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A decade ago, when he was commissioned to write music to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the Monterey Jazz Festival, Gerald Wilson produced the memorable, double Grammy Award-nominated Theme for Monterey (MAMA Records,1998). Now the 89-year-old dean of American Jazz composers has scored another triumph, saluting the festival's golden anniversary with a picturesque seven-part suite, Monterey Moods, that musically epitomizes the scope and character of that annual event.
The motif is deceptively simple: a three-note idea used in various ways as the bedrock of each movement (Allegro/Jazz Swing Waltz/Ballad/Latin Swing/Blues/Bass Solo/Hard Swing), much as a single melodic phrase was deftly rearranged to underscore each section of Theme for Monterey. Wilson's orchestra introduced Moods at the Monterey Festival and recorded it in a studio for Mack Avenue Records. The album's playing time has been increased to nearly an hour by appending Wilson's atmospheric arrangement of Cole Porter's "I Concentrate on You (featuring son Anthony Wilson's mellow guitar) and his gregarious "Mini Waltz (solos courtesy of trumpeter Jimmy Owens, baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber and special guest Hubert Laws on flute).
The suite is almost entirely upbeat; even the slower-paced "Ballad simmers in a Basie-like groove behind heated solos by Laws and tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington. The remaining movements personify their names, using Wilson's spare entrée as a springboard for a series of bright and swinging vignettes marked by powerful rhythms and persuasive solos. The rhythmic muscle is supplied by Anthony Wilson, pianist Renee Rosnes, bassist Peter Washington and drummer par excellence, Lewis Nash. The improvisations for the most part are by Laws, Cuber, Owens, Wilson, trumpeters Terell Stafford and Sean Jones, saxophonists Kamasi Washington, Ron Blake, Antonio Hart and Steve Wilson. Peter Washington is also showcased on the suitably named "Bass Solo.
Writing a suite like Monterey Moods would be a daunting task at any age, let alone for someone on the doorstep of his ninetieth birthday. But Wilson has risen to the challenge, composing another in a series of masterful compositions whose evolution began nearly seventy years ago. In the liner notes, Wilson says he's looking forward to "the sixtieth celebration at Monterey. So are we.
Track Listing: Monterey Moods Suite: Allegro, Jazz Swing Waltz, Ballad, Latin Swing, Blues, Bass Solo, Hard Swing; I Concentrate on You; The Mini Waltz.
Personnel: Gerald Wilson: composer, arranger, conductor; Jon Faddis: trumpet, flugelhorn; Frank Greene: trumpet, flugelhorn; Sean Jones: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jimmy Owens: trumpet, flugelhorn; Terell Stafford: trumpet, flugelhorn; Steve Wilson: alto and soprano sax, flute; Antonio Hart: alto and soprano sax, flute; Ron Blake: tenor sax; Kamasi Washington: tenor sax; Ronnie Cuber: baritone sax; Dennis Wilson: trombone; Luis Bonilla: trombone; Jay Ashby: trombone; Douglas Purviance: bass trombone; Renee Rosnes: piano; Anthony Wilson: guitar; Peter Washington: bass; Todd Coolman: bass; Lewis Nash: drums. Special guest: Hubert Laws: flute.
I was first exposed to jazz while learning to play chess with my uncles. They would play smooth jazz, and then switch up to more standard types of jazz. But, when they played Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, I was
hooked and I haven't looked back.