Verizon is sponsoring the 2006 Monterey jazz bash and it promises the usual musical hi-jinx and joyful mayhem that typifies a Monterey jazz weekend. Headliners this year are numerous: Oscar Peterson, Charles Lloyd, Dave Brubeck, the Clayton-Hamilton Big Band, McCoy Tyner with Bobby Hutcherson, Roy Hargrove, Hank Jones with vocalist extraordinaire Roberta Gambarini, youthful piano phenom Eldar Djangirov, Ben Monder's Trio, and Tieney Sutton with her all star trio, anchored by pianist Christian Jacob.
If you're looking for something to blow cobwebs out of your belfry, this is your next best chance to get the job done right.Tim Jackson surely is gearing up for the 2007 fiftieth anniversary of Jimmy Lyons' musical inspiration, but no matter what that occasion will bring, the '06 version of California's greatest jazz party has you covered all over again.
Consider this. On one early autumn/late summer night (Sunday, September 17) in the big arena you can hear both Dave Brubeck's newly created "Cannery Row Suite," played by the maestro himself, and Oscar Peterson. Does it get better than that anywhere? Considering how many pioneers and heroes of the great jazz heritage we have lost over the past two decades, the presence of these stalwart gurus is an event to savor.
For listeners in my generation, the publication of Charles' Lloyd's "FOREST FLOWER, Sunrise / Sunset" was a riveting event. Recorded on the Lyons stage at Monterey in 1966, that record brought forward an ethereal incarnation of the era's drastic cultural upheaval. Lloyd's otherworldly saxophone in tandem with his killer band's delicate lyrical hurricane signaled - as did Miles Davis with Bitches Brew and In a Silent Way - that not only rock was setting the pace for social change.
Jazz, too, had visionary musical strategists of the highest order. The 49th meeting of jazz at Monterey welcomes Charles Lloyd back for the fortieth anniversary of his triumph. As everyone deeply into that classic album is aware, a punctuation to the music on stage was an airplane overhead. As anyone who's ever enjoyed Monterey jazz knows, it would take a miracle to prevent the recurrence of airplane accompaniment once again.
A moment I'll be looking forward to with special interest is the John Clayton-Jeff Hamilton Big Band. These two amazingly tasteful musicians have a brilliant ability to recruit a mix of savvy veterans and youthful fire-eaters (such as trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos). I predict this band will be a highlight of the three-day festival.
McCoy Tyner now seems as if he is nearly Sophoclean in his perennial strength. Part of the classic late Coltrane quartet that continues to be a memorial force for jazz adventures, Tyner's muscular style will team up with Bobby Hutcherson's gossamer vibraphone and marimba beauty. If possible, one would like to be as close to this pairing as physically available. No less intriguing will be the inaugural appearance of much-acclaimed eighteen-year-old pianist Eldar Djangirov. It's very difficult to summarize a talent so fertile and precocious as well as genuinely successful. On more than one occasion, Eldar has made a believer of me. I can honestly tell you that, when you hear him play, you will quite literally not believe what you are hearing and witnessing. He is a force of natural and well crafted artistic surprise.
The "dean" of jazz pianists is the great and deservedly legendary Hank Jones. He will play a set with Italian born vocalist Roberta Gambarini, a singer who (in my estimation) has no rivals. Her style is all her own, unique and mesmerizing. Among the many good female vocalists on the scene today, several stand apart: Roberta is one of them... as is Tierney Sutton. With engaging polish and effortless verve, Ms. Sutton delivers you to lyrical spaces seldom reached by vocalists of any persuasion. In the awe-inspiring company of her pianist sidekick Christian Jacobs, Tierney Sutton stands virtually as a beacon of bold and fragile musical luminance. I cannot recommend any part of this remarkable 49th festival more enthusiastically than these two wonderful vocalists.
Although he is not yet a "star," as such things are calculated, guitarist Ben Monder - who has and remains a significant part of Maria Schneider's award-winning big band - is blazing his own path of glory in the least expected way. His music is experimental and often dark with Schonberg-tinged harmonic frameworks. The upshot of Monder's self-confidence is music that is changing the way others (including his peers) hear and play. Perhaps you'll want to give yourself a front row seat to find out how deep such subtlety can truly be.
I've noted before how much the Monterey Jazz Festival means to many frequent visitors. Here on the cusp of this magnificent institution's half-century celebration, you'll find me grateful to be alive when such boisterous intelligence and soulful art, despite all the ill we see otherwise, welcome us to the greatness of our nation's greatest heritage.