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Monterey Jazz Festival 2017

Josef Woodard By

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Given the density of the Monterey festival grid, spread out over multiple venues on the grounds, with the vast arena stage and schedule centering the weekend, it can be tricky to catch as much as one would like. But it's possible, with some creative planning, catching half a set here, another half there, and fast footwork on the property—and avoiding the temptation to stop to eat BBQ along the way. At the tail end of Sunday night, for instance, discerning listener had was caught in a quandary: whether to catch Iyer's sextet, one of the most important current jazz projects on the scene, and presently on fire, or check in with two seasoned masters, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea in one of their rightly-famed piano duet shows. After a half hour of Iyer's jolt juice, I raced over to catch 40 minutes of the Herbie-Chick encounter, which was nothing short of brilliant and a wonder in constant motion and evolution. Even when dealing with the Cole Porterville of "Easy to Love," or the onstage artist's "greatest hits" "Cantaloupe Island" and the inevitable "Spain," the pianists spun a web of constant invention and intricate call-and-response with each other, never giving in to rote expressions or easy to love showboating.

They were creatively alive and very well, alert to the moment, nodding respectfully to history while making history, all at the same time. It was, in the end, a classic Monterey multi-moment.

Photo Credit: Roberto Cifarelli.

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