Sparked by his fondness of jazz, enthusiastic Concord automobile dealer Carl Jefferson persuaded a handful of friends to help him create the Concord Jazz Festival. The city matched his and their contributions, and the eager group held its first festival on an undeveloped field adjoining the high school.
At that 1969 turnout of more than 17,000, Jefferson knew he was correct the public is hungry for musical dishes when top quality artists serve them.
While extremely happy over the initial success, he envisioned a facility where those in jeans would feel as welcome as those in more formal attire. What he brought into realization, in May 1975, is the Concord Pavilion, built at a cost of $4.5 million. The pavilion sits on the eastern edge of Concord, without the outside walls of a building. Thirty-five hundred listeners may sit under a roof, and fortyfive hundred more may lounge on the lawn, picnicking or reclining while they enjoy some of the country's greatest performers.
No theater for the exclusive use of the elite, the Concord Pavilion offers a varied fare. Presenting ballet, symphony, rock, and traditional jazz, this Concord facility draws its audience from all over the Bay Area. Attendance remains high and makes it a moneymaker for the City of Concord. It is unique in Northern California, and its creator is a public-spirited dynamo with an affection for all music for music's sake.
A CONSTANTLY GROWING schedule of cultural events prepared the community for businessman Carl Jefferson’s idea to start an outdoor summer jazz festival. Planned by a committee of 20 citizens, the first Concord Summer Festival was held in the open at the Concord Boulevard Neighborhood Park on August 26. 1969. Jazz enthusiasts from all over Northern California came to hear such artists as Oscar Peterson, Pearl Bailey Peter Nero, George Shearing, Ella Fitzgerald, Gerry Mulligan, and Dave Brubeck. Performances by the San Francisco and Oakland symphonies were also popular.
The festival grew to such proportions, both in audience numbers and in performance quality, that music critics from the New York Times and Saturday Review compared it favorably to Woodstock and Wolf Trap.
Cowell Historical Society