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Live Reviews

50th Monterey Jazz Festival Sets Record

By Published: October 24, 2007
The billing of marquee jazz vocalist-pianist Diana Krall on Saturday surely helped set this year's attendance record. Greeted with whistles by the audience, the striking blonde responded with a broad smile, adding that the reception was very encouraging because she had just recently given birth to twins. She then performed for well over an hour, leaving the audience wanting more. It becomes increasingly apparent over the years that her excellence as a pianist contributes to her skills as a jazz singer. Her stylings were those of a complete musician, someone knowing the music inside-out, as evidenced in the expressive phrasing and flawless timing.

A few of the other numerous highlights:

  • The Dave Holland Quartet. These innovative players raised the bar with their music— bassist Holland the hub around which dynamic tenor player Chris Potter and Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rublacaba revolved, with drummer Eric Harland driving the engine.
  • Terrence Blanchard Quintet. In addition to leading his stirring orchestral piece, he and his group turned in an impressive show on the Bill Barry Stage Friday night. "Raising the roof is an apt cliché here as Blanchard strolled from player to player, his trumpet urging them on—the interplay truly exciting.
  • Jazz Gallery pianists. Each evening in the intimate Gallery outstanding piano players played the entire evening. We took in Cyrus Chestnut, who dug down to his soulful gospel roots while swinging with the fervor of an Oscar Peterson or Art Tatum. On Sunday, we heard Jackie Terrason, whose percussive explorations were as cutting-edge as the lyricism of his ballads was soft and subtle.
  • Atsuko Hashimoto on the Hammond B3 organ. This delightful young organist from Japan and her journeymen American cohorts—Jeff Hamilton, drums and Houston Person, tenor sax—displayed the essence of jazz, the oft-quoted Whitney Balliett phrase "the sound of surprise, in their three-way musical conversations—one playing a riff, the other picking it up and answering—and then some. After Frank Foster's "Shiny Stockings, a listener might have walked out exhilarated, knowing what makes jazz so great.

And there are always serendipitous moments—dropping by a stage, not knowing who's playing and then being rewarded beyond expectations. For instance, we looked in on the Gallery and were stopped short by Smith Dobson, a new voice on vibes who swept up the listener into his lush textures and exotic bossa nova rhythms. Another time, music coming from the Garden Stage sounded like a reunion of the ghosts of guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephane Grappelli. Hurrying toward the sound, we arrived in time to discover the Hot Club of San Francisco—a reincarnation of le Hot Club de France from over 50 years ago.

Always, one of the great pleasures is strolling the fairgrounds, looking over all the eclectic merchandise on display and checking out the mouth-watering food. We decided years ago not to leave the fairgrounds for dinner with such delicious items on hand—barbecued ribs and turkey legs, in addition to Korean, Thai and Cajun specialties and much more. On the first day, we had Caribbean grilled salmon with plantains, spinach and rice; next, a large turkey leg with corn-on-the-cob. Stoking up for the music to come, of course.

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