The Jazzcat

48th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival

by on Sep.17, 2005, under News


When you combine the beautiful elements like wind, warm,

ocean, sky, people, musicians and jazz you have the perfect combination for a

life-changing event.  Jazz music is

essential for the soul.  When you visit

the pond to drink, your thirst is quenched with the heavily audible waters of

original unencumbered, uncompromising, creative cutting edge music.  Jazz music is provided, supported and

conducted every year on the third week of September here in Monterey.


The Monterey Jazz Festival is celebrating its 48th

year of providing the best jazz music on the west coast.  MCI is a major sponsor and for the last 21

years they have contributed over $2,500,000 to the jazz education program here

at the festival.


I was the host on the Bill Berry Night Club Stage again this

year and the line-up was incredible. 

Donny McCasslin, hometown boy from Santa

Cruz, opened up Friday night with the fire and passion

that this music offers.  He got the crowd

to feel the energy. 


In the Starbucks Coffeehouse Gallery, Russell Malone and

Benny Green displayed speed, beauty and technical prowess as their duo



Carla coaxed cognitive

creations with her band Carla Bley and the Lost Chords.  Music that can be appreciated the best in

this festival environment. Here in Monterey,

people listen and with open ears, they can concentrate, enjoy and truly

understand their own personal relationship between themselves and the

music.  Swinging “Mr. Mysterioso” like

Monk with a cool-ass dip in his stride and a little bottle of magic elixir.


John Handy just finished up a set on the main stage and is

now over at the Night Club to get down. 

The sound engineers were trying to get the sound perfect, but John was

ready to roll.  When a cat has burned

with Charles Mingus back in the day and says he is ready to play, then that is

what you do.  You can’t hold back the

fire.  He invited Steve Miller on stage

and they proceeded with a mix of all blues and C.C. Rider.  Steve Miller called out another blues and

they proceeded to swing in that direction. 

Carlos Reyes, the bass player, seconds as a violinist and thirds as a

harpist, so you know that the music is going to be entertaining.  The pianist seconds as a bassist and even

John Handy hops off of his horn and tinkles with the piano.  “Nature Boy” was gorgeous.


Saturday night the singers were on the Night Club

Stage.  All three of which sing in tones

I adore.  Sheila Jordan, inspired by a

Parker solo, warmed up the house with a tribute to the great Oscar Brown

Jr.  The low, rich lustrous tone that

commands power with facilities that soar at the silkiest 90-degree angle until

he touches the sky, Andy Bey, was a top-notch winner amongst the crowd.  “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” and “Midnight

Sun” were divine, but “River Man” was soulfully immersing.  Claudia Acuña puts the F in fine singer.  Her voice hugs your body with big arms of

warm, honest, precious love.  So fresh

and so sincere and a smile that can make your worst day dissolve into thin

air.  Poetically, she recites the lyrics of her songs in English

and proceeds to serenade us in her native Chilean vernacular. Interestingly enough, each of the three

singers chose an Abbey Lincoln tune for their performance.  You know I love Abbey Lincoln, so anyone who

performs one of her tunes I have the utmost respect for. “The Music is the Magic of a Secret World”.


Over at the Starbucks Coffeehouse Gallery, something really

special happened.  Joey Calderazzo has

always been a burner.  He, along with

Eric Revis and Jeff “Tain” Watts, were taking

the place to new heights.  But there, on

stage, I witnessed a beautiful gesture that shows the love and kinship that

musicians have for each other.  Joey has

played with Michael Brecker for the past twenty years or so.  As you all know, Michael is hospitalized with

Mylodesplastic Syndrome.  This is a rare,

debilitating form of cancer that affects the bone marrow.  Joey called Michael in the hospital from the

stage on his cell phone while the audience watched the personal exchanges that

took place.  He said, “Hey, man.  I’m on stage in Monterey” and the crowd roared.  He left the phone on and placed it on the

piano while he proceeded to play a tune that he wrote for Michael.  We all felt very, very blessed to be a part

of such a special and beautiful moment. 

Thanks, Joey.


Over at the Garden Stage, Ledisi was soul singing and

telling everyone how happy she was to sing on the big stage with Larry Carlton.  She also has family in New Orleans and took some time to ask the

crowd to do what they can to help Katrina’s children.


On Sunday afternoon, sweet, soulful, funky and super-fine

Clairdee rocked the crowd at the Garden Stage. 

She and husband Ken French put together a host of characters that

delighted the crowd with tunes from Ira and George to the great Betty Carter.



Being the Master of Ceremonies is big fun even when you

don’t know the band personally, great when you do but, when one of your boys

are about to perform, the feeling is fantastic!


Christian McBride has not only been a dominating force in

this business with talent that parallels the best in jazz but, he is one of the

most likable, loveable, caring and uplifting cats there is. He made everyone in

the Night Club feel like they are chillin’ at his crib with their feet up!

Chris with Ron Blake, Patrice Rushen, and DJ logic do the damn thing in a

continuous, non-stop, high-energy funky ass undeniable groove. The sauce spread

thick over a sea of smiling head bobbers. Christian switching from acoustic to

electric, Patrice switching from Piano to Synthesizer with Ron interjecting

tenor love over hard hitting DJ Logic beats bringing the dance back into the

groove of the music. Christian snaps his finger one time and the whole audience

falls right in line with a synchronized thunderous clap. That’s when you know

you got ‘em!


Brandford’s set on the main stage was lovely. Each member of

his band is an extremely competent composer and the group played each others

songs. An array of creative cognitive emotional experiences sum up innovation

at it’s best. Something that Branford has always believed in which has led him

to Marsalis Music, a record company that puts creativity and expression before

the almighty $$!


John Scofield has played with so many people and in each

situation, the pieces of the puzzle fit perfectly. Tonight he is in a trio

setting with Bill Steward on drums and Steve Swallow on bass. Straight Ahead at

90 miles per melodic hour. Bill is playing all in between the lines at

lightning speed. Steve is running electric lyricism on the bass. The pedal

effects on John’s guitar warp you in to all kinds of different kaleidoscopic existences

but, no matter where the ride takes you, you always end up on solid!


Denny Zeitlin and his trio closed the festival on Sunday

night in the Star Buck Coffee Gallery with Buster Williams on bass and Matt Wilson on drums. They

opened up with all kinds of beautiful tunes that the proceeded to make their

own. Denny makes use of all eighty-eight and delivers an array of tickles and

splashes to wet the appetite of people like me who prefer a platter of

complexion in titanic proportions!


Buster is such a pro. His aura emanates confidence in the

cool and even toned manner in which he plans his attack. Matt uses the energy

from his two counterparts and combines it with his own to put out the fire with




Needless to say the festival was and always is quite

extraordinary. I hope to see you in 2006!

 Enjoy the pics!!

Monterey Jazz Festival Slide Show

LeRoy Downs

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