Monterey on Tour: Sands of Time

By Steven Libowitz   |   January 31, 2023
UCSB Arts & Lectures presents Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour on Sunday, January 29 at Campbell Hall

Taking the famed Monterey Jazz Festival out on its official tour for a third successive road trip (2020-22 were dormant) is just the latest MJF honor for pianist Christian Sands, a two-time Grammy nominee and former child prodigy who started playing professionally at 10. MJF is celebrating its 65th year as one of the world’s longest running and most iconic events in the genre, and 20th of organizing an official tour, but Sands has played Monterey five times before and served as the festival’s artist-in-residence from 2020-2022. 

So he’s not intimated but surely still supremely excited to be out on the road with the current all-star ensemble, which boasts a pair of multiple-Grammy-winning vocalists in Dee Dee Bridgewater and Kurt Elling, plus rising-star saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin, supported by Sands’ own trio rhythm section of bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Clarence Penn.

“When you get the chance to work with legends like Dee Dee and Kurt, every day is an amazing day,” Sands said. “It’s a lot of daily learning, but it’s also just filled with creativity. There’s a lot of juggling to implement all the styles and songs everybody wants to do as well as doing material that’s part of the Monterey Jazz Festival history.” 

It’s that latter part that adds an extra thrill for Sands, who expressed enthusiasm for creating new arrangements on songs that had been performed at the fest by icons like Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, or Dizzy Gillespie, or re-imagining “A Child is Born,” which Bridgewater sang with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra in her first visit to Monterey 40 years ago. 

“We bring our own spin to it,” Sands said. “And we’ve got our original songs we’ve written – like Lakecia’s tribute to John and Alice Coltrane – because we’re also part of that history. There are so many personal connections to Monterey, but we all bring a fresh energy to everything we do.” 

Not that the January 29 concert at Campbell Hall presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures needs more build-up given its lineup and legacy, but the show will be the final performance of the Western leg of the tour, with the members scattering until April.

“It’s that moment to just give everything you have,” Sands said. “We always do, but now we’re also really relaxed because we don’t have any more traveling or learning. There’s just that wonderful sense of ‘We’re here, and this is it.’” 

Find information and tickets at


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