Dave Chappelle chairs a historic weekend of music and laughs at the Napa Valley Blue Note Jazz Festival

Dave Chappelle (left) and Snoop Dogg appear with musical collective Dinner Party Friday at the Blue Note Jazz Festival. Photo: Mathieu Bitton

Dave Chappelle made history in Saint Helena.

The rude comedian took over the Charles Krug Winery for the inaugural Blue Note Jazz Festival in Napa Valley on Friday, July 29, bringing together a motley crew of artists on the Black Radio stage for a jam session that included sax solos, a few jokes and even a few freestyle rap duos.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it will be a great memory tonight. The first night Blue Note hosted a jazz festival in Napa Valley,” said Chappelle, who seemed keen to put the recent controversy surrounding his solo shows and Netflix special. “The closest” aside for the weekend. “Prepare to have good teeth and purple, mothers, we have wine tonight.”

Taking the stage about 15 minutes late for Friday’s closing all-star concert, Chappelle and musical collective Dinner Party – along with ringmaster and festival pianist Robert Glasper, tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington, keyboardist and producer Terrace Martin – brought thousands of festival-goers to their feet for a nearly two-hour set.

Dave Chappelle (left) and Robert Glasper appear at the Blue Note Jazz Festival. Photo: Mathieu Bitton

Telling the crowd that he ends up with his little finger when he drinks and generally poking fun at Wine Country’s posh and proper reputation, Chappelle rapped to the beat of Notorious BIG’s 1995 classic “Get Money” and proclaimed that it was the “first time Northern Cali had seen so many black people around. He then jokingly renamed the town “Nappy”, prompting thunderous laughter among the intergenerational and diverse crowd.

Surprise guests during the set included rappers Yasiin Bey (also known as Mos Def) and Talib Kweli, comedian Kat Williams and trumpeter Christian “Chief Adjuah” Scott for what looked like a weekend preview, as everyone but Williams is expected to hit one of the three outdoor festival stages. Even the rest of the rhythm section — bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Chris “Daddy” Dave, who were part of Glasper’s classic Robert Glasper Experiment lineup — would lead their own bands over the three-day festival.

“There’s no place I’d rather be,” Chappelle said. “This stage is populated by virtuosos.”

Napa Valley’s Blue Note Jazz Festival: What to Know About the Three-Day Concert Hosted by Dave Chappelle

Snoop Dogg performs with Dinner Party at the Blue Note Jazz Festival. Photo: Mathieu Bitton

Calling the latest star of the night, he billed Snoop Dogg as “a cultural miracle” – “the same man who rapped ‘bitches ain’t s—’ (and) was also on ‘Sesame Street’.”

Napa Valley’s Blue Note Jazz Festival: What to Know About the Three-Day Concert Hosted by Dave Chappelle

Snoop, who performed with his supergroup Mount Westmore at the BottleRock Napa Valley festival in May, went through a selection of his hits that spanned the 90s and early 2000s, from “Nuthin’ but a G Thang” and “Gin and Juice” to “Drop It Like It’s Hot” interspersed with masterful Dinner Party jazz beats.

“I like that jazzy s—” he proclaimed.

The 161-year-old Charles Krug winery has been transformed into a 21st century music festival setting, with two intimate stages – Blue Note Napa Stage and Garden Stage – in addition to the phoneless Black Radio Stage, where festival-goers are expected to place their smartphones in Yondr pouches, standard procedure for Chappelle events. There were also elevated viewing sections, indoor Instagram-ready backdrops, and multiple merchandise booths with branded festival gear, amid Napa Valley food and wine options that patrons expect from Wine events. Country.

Not quite on par with BottleRock, which hosts over 100,000 attendees, Blue Note has cultivated a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere, with plenty of room for fans to spread out throughout the cellar. This vibe extended to the festival times, which only seemed like a vague suggestion as to when artists should take the stage.

As expected for a new festival, there were other logistical issues, including a messy parking lot where it took some patrons up to an hour to exit the grounds.

Still, the opening day was decidedly a creative and live success.

“It’s like a dream,” Washington told The Chronicle backstage after his set on Black Radio’s main stage. “I told Rob it was the dream lineup for any musician who really loves music. It’s, like, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of music in one place.’ So it’s an honor to be here.

Earlier in the evening, audiences were treated to tunes from Chaka Khan, Kenny Garrett, Alex Isley and Madlib, among others.

Madlib is present at the Blue Note Jazz Festival. Photo: Mathieu Bitton

After successfully presenting shows at Charles Krug Winery for the past few years, Blue Note Entertainment President Steven Bensusan said he sees an opportunity to fully utilize the property for a fan and artist experience. high.

In addition to the three musical stages, the artists’ grounds nestled behind the trees in the cellar featured amusement park-style amenities such as a cornhole, ping-pong table, side-by-side basketball challenge and even a half-court basketball facility.

“We wanted to create a warm environment for the artists backstage and their bands, where everyone hangs out with each other,” Bensusan explained, noting that many of the artists at the festival have played together before and maybe even been classmates at one time. The goal was to allow artists and their families to reunite, he said.

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Chaka Khan performs on the Black Radio stage. Photo: Mathieu Bitton

That sense of camaraderie was also evident on stage, with Washington providing a guest solo on Khan’s Prince-penned 1984 hit “I Feel for You,” when the diva took to the Black Radio stage just as the sun was beginning to set.

“It’s very exciting for people who grew up listening to Robert Glasper adding their own stuff to it and taking it somewhere new,” Blue Note Records president Don Was told The Chronicle.

Although Blue Note Entertainment and Blue Note Records are not affiliated, Was celebrated that his label’s acts were well represented at the festival in performances by artists such as Domi & JD Beck, bassist/producer Derrick Hodge and tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland.

Domi of Domi & JD Beck performs on the Blue Note Napa stage. Photo: Mathieu Bitton

“It’s incredible validation for all these artists that you can actually have a whole festival with this stuff that 10 years ago was fringe music,” Was said. “It’s a very big turning point.”

Indeed, Chappelle made sure the crowd knew that “we are all witnesses to history.”

“It was the first night…and we did it,” he said. “Thank you very much. Let the festival begin.

The Blue Note Jazz Festival Napa Valley continues through Sunday, July 31, with scheduled appearances from Thundercat, Flying Lotus, Corinne Bailey Rae, Maxwell and more.

Freelance writer Yoshi Kato contributed to this story.



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