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Live Reviews

Monterey Notebook 2007, Part 1: Friday

By Published: November 2, 2007
There's a rule of thumb on the Monterey Jazz Festival grounds: those who make up their minds early and stick to the plan are rewarded. The rest are left standing in line, and sometimes in the rain.

So as Papa Grows Funk's high-octane brand of soul issues from the Garden Stage, at least a hundred people have waited outside the still-jammed Night Club for upwards of an hour, hoping to get in to see Terence Blanchard's Quintet. Some of them will still be there after another hour. Across the way, a smaller but equally soggy bunch is trying to see the band Dumpstaphunk at Dizzy's Den. But there's plenty of room in the Coffee House Gallery, where the Craig Taborn Trio is about to start their third and final set of the night.

Dark and close, the Gallery is particularly suited to music with an intimate intensity, and it's often home to the Festival's more cerebral or esoteric performances. Taborn's is textbook.

The band opens with the mechanical angularities of "Little Red Machine," a set of overlapping, lopsided patterns that quickly become hypnotic—or irritating, depending on one's point of view. But underneath the seemingly static surface, all is movement. Thomas Morgan's bass solo flits around Taborn's gradually evolving rhythmic loops until the pianist begins adding his own embellishments, first in tiny doses, then in cascades.

Moving on to less regimented fare, the group nevertheless continues to sound like it's playing with building blocks, albeit oddly-shaped ones. All the players seem to physically fall forward into their instruments as they manipulate eerie fragments of abstract sound in a seemingly boundless space. Slowly, delicate crystalline structures are formed, then set in motion with great, loping strides before being casually smashed into a resolution.

So far, Monterey is living up to expectations.

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