50th Annual MJF-For Nightprowlkitty

Friday Night
Dave Holland, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Chris Potter, Eric Harland

Dave Holland is a cerebral bassist whose works are always introspective and interesting. Rubalcaba is a fine Cuban pianst whose powerful playing
helps set off Holland’s quieter moods. A great, tight group-very cool.

John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension

McLaughlin is a great musician and guitarrist. He was back to his 70’s fusion style here though, and with the rain starting, it was an ordeal. Too many notes.

Issac Delgado

Listened to him on the way home, in the pouring rain. As the arena venue is outside, we bailed before the deluge hit. September rain is very rare here. Wasn’t particularly impressed with what I heard, kind of popish and certainly not the latin standard of Puente or Tjader in years past.

Saturday Afternoon-dedicated to the blues

James Hunter

This guy was on fire! An English band doing 50’s style blues and rock & roll. Hunter was funny, energetic and capable of sounding like anyone from Sam Cook to Chuck Berry, to Fats Domino Little Richard and James Brown. He had a falsetto he could reach that was better than Brown’s screech and the moves to back it up. Very entertaining…give him a listen, but in person is the key.

Otis Taylor Band

Son of a blues legend, Taylor had his charming and beautiful daughter playing bass for him. Started his set playing banjo to a strong Louisiana blues backing. Went on to range over some traditional material. He was kind of reticent at first, but when he wound up, he was down on the arena floor shouting the blues and revving the joint up. Kind of a cajun smoked Delta sound.

Los Lobos

Tim Jackson, the festival head, must feel its necessary to bring in rock and roll groups that have a kind of appeal to younger fans or potential ticket buyers. Too loud, too much rock and roll. Short on blues and feeling.

Saturday Night

Terence Blanchard Quintet with Monterey Jazz Festival Chamber Orchestra – PREMIERING “REQUIEM FOR KATRINA”

One of the festival highlights for me. Very moving work done with string orchestral backing. Fantastic quintet with all the players very very good.  Place was as quiet as I’ve ever heard it, befitting the subject matter and  musical excellence.  This is out in CD….see if you can listen to it…beautifully done.

Gerald Wilson Orchestra with Special Guest Kenny Burrell Premiering “Monterey Moods”

Gerald Wilson is 89 and still leading, with gusto and verve, his own long standing band in his own composition comissioned for the fest. I didn’t like the pieces, all built around a 3 note theme to suggest the word Mon-te-rey, all that much, but there were moments. Kenny Burrell is a legend and a hero of mine as a jazz guitarrist whose playiing covers every facet of the guitar repetoire. He seemed a little out of place with the big band, and his playing wasn’t up to what I remember. Not the best use of his talents. But he too is getting older…must be in later 60’s now.?

Diana Krall

Had just seen her in concert in May at the Mountain Winery. Was impressed here with how she’d gotten her piano chops back into shape after marriage/twins. Her voice and sensibility with lyrics, as always, fantastic. She has matured into a confident and engaging performer.
Backed up by her trio plus Jeff Hamilton on drums. John Clayton, her bassist, and Hamilton have their own big band based in LA and are both consumate side-men. Her guitarrist, Anthony Wilson, is becoming quite a fine player and happens to be Gerald Wilson’s son. He also performed with his father on the Monterey Moods piece.

Sunday Afternoon:

Los Angeles County High School For The Arts / Winning Big Band from the Next Generation Festival Orchestra

Got there a bit late on Sunday p.m. The day is devoted to kids from all over showing off how they’ll keep jazz alive in the face of all the crappy pop stuff crowding the airwaves. It is always astounding to hear how sophisticated these youngsters are. They play their butts off, leaning into the music as only a teenager can do, with boundless energy and complete abandon. I missed this first group, but many were part of the next act as well.

Next Generation Jazz Orchestra with Artist-In-Residence Terence Blanchard

Blanchard played with these kids, not in front of them. It was great to watch him interact with all the players, from guitar to bass, and of course, with the horn section. The band played some very complex stuff, full of great harmonies and capped by high quality soloists.

Ornette Coleman 3 Bass Quintet

Its as hard to say anything meaningful about Ornette as it is to understand him sometimes. His quintet was a trip to listen to. Acoustic bass, stand-up electric bass, and a five-string ‘guitar’ bass w/ drums.
He played some of his typical avant avant avant guard stuff, and also some beautiful new stuff with haunting rhythms formed by all the crossing bass lines beneath his solos. Drummer was playing some amazing rhythmic stuff tying it all together. A couple of the pieces were so loaded w/harmonic overtones is was like listening to gongs playing melody…very cool. Then some of it was honk and squawk…which I’ve never resonated with, but one thing is for sure, Ornette is in a musical class by himself as a thinker and performer.

Sunday Evening:

Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary All-Stars with Terence Blanchard, Nnenna Freelon, Benny Green, James Moody, Kendrick Scott & Derrick Hodge

Benny Green was leading this. He is a great young pianist with a powerful, be-bop influenced attack. The band was very tight and Blanchard’s quintet made up the backbone playing again with verve,
agility and feeling. Green was very engaging, I had no idea he was so young.  I didn’t particularly care for Nnenna Freelon’s vocals, but I don’t fault here, I don’t the arrangements were were suited to her talents.

Dave Brubeck Quartet with special guest Jim Hall

I would bet this was Dave’s last visit. He seemed quite old and frail, getting up slowly from the piano, and not saying very much except with his music. I had tears in my eyes listening as it took me back to my own youth in the early ’60’s when Brubeck was my introduction to jazz which became a lifelong love for me. Listening to Take 5, I could actually see myself on my bed, reading and digging Time Out/Time Further Out etc.,
and dreaming of how I would make it big as a flamenco player. Sweet and bitter sweet. Dave’s playing was great, given his age 84/5, and his band, all older guys, were as cool as can be. Jim Hall, like Burrell with Wilson, seemed a little lost, as though there hadn’t been much rehersal together. Hall is another of my guitar heroes, a guitarist in the Bill Evans mode of introspection.

Sonny Rollins

Knocked down the house completely. His colossal frame staggering around with his horn, blowing like a madman, bent to his task with love, passion and consummate feeling. His band was tearing it up behind him,
keeping him up and on top of his game. His last number was a long, extended caribbean-oriented piece a la St. Thomas that just blew us all away. He got standing O’s after every piece it seemed, and at the end, vowed to be back 50 years from now to play again as he did at the first festival. If you could have seen and heard him, of that you’d have no doubt!

So….50 years of jazz at Monterey in the books. One of the reasons I ended up here was because I wanted to be close to this, to feel the vibe, and to see my heros play before they went into the dark. I’ve been fortunate, in the last 25 years, to have attended a good many of them.
I got to see Diz, Tjader, Tito Puente, Oscar Peterson, Sarah Vaughn…on and on…never saw Miles or Bill Evans though, damnit. This year was a treat, because at almost 60, I realize I may not have all that much longer to listen, and the greats are passing from our lives all too quickly.


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  1. MJF 1975

    and while we’re on the subject of great keyboard players, check out Dr. Lonnie Smith on the Hammond B-3 at MJF last year.

    If you’ve never seen the good doctor live, you don’t know what you’re missing.

  2. Thanks so much for this wonderful review, carmel.  Makes me wish I could have been there — especially to hear the young folks play their thing and watch Blanchard play with them.

    Saw Sonny Rollins years ago on a jazz cruise from Manhattan, he was spectacular, not surprised to hear he still is.

    Amazed Brubeck was still able to play, he is also a favorite of mine.

    I’m going to read this more than once, just sends me to a place I want to be.  Can’t tell you how much I appreciate this.

    And I think I’m going to check out James Hunter.  I’m a big fan of 50’s blues and r&b — Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter (“Juke” is one of my faves), Jimmy Reed, Big Joe Turner, LaVerne Baker, Ruth Brown, Big Mama Thornton — gads, I could go on forever.

    I’m in a great mood now, woo whoo!

  3. on the keyboard. Your ears must be elated. So many wonderful players. I didn’t know that Jim Hall was still around. His CDs with Bill evans calm me, and he is an old hero of mine too.

    thanks for sharing this musical feast.

  4. one of my favorite guys, James Hunter.  Wrapping my head around one of his tunes – I just can’t quite follow the chord progression but it still moves me, baby!

    OK.  Gotta put in a word for my man and fellow New Orleanian, Terrance Blanchard!  Check him out.

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