In my wilder, more unforgiving days, I might have merely typed up the personnel and set list and submitted only that in review of Monterey Jazz Festival: Forty Legendary Years, and argued to the powers-that-be that if the reader couldn’t comprehend its abundant magnificence of music from the unadorned facts, my descriptive and persuasive prowess would be of slight use.
I must have grown either more wise or more foolish since then.
Make no mistake: Monterey Jazz Festival: Forty Legendary Years is singularly awesome in its depth and width and breadth. Across three CDs, it collects nearly four decades of performances at one of the best jazz festivals by some of the best jazz artists ever, beginning with the first jazz notes ever sounded at the Monterey County Fairgrounds (Dizzy Gillespie singing the "The Star Spangled Banner" through his unaccompanied trumpet in 1958), and concluding – not ending – with Joshua Redman (the scrapplin’ "Home Fries") and Herbie Hancock (his longtime favorite "Cantaloupe Island") from just last year (which must have maintained a "breakfast brunch" theme).
That "some of the best jazz artists" jazz is just no lie. Take, for example, Disc One: Tracks five through nine run consecutively through Cannonball Adderly, Thelonious Monk, The Duke Ellington Orchestra, Charles Mingus and Oscar Peterson – not to mention the Brubeck, Holiday and Mulligan on it too!
Oh, you might like some of this stuff more than others. "Don’t Let It Happen Here" is passionate, hard-driving Mingus at his conversational and democratic best, gruffly cranking the engine up without first checking to see if you’re onboard. Though that’s pretty much it.
But ALL of Monterey Jazz Festival: Forty Legendary Years is genuinely fantastic. The Modern Jazz Quartet’s version of "‘Round Midnight" is thoroughly exquisite; Gillespie’s "Tribute To Ralph Gleason" segues into "I Needs To Be Bee’d With" by The Count Basie Orchestra, which leads into Big Joe Williams’ "Goin’ To Chicago," as lusty and sharp a blues-flavored jazz triumverate as you’re ever likely to find.
It’s hard to imagine a more thorough, comprehensive and downright wonderful introduction and overview to the multi-faceted last four decades of jazz at the Monterey Jazz Festival. By the way, the songs and personnel are:
Disc One 1958 - 1973Personnel /
Record Label: Warner Bros.