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Impressions of Monterey Jazz Festival 2017: MJF At 60

Walter Atkins By

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Had the pleasure of talking with guitarist/vocalist Mr. Sipp (real name Castro Coleman) just before he and his band took the main stage. His quietly calm demeanor did not betray the super soulful, bluesy energy nova he was about to unleash on the sun kissed Arena attendees. He offered his initial impressions of performing on the MJF's biggest stage: "Yeah this is my first time here. I'm glad to be here. The name is Mr. Sipp, the Mississippi blues man from McComb Mississippi. Excited about being here. Ready to knock a hole in it." His vibrant BB King influenced sound and his stage showmanship simply overwhelmed the packed venue. He "walked" on stage and later strolled deep into the enormous crowd playing directly to the people without a care. The raucous audience was on its collective feet. Mr.Sipp had enjoyed a successful thirty year gospel recording career, and toured with the venerable BB King on his private bus. The spirits of Chuck Berry and King were certainly enjoying this session. Mr. Sipp didn't just "knock a hole in it," he left a sonic crater on the MJF60 landscape.

Scott Andrews, the San Luis Obispo JazzFest Director was blown away watching Sipp and his solid band at the smaller Garden Stage later in the day. "Mr. Sipp not only walked into the crowd naturally playing amazing blues guitar-tasty riffs after riffs, but he's taking selfies all the way without missing a note!! He did it for about 15-20 minutes and a thousand selfies. Mind boggling!"

Dee Dee Brigewater's Memphis Project, a cozy collection of R&B pearls enjoyed a zestful response and brought up some fond musical memories. Caught the rising San Francisco based band Con Brio (With Spirit), lead by dynamic vocalist Ziek McCarter at the Garden stage. Having seen them twice before in the city, it was fun watching them give another electrifying performance at their first MJF visit.

The huge range of enthusiastic impressions and opinions were shared by MJF newbies and seasoned guests. A visitor said, "My name is Joe and this is my second time here at the Monterey Jazz Festival. My wife is a 20 year veteran of the MJF. She has a lot of brochures and articles on the festival and she's enjoyed a multiplicity of things here at the Monterey Jazz Festival. And I enjoy talking to you. Have a great day. We love it and will be back next year."

Talked with Blue Note Records President Don Was on the bustling fairgrounds. We discussed his meticulous work in preserving the bountiful heritage of the famous jazz label with the upcoming subscription-based Blue Note Review series (http://www.bluenotereview. com), while also bringing it forward with a new generation of gifted artists like Kandace Springs. He graciously had his friendly staff arrange some interview time in the Blue Note At Sea Tent with pianist Springs. Her stunning album Soul Eyes (Blue Note, 2016) was an impressive platform for her mature brand of singing, song writing and musicianship. Definitely looking forward to hearing her next album. Springs, who worked with Prince, also enjoyed working on modifying and driving her own cars.

When Springs was asked to share her fresh impressions of her inaugural MJF visit, the pianist /vocalist was excited. "First people are beautiful, the food good and (the) music was awesome. On the question of her early inspirations, she had an extensive list of influences. "For me it was my father's friend in Nashville Tennessee, Joe Wooten, one of the Wooten Brothers." She took a lot of piano lessons. "I was raised in Nashville and at a young age, I listened to Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday... Luther Vandross, Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum. Art Tatum was my first inspiration. I heard him when I was 10 years old. Another inspiration was the one and only Oscar Peterson...he is the man."

Springs described herself as an "old soul" and her riveting performance at the Night Club venue introduced her to many new fans. Ken, a serious jazz fan from Carmel asked this photojournalist for a recommendation and was amazed when he saw Springs. "I can say right away—that Kandace Springs was the highlight discovery of the entire weekend for me. Second time visitor Julie said, "Several guests artists captured my attention and heart. Pianist/vocalist Kandace Springs, James Carter, saxophonist, and Pedrito Martinez, percussionist. These three artists brought more passion, intensity and talent that was deserving of their own arena show."

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