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Monterey Jazz Festival 2015, Part 2

Walter Atkins By

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The 58th edition of the storied Monterey Jazz Festival continued its long tradition of bringing its rich blend of both venerable and new artists to the historic Northern California venue.
2015 Monterey Jazz Festival
Monterey County Fairgrounds
Monterey CA
September 18-20, 2015

The 58th edition of the storied Monterey Jazz Festival continued its long tradition of bringing its rich blend of both venerable and new artists to the historic Northern California venue. This year's extensive line up included: Chick Corea, Diane Reeves, Christian McBride, Geri Allen, Ambrose Akinmusire, Wynton Marsalis and JLCO, Terence Blanchard, Nikki Hill, Lucky Peterson, Cyrille Aimee, Trombone Shorty, Lizz Wright, Etienne Charles and a Pete Escovedo's 80th birthday celebration. Also featured this year were very special tributes to Erroll Garner and Jaco Pastorius.

Friday's opening day weather for the festival was warm and clear-tailored made for hearing live music on MJF's seven stages. The late evening brought a chill that required an extra layer or two to stay comfortable.

This year, the Monterey Jazz Festival chronicled a key event in jazz history that also involved its founder, James "Jimmy" Lyons. In September of 1955, the Erroll Garner Trio with bassist Eddie Calhoun and drummer Denzil De Costa Best performed at the Sunset School in nearby Carmel. Radio personality and promoter Jimmy Lyons, who would later establish the long running MJF, had not arranged to record the concert. However, an avid Garner admirer had set up his home quality tape equipment for the event. The impromptu live recording proved to be a massive hit for Garner and his record company. It was released as Concert By The Sea (Columbia, 1956) the following year. The album's impact had been far reaching and still influences musicians to this day.

To commemorate the 60th anniversary of Garner's top selling live album, Geri Allen paid homage to the dazzling pianist and composer of the spell binding ballad "Misty" with her Erroll Garner Project: Concert By the Sea. Fans relaxed in the freshly sodded Jimmy Lyons Arena and helped Allen celebrate Garner's timeless musical virtuosity and spirit. Famous jazz lover Clint Eastwood kicked off the festival with his introduction of the EGP. The adept group consisted of: pianists Allen, Jason Moran and Christian Sands; guitarist Russell Malone, bassist Darek Oles, and drummer Victor Lewis. It was a sensational display of musical craftsmanship and flair.

When bassist Oles was asked to comment on the original album, he said, "Loved it. Miraculous. What a great performance. He (Garner) didn't know he was being recorded until after the concert. No pressure from the record company. It was spontaneous playing. Makes the performance more stronger. He was not worried about the tape. If he knew, he would be concerned about mistakes. It was a "perfect concert." Oles added he "listened to it many years."

Guitarist Malone commented, "It was great, always swinging. He "didn't have to listen to it a lot. Got it immediately." Sands added, "It possesses so much vocabulary and history-so many styles. In the intros you heard tons of history. His playing tells what's going on in the world. He was influential." At the beginning of the performance Allen stated, "jazz is really invigorating" and "in re-creating the concert... hope you enjoy it." Allen's Erroll Garner Project brought the enduring legacy of Concert By The Sea forward for new generations of jazz devotees to hear and savor. Somewhere, Jimmy Lyons is smiling warmly.

This year's MJF Jazz Legends honoree Chick Corea brought his group Trilogy to the Jimmy Lyons Stage. The band featured bassist McBride and drummer Brian Blade. The NEA Jazz Master put together a warmly received program that was thoroughly enjoyed by the full house.

Talented French vocalist Cyrille Aimee brought her distinctive brand of gypsy jazz to MJF's Night Club Stage. Now based in Brooklyn NY, Aimee's effervescent show marked her MJF debut. Her band featured three guitarists, a bassist and drummer. Each guitarist's individual style was showcased during her eclectic session. A supporter from Seattle WA, who followed her career for five years, arrived to see her perform live. This jazz lady highly recommended the singer's album It's A Good Day (Mack Avenue Records, 2014).

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