“Super rich kids with nothing, but loose ends
Super rich kids with nothing, but fake friends.”
— Frank Ocean, “Super Rich Kids”
No, Frank Ocean isn’t playing at Blue Note Jazz Festival in Napa—considering how his last performance went, he’s probably not playing any festivals anytime soon. But I’m reminded often of his classic diatribe on privilege in “Super Rich Kids” when I’m in the swing of summer festival season. Look, I love Outside Lands more than most people, but it’s no secret that much of it is an arena of privilege; a sea of mostly white, private school teenagers cavorting around Golden Gate Park on their parents’ dime.
If Outside Lands finds itself at the pinnacle of that summer music festival aspect, then Blue Note Jazz Fest is the antithesis of it. Last year’s maiden voyage for Blue Note was a unique production, curated by artist in residence, Grammy Award winning pianist Robert Glasper (who himself, also put down a stunning set at Outside Lands last year, natch.)
The lineup was a comprehensive collection of classic and buzzy jazz, hip-hop, and R&B led by Chaka Khan, a reunion from Yasiin Bey and Talib Kweli’s Black Star supergroup, Maxwell, and eye-popping nightly jam sessions led by Glasper surrounded by musicians from throughout the three-day fest’s slate.
And perhaps the most refreshing part of the weekend, was that the attendees were mostly Black folks, who’d flocked to Napa County for the weekend from the Bay and beyond to soak in the splendor of the mostly Black artists that people of all backgrounds all fawn over. One famous comic hosted the main stage and often made jokes about how there had never been this many Black people in wine country before, and went as far as to rename it the “Nappy” Valley.
But look, this is not a review of last year’s Blue Note Jazz Fest, it’s an attempt to share the stoke because it’s back… and the lineup is once again, a stellar collection of talent that merits your attention. From Friday July 28-July 30, the festival will be going down in its new home, the Silverado Resort in Napa (last year’s was at the Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena). Your headliners are Mary J. Blige, Nas, and Chance The Rapper, with nightly superjams led by Glasper featuring icons De La Soul (RIP Trugoy), vocalist Lalah Hathaway with multi-instrumentalist Terrace Martin, and decorated R&B singer Bilal. If I have piqued your attention, then you know good music.
And it doesn’t stop there. The sleek mish-mash lineup features throwbacks like Rakim & DJ Jazzy Jeff, Digable Planets, and George Clinton, alongside contemporary heat from Anderson.Paak and Knxwledge’s NxWorries, singers Ari Lennox and Meshell Ndegocello, guitarist Gary Clark Jr., rappers Cordae and Rapsody, and the surging Gen Z jazz of Domi & JD Beck. There’s even jazz club staples like trumpet player Keyon Harold, saxophonist-singer Kenneth Whalum and eclectic bassist Mononeon.
The beauty of moving to the Silverado Resort venue is that Blue Note Jazz Fest is now a less than 10 minute drive from downtown Napa. So it solves the drunk driving elephant in the room for people looking for reasonably located accommodations near the fest—you can just stay at the resort, too. It also makes after parties with cats like 9th Wonder, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and Paak (with an all-vinyl DJ set), more palatable without necessitating a 20-mile drive back from St. Helena.
So consider yourself notified that there’s an alternative to the prevailing megafests. A more culturally diverse one that doubles as a weekend getaway in wine country (or just a day trip). Cause at the end of the day, a healthy festival ecosystem should offer options for people from all walks of life. We’re too often catering options to white people, and leaving the Black, Latinx, Asian, etc.. populations either in the dust, or settling for what they can get on a lineup that doesn’t place them at the center of the curation. Welcome back to Napa, Blue Note Jazz Fest.
BLUE NOTE JAZZ FEST July 28-30, Silverado Resort. Tickets and more info here.