The Jazzcat

Thelonious Monk Institute Jazz Ensemble at the Bovard Auditorium at USC

by on May.17, 2006, under News


Slide Show
We all love specialties. Whenever anyone has taken the time

to pick the right gift for you or when you shop for groceries, you make sure

that the fruit and vegetables are perfect to suit you and that the ingredients

for your cake are only of the finest quality. If Oprah says read this book then

what do you do? You read that book! I think that when Herbie Hancock, Wayne

Shorter, Terence Blanchard, Kenny Barron and Ron Carter go shopping for sound,

there is no question that they only come home with the best! Well, these

gentlemen were presented with a wide assortment students and hand picked the

very best. On drums, Zack Harmon, on bass Joe Sanders, on piano Roman Collin,

on vibes Chris Dingman, on tenor saxophone Walter Smith III, on trumpet Ambrose

Akinmusire and on alto, Tim Green. These are the players that comprise the 2006

Thelonious Monk Institute of Performance Jazz Ensemble.



Daniel Seeff is the West Coast director of the Monk Institute and he does an excellent job at making the organization run flawlessly. He is a cat that has always had his pulse on the new generation of the music and always hips me to the new players to watch out for. These are the formative years for many of these musicians. The Monk Institute is like a springboard of success into the deep waters creative future straight ahead enlightenment.


  When I used to work overnight at 88.1 fm KLON, I recall

playing much music from a label called Criss Cross Jazz. This performance in

some way reminds me of the label because they take the best of young talent and

produce some killin’ music letting all of the cats display their wares. These

players not only write their own compositions but, approach the standards like

creative music mechanics. With a fine tuned engine, they cognitively

disassemble and reconstruct it in ingenious ways to make it run smoother, more

efficient and emission free!


This is the last performance here at the USC Jazz Festival

and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance Ensemble is kicking some

first act ass! Quite frequently people speak of the future of the music. Well,

under the tutelage and  hand picked by

the Lords of the Jazz Universe, these young cats will etch their own groove in

the “Sphere” of the music.

 image image image

“College kids” I heard someone say. In a sense, yes but,

these brilliant shinning lights have literally already traveled the world

performing and their presentation, delivery and sound is indeed quite compelling.

Their pitch “Speaks no evil” and their ‘Inventions and Dimensions” start

“Takin’ Off “as they take no “Prisoners” on the “Maiden Voyage” to “Empyrean

Isles”. “My Point of View” is that if you listen closely, you will hear the

influence of the masters as they “Speak Like a Child” but play like men! The receptive audience feels, agrees and rewards them

with gifts.



Jazz musicians are cooler than a bad word. Their style,

poise, flare and confident demeanor almost ensure that the music is going to be

extraordinary. Even though these young players are all around 25 or 26, these

essential characteristics of a jazz musician are in tact and their power is

obviously felt in the music.


Walter Smith III introduces all of the players in the band

before they play their last tune. He makes the audience laugh with his

references to the visual similarities between him and Joshua Redman. But, just

like Herbie, Wayne, Blakey, McCoy, Trane and a host of others were our heroes

of the past, new heroes have emerged. Cats like Joshua, Christian, Roy, Nicholas, Branford

and the like have done and are doing their thing. Now, there is a new breed

that is about to be unleashed on the world. You never know who is watching,

listening, learning and who will be the next to be inspired to be the

superstars of their generation! The re-birth of jazz music will last forever.


LeRoy Downs




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