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Blue Note Jazz Festival highlights expansive history of Black music

 A crowd of people in front of the main stage at Blue Note Jazz Festival
Courtesy of Blue Note Entertainment Group
The Blue Note Jazz Festival took place at Silverado Resort in Napa Valley on July 28 - 30, 2023

In celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, Blue Note Jazz Festival highlighted the expansiveness of Black music with a thread that wove back to the invention of jazz and the innovation, improvisation, and convention-breaking that led to hip-hop. The sun-drenched, three-day affair, which took place at Silverado Resort in Napa from July 28 -30, featured a lineup not only stacked with the pioneers of the genre that influenced the world but also showcased the status of modern jazz music and the next generation of artists carrying the torch into the next 50 years.

Hosted once again by Robert Glasper and Dave Chappelle, Blue Note was a joyful affair taking festival-goers from iconic moment to iconic moment: from Jazzy Jeff’s turntable mastery alongside Rakim’s lyrical flows, and Anderson.Paak in a Barbie-pink suit leading a train of dancing ladies, to George Clinton jamming with De La Soul and the all-hands-on-deck singalong that saw Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, Maceo from De La Soul, Talib Kweli and Rakim appear together on the Black Radio stage.

For those who went seeking a jazz experience, the Blue Note stage also served up a feast of unforgettable treats, notably, Bobby McFerrin appearing with his children Taylor and Madison for a masterclass in the use of voice as an instrument. English drummer Yussef Dayes and experimental bassist MonoNeon both played sets that showed the limitlessness of Black creativity and illustrated the thoughtful curation of the festival.

To close out on Sunday, Yasiin Bey took the stage during Chance the Rapper’s set to belt a few lines from “UMI Says” off his 1999 album “Black On Both Sides,” made all the more poignant by the fact that Bey’s mother just recently passed away. It was a moving and perfect end to the weekend where Black excellence, Black joy, Black love, and Black music were undeniably on display.

See more images from the weekend: