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Impressions of Monterey Jazz Festival 2017: MJF At 60

Walter Atkins By

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Another pleasing surprise was the Charleston South Carolina group Ranky Tanky (loosely means Get Funky in Gullah), also making their first appearance at Monterey on the Garden Stage. Based on the unique African American folk Gullah tradition, their contemporary jazzy soulful music was firmly based in their gospel up bringing. This was reflected in the stylishly delivered spiritual "That's Alright" sung by poised vocalist Quiana Parler (American Idol). Their self titled debut album also dropped during the busy MJF60 weekend. Trumpeter Charlton Singleton provided his impressions on their inaugural MJF visit. "Fantastic! Great receptive crowd. Good feedback from the audience after the show. Great hospitality. It was a great experience." Let's hope Ranky Tanky will be making more trips to Monterey in mid September.

The Tia Fuller Quartet with Ingrid Jensen was definitely worth checking out at Dizzy's Den. Alto saxophonist Fuller commented this was a "family affair" with her sister on piano. Renowned international vocalist and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angelique Kidjo also filled the main stage with her socially conscious world beat music. She celebrated the music of the revered Celia Cruz, the Queen of Salsa. Her flowing, soothing voice had people dancing in front and on the sides of the tall stage. Kidjo confidently sang and briefly walked through the elated throng during her concert.

One of the busiest people at the three day festival (besides Tim Orr and his crack staff & friendly volunteers) would have to be world class Cuban percussionist/singer Martinez. Besides leading his high octane Pedrito Martinez Group, his propulsive work was featured by multiple artists during the busy weekend. The same people dancing at his evening set in Dizzy's Den were also present at Kidjo's concert dancing at one side of the stage. Lead by a friendly Peruvian woman up front, they were quickly joined by dozens of other supporters moving and enjoying the Afro Cuban rhythms.

Late Sunday evening at the Night Club spot, the Chester Thompson Group with tenor saxophonist Howard Wiley held court. This date also featured two distinguished Santana alums: Hammond B3 master Chester Thompson and versatile vocalist Tony Lindsay. Tracks in the varied set included "Speak No Evil," "Clockwise," "Squib Cakes," "Birth of the Blues" (Lindsay) and "Nature Boy" featuring skilled vocalist Destani Wolf. One of the many jewels of the evening was the duet with Lindsay and Wolf on the haunting "Everything Must Change." Wiley contributed a stellar solo to the satisfying session.

For the sixty year MJF milestone, it was only fitting two living jazz paragons, Hancock and Chick Corea should close the Monterey Jazz Festival. Their touching performance resonated with the mesmerized audience. At the completion of their duet, powerful impressions flowed freely from those in attendance. "Herbie and Chick touched my heart and soul! I loved the creative variations of the venue." Deanna added, "The spirit of the crowd made the whole experience such an elixir."

Her sense of spirit and community was shared by others. Julie exclaimed, "The last performance of the festival in the Jimmy Lyons Arena- Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea's masterful piano duo sent me to another planet, a realm of unspeakable delicacies. I was in awe of the beautiful solemn musical mood that wafted over me." She added, "Wow what a weekend! Amazing piano duo and perfect ending to an incredible fest!"

The Monterey Jazz Festival 2017 was a blissful musical and spiritual heaven on earth for thousands of old and new supporters alike. After sixty ecstatic years, the MJF consistently continued to attract new artists and fans while rewarding the festival's faithful. The MJF60 installment clearly extended an already outstanding legacy. As a MJF60 staffer accurately commented its, "Still rocking at 60." And with the artistic direction of Tim Jackson, it should continue rocking and growing for years to come.

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