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Live Reviews

52nd Monterey Jazz Festival Presents Best of Old and New

By Published: October 1, 2009
No heart in the arena was left un-tugged during the final segment. First, "Guantanamera" brought from Cuba to fame in the fifties, was given a hauntingly beautiful rendering with Tao reciting the humanistic lyrics of poet Jose Marti. Next the finisher—"This Land Is My Land." At its start, the crowd almost rushed the stage in delirious joy.



Later, band member Ruth Unger Merenda confided that Seeger doesn't perform much anymore—much less fly from up-state New York where he lives. It seems Seeger was coming West for a family member's wedding, thus enabling festival general manager Tim Jackson to sign him up. One of Seeger's conditions was that he be scheduled to put on a children's concert. As a result, late Saturday afternoon Bill Berry Stage was jammed with kids, grown-ups in back. The house boisterously sang along as soon as Seeger and friends began with "She'll Be Comin' Around the Mountain."



Lovano Seemingly Everywhere





Saxophonist Joe Lovano

Joe Lovano
Joe Lovano
b.1952
saxophone
was a ubiquitous presence during the three days. Saturday night he led off the Lyons Stage program. He was to have played with a quartet, featuring Hank Jones
Hank Jones
Hank Jones
1918 - 2010
piano
at piano. Jones was ill so John Scofield
John Scofield
John Scofield
b.1951
guitar
on guitar took his place. Previously, on Friday, Lovano had performed in a trio setting with John Patitucci
John Patitucci
John Patitucci
b.1959
bass
, bass, and Brian Blade
Brian Blade
Brian Blade
b.1970
drums
, drums, on Bill Barry Stage. In the tradition of saxophone trios pioneered by Sonny Rollins, this format gave players room to stretch out in their solos and closely interact with each. With Patitucci the nominal leader, selections from the group's recent release Remembrance were among numbers played.



With amazing dexterity of fingering, whether on electric or upright bass, Patitucci's performance was that of a genius, whether cutting-edge, straight-ahead or plain old funky. A highpoint was an excerpt from Rollins' "Freedom Suite." In his raucous solo, Lovano slipped in bits from other Rollins' hits—"Doxy," "Alphy," "Blue 7," among them. Blade's impeccable drumming was always right on, sensitive and at times furious.



Still going strong, Lovano's US FIVE performed Sunday night at Dizzy's Den in what could be called a "rhythmic binge." Two drummers encouraged the spree: Francisco Mela

and Otis Brown III. It was all wild fun, with Lovano's hyper tenor coming on like Big Jay McNeely and Coltrane combined. The great sax man will need his rest after that weekend.



Bridgewater and Marsalis Take Charge



Dee Dee Bridgewater

Dee Dee Bridgewater
Dee Dee Bridgewater
b.1950
vocalist
was a force of nature herself when she sashayed on to Lyons Stage Saturday. Her gaudy attire reflected her high-test personality. Whether swirling Flamenco fashion or prancing hip hop style singing rap, she was a mass of motion.



Sometimes she was soothing, though, with her soulful "Besame Mucho," and sometimes fiery as in her fierce condemnation of prejudice, "My Name Is Aksara." Her audience was with her all the way, particularly when she finished off with a fervid version of Les McCann's "Compared to What." Much appreciation goes to Edsel Gomez

Edsel Gomez
Edsel Gomez
b.1962
piano
for his arrangements and piano backing.



Late Saturday, on Lyons Stage, the great Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
b.1961
trumpet
ended the long day. This band is surely a national treasure, consisting of some of the world's best musicians, playing meticulously honed arrangements—from Lee Morgan's gorgeous ballad "Ceora" to Joe Henderson's escalating "A Shade of Jade." Marsalis, seated in the back row of the trumpet section, was at his best on the latter, with his solo soaring into the night sky.



Sunday night, one more person could not be shoe-horned into Dizzy's Den to see Marsalis and the Orchestra—it was that crowded. Monk's music was featured again with the sax section taking honors. (NOTE: It seemed like there were Ellington and Monk tributes daily from different groups.)



Student Musicians Star



Sunday afternoons in Monterey are given over to student performances. On Lyons Stage, the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra was featured. The band was made up of high school student finalists who came to Monterey last spring from throughout the country to compete for spots. The band is always impressive, playing crisp arrangements, led by Paul Contos—leaving ample room for student soloists.



This year Marsalis made a guest appearance and held forth in a gospel-powered rendition of Charles Mingus' "Better Get I In Your Soul." The afternoon sun was warm, but this tune was hotter, with the blistering trumpets of Marsalis and the student horns leading the way.



At the other venues, college and high school groups played all afternoon. It was heartening to see this swarm of students mingling with Marsalis and other jazz stars and listening to the music in the venues. The fine musicianship of these youngsters augers well for the future of jazz.



Moran, Brubeck, Akiyoshi: A Trio of Greats





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