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District Jazz

18th Annual Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition

By Published: September 28, 2005
The audience may as well have stayed on its feet from that point on. For the next hour each of the competition judges emerged to put on a demonstration of the breadth and scope of jazz guitar styles. John Pizzarelli, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Clark Terry started off the pyrotechnics with a hard swinging, playful take on "They Can't Take that Away from Me , which in the hands of these masters became a nostalgic homage to the early days of jazz, particularly as Dee Dee and Clark Terry launched into a stunningly moving improvised scat and vocal duet. Proceeding apace, Russell Malone and Earl Klugh delivered a technically scintillating demonstration in the elegant possibilities of acoustic jazz guitar, followed by an exploration of abstract, free jazz by Bill Frisell, Pat Martino, Wayne Shorter, and Herbie Hancock. A highlight among highlights, watching these gifted artists of such varied style simultaneously blend and maintain their distinct voices illustrated better than perhaps anything else the heights of what modern jazz has become.

Waiting for silence to return to the hall, the house announcer soberly prefaced the night's concluding performance by reminding the audience of the traumatic crisis continuing to unfold in New Orleans, the cradle of jazz's origins. Dedicating the tune to the victims of hurricane Katrina, Stanley Jordan then took the stage to perform a poignant ode with Terrance Blanchard and Dee Dee Bridgewater that evolved slowly into a deeply-felt, bittersweet rendition of "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans .

With this, Herbie Hancock returned to the microphone to announce the final results of the guitar competition. After much deliberation, the judges concluded that Norwegian Lage Lund's graceful and imaginative interpretation of "Isfahan claimed first prize, with Miles Okazaki's crowd-pleasing improvisations and emotive playing taking what must have been a close second, and Dave Mooney's swinging style coming in third.

Clearly surprised, Lage Lund stepped forward to accept his prize to the crowd's loud applause. Then, to everyone's delight-including Lund-George Benson stepped from back stage to announce that the music was not quite over for the night. The awardee would now perform a duet with Benson. The two plugged in their guitars, and launched into an energetic version of "How High the Moon .

As the two played, exchanging and absorbing each other's ideas, it became clear exactly what this night was truly all about-honoring the transfer of jazz from one generation to the next, which in true jazz fashion was unfolding on stage before a live audience.

Photo Credit

Latshaw/Waldo—Brooks Institute of Photography

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