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Live Reviews

Monterey Notebook 2006, Part 2: Saturday

By Published: September 30, 2006
A low rumbling introduction finds Lloyd blowing freely but softly, occasionally hitting a phrase reminiscent of Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" (a reference that will sneak briefly into the set on several occasions). Suddenly, the veil drops and the group falls contentedly into a happy sway. But with this band—Lloyd on tenor, Geri Allen at the piano, Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland drumming—even a simple tune becomes rich with detail. Lloyd and Allen toy with the melody, grabbing hold briefly and then wandering off into new ideas, only to return again and again to the theme.

Lloyd is fleet-fingered and elusive on the old chestnut "Azure-Te (Paris Blues)," taken at a breathless pace. Bobbing his body incessantly, he wrings every ounce from his beboppish solo. Allen keeps the momentum going, concentration carved into her face as she digs deep into the middle range of her keyboard.

Moving to a ballad, Lloyd's playing becomes hushed but dense. Slow, breathy phrases dissolve into tortuous twists and eddies. Allen follows a similar strategy through her elegantly cerebral solo, then Rogers steals the moment with a touching bass soliloquy that is both calming and questing. In the next piece, Allen weaves a delicately textured introduction into a dynamic desert groove, then guides it through Latin shadings. Lloyd picks up the slinky refrain on flute for a bit of intellectual soul-jazz that suffuses the Arena with good vibes.

And that's just the first half of the set. He hasn't even played "Forest Flower" yet, assuming he will. As Lloyd said in his press event this afternoon, "Nobody has ever told me what to play. I've made a career out of that."

Whaich Way Do I Go?

9:00pm - The Fairgrounds

My carefully-drawn plans for the evening are beginning to fall apart.

Peter Apfelbaum's New York Heiroglyphics ensemble is crafting a fabulous West African groove at the Garden Stage, but their set is already coming to an end. The few minutes I do get to hear are compelling. Malian vocalist Abdoulaye Diabate is in the front of the crowded stage, singing a pretty song in Arabic about a music-loving genie. Apfelbaum bounces from instrument to instrument: piano, melodica, cowbell, flute. The rhythm is cyclical, repetitive, then takes wing with a lovely bridge.

The emcee persuades the band to play an encore, but this turns out to be a Clash song called "Straight to Hell." Nobody expects a Peter Apfelbaum band to play it safe, but the punk-jazz sound—complete with unpolished vocals—is a jarring contrast from the mellow groove of a few minutes earlier.

Heading over to the Coffee House Gallery to see what pianist Hiromi is up to, I am confronted by a line of people snaking through the lobby and out into the night air, all waiting for their chance to enter the overflowing room. This clearly isn't going to work out.

I then walk down to the Night Club to hear Lionel Loueke's trio. This is bound to be a highlight of the evening and Diabate has already put me in the mood for an African touch. There are plenty of open seats here, but the set-up is running way behind schedule, and I haven't budgeted enough time to stick around. I am beginning to regret leaving the Arena, where Dianne Reeves is now well into her performance.

But the journey is salvaged back at the Garden Stage. Bay Area trumpeter John Worley made a splash at Monterey last year, turning in some sparkling solos with Carla Bley's big band. Now he gets a stage to himself, presenting his Worlview septet in a series of tasty tropical grooves. Wayne Wallace gets plenty of space for his supple trombone work, and the leader provides several buttery flugelhorn breaks. On a Latinized version of "Social Call," Worley's warm, inviting solo wraps itself around the tune like a cozy blanket, just the thing for a chilly Monterey night.

Time for Tyner

11:00pm - The Arena

In a lineup as loaded as the Monterey Jazz Festival's, with so many paths available to find quality music, it's not often that any performance can be called an obvious listening choice. But when that performance involves McCoy Tyner's trio, plus the added star power of Bobby Hutcherson and Roy Hargrove, it's a no-brainer. And Tyner's group is quick to justify the audience's faith.

Vibraphonist Hutcherson quickly takes ownership of the first tune, a driving, exotic modal groove. His punchy, inventive solo channels the song into tight focus, then Hargrove takes hold and pulls it to stratospheric heights. Tyner's left hand provides crashing chords as his right skips downward across the keys, then he reverses course, and it's the right hand that crashes while the left brings the tone back up.

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