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Monterey Jazz Festival: Forty Legendary Years


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This article was first published at All About Jazz in December 1997.

Monterey Jazz Festival: 40 Legendary Years
William Minor and Bill Wishner
176 pages
ISBN: 0-883318-40-8
Angel City Press

The opening night of the first Monterey Jazz Festival in 1958 featured performances by Gerry Mulligan, Max Roach, Dave Brubeck, Cal Tjader, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Harry James, and, just nine months before her death, Billie Holiday. The evening's highlight, however, came when Dizzy Gillespie, acting as the program's emcee, welcomed his hero, and occasional rival, Joshua Redman and Benny Green, get their starts.

In addition to providing a chronicle of the festival itself, Monterey Jazz also offers a more general overview of the last four decades in jazz. The heart of the book is the 165 rare duotone photos of festival performers, who include most of the major figures in recent jazz history: Mingus, Monk, Miles, Billie Holiday, Dave Brubeck, Duke, Gerry Mulligan, Bill Evans, Count Basie, Sonny Rollins, and many others.

There are dozens of performance photos, plus many wonderful candid shots of musicians hanging out backstage or relaxing on the festival grounds. We catch a glimpse, for example, of an unassuming (for once) Miles Davis sitting in the audience watching bluesman Buddy Guy's band in 1969. We also see Dizzy and Monk laughing uproariously together in the early '60s. As at so many of his stops around the jazz world, Dizzy was a particularly popular figure at Monterey. He appeared at the festival numerous times, acted as its artistic director, and even launched his (alas aborted) "Dizzy for President" campaign at the 1964 fest. He later withdrew his candidacy, saying that while he was "very qualified...I don't have the time."

The book also includes a foreword by that increasingly ubiquitous jazz commentator, Clint Eastwood, a festival attendee since the early days. Eastwood warmly recalls his many visits to Monterey, his filming of scenes for "Play Misty for Me," featuring Cannonball Adderley, at the 1970 fest, and the debut of his son, bassist Kyle Eastwood, at the 1994 fest.

All in all, a very attractive book that would make a fine holiday gift for the jazz lover on your list.

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