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Impressions of Monterey Jazz Festival 2017: MJF At 60

Walter Atkins By

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I can say right away—that Kandace Springs was the highlight discovery of the entire weekend for me. —Ken, Carmel jazz fan
Monterey Jazz Festival
Monterey County Fairgrounds
Monterey, CA
September 15-17, 2017

The 60th edition of the long running Monterey Jazz Festival 2017 was well received. This year boldly continued the MJF's opulent tradition of presenting a special blend of fantastic jazz and other music genres in a casual multi stage setting.

Over the last six decades, this Northern California venue has seen extraordinary performances by Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Stan Getz, Modern Jazz Quartet, Dee Dee Bridgewater, The Heath Brothers, Terri Lyne Carrington and many other jazz luminaries. Featured high points of this weekend included major tributes to the eminent triumvirate of Sonny Rollins, Ella Fitzgerald and Thelonious Monk by current artists. The abundant roster of world famous artists was lavishly enhanced by other musicians including: Sean Jones, Tia Fuller, John Beasley's Monk'estra, Regina Carter, Ranky Tanky, Angelique Kidjo, Pedrito Martinez, Monsieur Perine, Kandace Springs, and Mr. Sipp.


One of the most unexpected impressions and comments of the distinctive festival was offered by Mike, a smiling MJF regular staffer and bee keeper. "Music is a pheromone for joy." Pam, another MJF staffer confidently added, "Still rocking at 60." These Friday night impressions set the tone for another intensely rich weekend of outstanding MJF music programming.

Ray Obiedo's Latin Jazz Project opened at the Garden stage and he happily mentioned his bassist Marc van Wageningen, (Tower of Power) had recovered from a train accident and was performing again at full strength. Regina Carter and her group presented the Simply Ella Tribute to the eternal Ella Fitzgerald for the knowledgeable listeners. It was a wonderful way to launch opening night at MJF60 on the expansive Jimmy Lyons Stage.

The capacity crowd stayed in place for Kenny Barron's Tribute to Dizzy At 100 set. Barron's special guests, Sean Jones, Roy Hargrove and Martinez were well chosen for the momentous date. The lethal one-two punch of trumpeters Jones and Hargrove generated a knock out standing ovation that filled the sweet Monterey night. Jones said he always wanted to teach and had combined his creative musicianship with education as the head of the Berklee College of Music's Brass Department.

Veteran attendees Paul & Jane from Florida commented on their festival experience and Jones. "A pleasant surprise! When I received the full line up in the mail prior to the festival, I was expecting a "good" #60. But, after the first night and the Dizzy tribute with Jones and Hargrove, my opinion started sliding toward outstanding. I deliberately went to see the Sean Jones Quartet at Dizzy's Den on Saturday afternoon to reconfirm that he was indeed for real. He was!"

The incomparable Herbie Hancock, fourteen time Grammy winner and 11 time MJF performer closed the opening night festivities with his band in grand style. Hancock's classic sounds included material from his ground breaking Head Hunters and Dis is da Drum albums. Backstage after his effervescent performance, the legendary pianist and music innovator was greeted by the legendary film star and MJF supporter Clint Eastwood. Legends and good friends abound at MJF60!


The Jimmy Lyons site provided a cool way to start the day by leading off with a band new to this photojournalist. Bogata based Monsieur Perine served up a provocative potpourri of fun Django gypsy jazz and vocals infused with a generous dose of Latin seasoning. It made for a very tasty sound & sight mix. They were followed by another artist on his maiden voyage to MJF, Mr. Sipp.


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