As the Blue Note Jazz Festival prepares to take over Napa Valley, California for a first time three-day experience, Robert Glasper—the official Artist-in-Residence—shared insight on how it all came to be.
Stemming from his annual residency at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York, the Black Radio artist pitching the idea of turning it into a festival for quite some time. “What really draws people in to the Blue Note is that, it’s a small club. So even when you’re in the audience, it’s kinda like you’re part of your show,” Glasper explained, noting that that type of intimacy attracts artists to perform as it takes them back to their humble beginnings.
He added that the festival “mirrors” the residency in that way. “It’s not a huge festival [and] that’s on purpose. We want to have that feeling of ‘Wow, this is special. Everybody couldn’t get in here.’ And you can really feel what’s going on, like you’re part of the family.”
Glasper isn’t the only recurring face guests will see throughout the weekend considered Dave Chappelle has been tapped to host the festival sets. The longtime friends met backstage at a Roots concert and they bonded over a mutual love of piano. “He’s one of those cats everybody wants to be around,” Glasper joked as he shared Chappelle being a frequent attendee during his annual Blue Note residency.
For the composer, “comedy and music has always gone hand-in-hand […] That was kinda part of the package.” Glasper later shared how he and Chappelle are a part of the Blue Note legacy in that way, reflecting on the days of Richard Pryor opening for Nina Simone.
Thankfully, the intimate festival will continue to honor those legacies while also respecting the “tradition of Jazz,” which Glasper explained, “always changes.”
“The true tradition of jazz is that you’re supposed grab from your surroundings. You’re supposed to be relevant and play from the now,” he stated as he concluded that there are no rules to jazz. “It’s supposed to be the freest music.”
Like Chappelle said, “if you don’t have tickets, you gon’ miss out.” Acts performing over the weekend include Maxwell, Erykah Badu, Chaka Khan, Yasiin Bey and Talib Kweli’s reunion as Black Star, Alex Isley, Thundercat, Anderson .Paak, Corinne Bailey Rae, Snoop Dogg, Goapele, and more. With these collaborative efforts spanning generations and genres, attendees can easily expect the unexpected.
The Blue Note Jazz Festival takes place from July 29-31 at the Charles Krug Winery in Napa, California.