Monterey Notebook 2007, Part 1: Friday
Backed by electric guitar and the metronomically perfect time of drummer Eric Bolivar, sousaphonist Matt Perrine wrenches out a remarkable, chattery solo with the suppleness of an electric bass, the physicality of a one-man marching band and the breathless creativity of a human beat-box. But the band is still warming up.
Morphing briefly into an Afrobeat juggernaut that threatens to derail like some runaway Nigerian train, the group instead slips sideways into psychedelic soul with a heavy dose of New Orleans-style mourning. p>
The audience follows every twist. Indeed, it takes me some time to realize that the tambourine accompaniment I've heard throughout the set is not coming from the stage at all, but from the back row of the house. But as the beat goes on in Dizzy's Den, the main events are just getting under way in the Arena...
Dave Holland: Four Corners
9:20 p.m.The Arena
The persistent drizzle has left small but dastardly puddles in the center of each seat of the Arena, hidden in the darkness until sat upon by unwary jazz fans. But any thought of discomfort is quickly dispelled by the finely-tuned all-star machine on the stage.
Dave Holland, looking professorial in the spotlight, is spinning a virtuosic monologue on bass, the fingers of both hands flying like those of a pianist before settling into the indigo balladry of "Veil of Tears." Saxophonist Chris Potter gently probes the corners of this tune, and pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba comments on these explorations through gauzy arpeggios and furtive statements. Drummer Eric Harland, who was declaring himself to the heavens only minutes before in a powerful solo, now slinks stealthily underfoot as sax and piano coil into ever-tighter knots.
In Potter's popping "Ask Me Why," the saxophonist describes taut orbits around Holland's shifting yet gravitationally stable axis. Rubalcaba hops and scurries while Harland pushes the band smoothly but firmly into the fire. He easily overpowers the sound of a plane passing low overhead, turning it into a mere accent concluding a masterful set.
DJ Logic: But Is It Jazz?
9:45 p.m.Lyons Lounge
Off the beaten path, beyond the Arena and past the point where the Monterey Jazz Festival normally draws its borders, there is a new alley called Lyons Lane, named after the Festival's legendary founder, Jimmy Lyons. The Lane houses a historical exhibition, with reproductions of old posters and newspaper clippings recalling fifty years of jazz magic, decade by decade.
From beyond this display, perhaps representing the future, comes the unfamiliar thump of dancefloor electronica.
Yes, this is still part of the Festival. "Lyons Lounge" is a tent at the very end of the lane, decorated with palm trees, parquet floor and soft white cubes for chairs. Here, DJ Logic and Vinnie Esparza are tag-teaming sets throughout the weekend, slapping a steady stream of vinyl discs onto a pair of turntables.
Attendance is sparse despite the rain outside, with many of the seats occupied by somewhat bemused older patrons. The younger ones get it though, and they move fluidly to the heavy beats. For his part, DJ Logic is keeping the flow fresh and hard-hitting. Swing horns and fusion basslines collide and diverge kaleidoscopicallysampled, chopped and pasted back together. It's quite a good set, until one especially harsh track succeeds in clearing most of the room.
Still, the evening is young, and this nook is mostly undiscovered. I wonder how it will look at a friendlier hour, say 11:00 Saturday night?
John McLaughlin: Out of the Rain
10:10 p.m. Jazz Theatre
With the rain picking up again during John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension's set in the Arena, the holders of less expensive grounds tickets suddenly hold an advantage of sorts: they can watch the set indoors, thanks to a live video simulcast. Most of the audio fidelity is lost by the Jazz Theatre's small, muddy-sounding speakers, but in exchange the 200 or so people camped in here get a great view via close- up camera angles... and the privilege of staying dry.
McLaughlin's set is an exercise in fusion wizardry, as each player tosses off dazzling Technicolor solos in turn. Five-string bassist Hadrien Féraud and keyboardist Gary Husband continually threaten to steal the show, only to be matched time and again by McLaughlin's own blazing, authoritative proclamations. Drummer Mark Mondesir, who has plenty of pyrotechnic flair himself, looks like he's having the time of his life as he barrels through McLaughlin's tricky, rhythmically complex compositions. And even here, where the audience sits in total isolation, McLaughlin earns resounding applause.
Craig Taborn: (De)construction
11:00 p.m.Coffee House Gallery