then-Board President Charles “Chuck” Huggins. As CEO of See’s Candies, he sponsored the event, and See’s Candies has continued to be the sponsor for almost every season. Jazz radio legend Bud Spangler co-founded Jazz at Filoli with Chuck. The first “real” season was 1991, and Bud co-produced the series with vocalist Madeline Eastman first and then with music industry veteran Merrilee Trost. After 2007, the series was co-produced by Merrilee and Paul Blystone. Beginning in 2019, Entire Productions took over as producers.
After 30 years, you can imagine how long the list of jazz performers is. As I looked at that list, I’m impressed with the diversity of artists. Some are local performers, while some have a national or international presence. Some are Grammy winners or nominees. I enjoyed them all. This blog would go on forever if I mentioned everyone, so please allow me to highlight a few.
I think Gregory Porter was the first singer I heard at Filoli, and I’ve learned since then that he has a huge following. Some of the recognizable names that I heard were Pete Escovedo, Poncho Sanchez, Arturo Sandoval, The Brubeck Brothers Quartet, Monty Alexander, Pacific Mambo Orchestra, and Dmitri Matheny Group. It was great fun to hear Tuck and Patti—who knew they live right next door in Menlo Park and that it was their first visit ever to Filoli! And to add to the fun, when I checked into the Opening Night Reception of Holidays at Filoli in 2018, they were in line behind me. We had a wonderful conversation about their performance!
A few other fun facts. Some performers have clever (fun?) names, such as Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers, Mads Tolling and the Mads Men, Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, John Gill’s Yerba Buena Stompers, and Akira Tana and the Secret Agent Band.
One performer that particularly amazed me was Justin Kauflin, an amazing jazz pianist who is blind! I’ll never forget his performance. Also memorable was Taylor Eigsti, who grew up in Menlo Park. There’s so much jazz talent in the Bay Area!
You can imagine how much work it takes to plan, organize, and put on these jazz concert series every year. I’ve seen firsthand the collaboration of Filoli staff and volunteers working on the many, many tasks that attendees may not notice or be aware of. Staff and volunteers share the fun, enthusiasm, camaraderie, and sense of satisfaction.
As I reflect on the years that I attended the jazz series, many special memories flood into my mind. I’m forever appreciative of the performers, staff, and volunteers that contributed to my memories. It was always a perfect way to enjoy great music and the serene beauty of Filoli—all at the same time!