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Impressions of Monterey Jazz Festival 2017: MJF At 60

Walter Atkins By

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Violinist Regina Carter, the 2017 Festival Showcase Artist, was next up at Dizzy's Den and also played to a house overrun with delighted admirers. MJF veterans Paul & Jane from Florida commented on their festival experience. "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!"

While sharing a table at the open food court, first time MJF visitors Blake & Vivian said, "The festival was fantastic with great music, fellowship, weather and food! We are from Hampton, Virginia and plan to make it an annual event!"

Paul and Jane provided more observations. "Saturday was the real treat. The Clayton/Hamilton tribute and performance was masterful and one of the best festival commissioned works that I have seen. Leslie Odoms, Jr. was next. We were all waiting to see what this Broadway (Hamilton), commercial singing superstar was going to do in the belly of the Jazz Beast! He SLAYED! He was outstanding from A to Z and because of his theatrical training, he brought a stage presence rarely seen by a performer at the Jimmy Lyons."

The Tribute to Sonny Rollins was another MJF pinnacle. This star studded line up included Jimmy Heath, Branford Marsalis, Joe Lovano, Joshua Redman, Lewis Nash and Scott Colley. After the show, Marsalis was complimentary on every thing about MJF60 except the weather. It was too cold for him. On the over flowing Saturday night tribute for Sonny Rollins, Paul opined, "The closing with the "Four Tenors" of Marsalis, Lovano, Redmond and Heath to honor Sonny Rollins were what was needed to make this one of the most memorable evenings over the last 60 years. Looking forward to next year."


During his time in the main arena, celebrated hip hop artist/actor Common invited a lady from the crowd on stage. He serenaded her at a small table, while treating her to flowers and a glass of wine. The sharp lady noticed his shoe was untied, and showed her appreciation for the singer by graciously tying it for him. The Jimmy Lyons Arena enjoyed this moment and the entire show. A fan noted, "Common did his thing. Us old folks were a little skeptical but he won over the majority of the audience, especially with his sincere reverence to and respect for jazz, it's founders and practitioners. He had a 10 piece band and a sister behind him who could sing! His message was contemporary about what's going on in today' world. He is worth seeing."

The festival offered many other unexpected surprises in its far reaching scheduling. The Linda May Han Oh Quintet, lead by bassist Ho had an intriguing combination of musical styles and her vocalese.

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.


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