Mercury News (San Jose, CA)
Posted on September 21, 2004
By Mark Whittington
The Monterey Jazz Festival always gathers old friends, and the 47th edition was no exception. Stars like Bobby McFerrin, Marian McPartland, Slide Hampton, James Moody, David ``Fathead'' Newman, Buddy Guy and Chaka Khan delighted fans who return year after year.
But it was the younger generation -- both on the bandstand and in the seats -- that guaranteed that the future of jazz is safe. This festival belonged as much to the Bad Plus, Jason Moran, the Claudia Quintet, Jackie Greene and the dozens of teenage all-stars as it did to any of the legends.
''The prognosis for jazz is very healthy,'' said Tim Jackson, the festival's general manager. ``Jazz is one place where you can still get surprises.''
The main arena was sold out for Friday through Sunday, but the sales of grounds tickets were down about 15 percent over last year. Blame the same bad economy that has hurt concerts for all kinds of music, and blame the uncertain weather -- although the rain hit Monterey only early Sunday morning, and the sun came out for the shows.
During the flashy but familiar show by bluesman Guy -- a last link to the Chicago of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf -- thoughts drifted back to when Jackson took over the Monterey festival in 1991. The event had become a little wheezy. The old-guard musicians were dying off; the young lions weren't being invited to play. The festival was in danger of losing its legendary status.
After a dozen years of infusing new blood into the lineup, the festival has regained its old strength. And the crowds are listening for the surprises from the new guard -- from the opening notes from Milton Fletcher's piano on Friday evening through the sparse beauty of Sweden's Esbjörn Svensson Trio late Sunday night.
``I've never seen anything like this anywhere near the United States -- adventurous programming, attentive crowds,'' said John Hollenbeck, leader of the Claudia Quintet, which played some of the most challenging music of the festival to a small but wildly enthusiastic crowd.
With 500 performers on five stages over three days, it was impossible to see everything. By Sunday night, everyone seemed to have a different highlight.
Here is one view of some of the best:
Perfect blend: Legendary drummer Jack DeJohnette provided muscle, young pianist Moran provided fiery elegance and Don Byron provided the eccentricity in Byron's Ivey Divey Trio. DeJohnette also laid down the groove for McFerrin's vocal gymnastics and led his own energetic Latin band featuring Byron, conga player Giovanni Hidalgo and pianist Edsel Gomez.
Pure joy: Terence Blanchard's commissioned work -- honoring Dizzy Gillespie -- featured legends Hampton and Moody soloing over the rhythms set down by Blanchard's sextet. But it was the soaring trumpet of Jon Faddis that brought Gillespie's spirit back to the stage.
International incident: Anna Koroleva of Russia's Open World Jazz Octet improvised on alto sax and then bent down to scat into the sax mike while gesturing at the dead vocal mike -- again and again. It turned into one of the wildest solos of the weekend.
Party favorites: The crowd was dancing in the aisles for Boban Markovic and the Serbian Orkestar. It took the festival two years to get visas for this brass and drums outfit.
Language of love: Can you beat Brazilian singer Luciana Souza and pianist Edward Simon playing Carlos Jobim and renditions of Pablo Neruda poems?
Piano madness: Bill Charlap's piano playing is so effortless that you take his virtuosity for granted, and he was the perfect duet partner for McPartland. Jean-Michel Pilc was hot, hot, hot in the intimate Coffeehouse. As good as he was with his own trio, 21-year-old Fletcher was even better with the Jazz Across the Americas band, which features Faddis and sax player Antonio Hart. Other young stars: Aaron Parks with Blanchard's sextet and Taylor Eigsti backing up Kitty Margolis.
Young blues: Jackie Greene stole the blues afternoon from established stars Guy and Charlie Musselwhite.
Double twins: Shawn and Scott McGinty were at the core of a classy set by the Brubeck Institute Jazz Sextet. Remy and Pascal Le Boeuf tore it up in three separate bands -- the festival High School All-Star Big Band and the Clifford Brown-Stan Getz Fellows, and playing their own compositions in the Pacific Collegiate Jazz Combo.
Future stars: Forget headliner Chaka Kahn. Sunday afternoon belonged to the musicians who are too young to buy a drink. Highlights: the Monterey Jazz Festival High School All-Stars playing the Yellowjackets' ``Freedomland'' and a two-vibe version of ``Bag's Groove'' from Brethren Christian High School of Huntington Beach.
And it promises to get better. The festival is expanding its high school jazz competition next year, and Branford Marsalis is making another appearance as artist-in-residence.
[Reprinted with Permission]