It is just a few days after the 46th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival and I am ready to start looking for a hotel room for next year. This was my second year attending the festival and I will say once again, there is nothing else like it. The weather was great, the food was scrumptious, and the music was beyond compare.
I arrived a few hours before the festivities began and since I had a great parking space, I walked from the Monterey County Fairgrounds to the Old Fisherman’s Wharf. I had dinner and checked out scheduled festival lineup and made my picks. I got back to the festival around 7pm and walked around the grounds and got my festival t-shirt (the bigger sizes sell out fast!!!) There are five stages. The Jimmy Lyons Stage is the main arena where the festival headliners play. There are also four grounds stages which are the Coffee House Gallery, Dizzy’s Den, Night Club/Bill Berry Stage, Garden Stage, and Jazz Theatre.
My first music stop Friday evening was pianist Jason Moran and The Bandwagon. His trio included Tarus Mateen on acoustic electric bass and Nasheet Waits on drums. They performed three shows at the Coffee House Gallery. I caught him earlier in the week at Yoshi’s and while the shows may have had similar openings, this show was definitely different. Wearing his trademark white felt fedora, he opened with his recorded “Bandwagon” intro and then broke into “Another One” which could scare a jazz purist who is looking for a familiar sound. His music is a journey in which he has a strong grasp on and respect for the past while blazing his own trail with sharp turns and curves along the way. He provides rambucous tremolos that rang out like a bell and rolled thunderously like waves on the ocean yet he is subtle and symphonic in his solo piano moments. He moved from a funk groove to a New Orleans funeral march and then to “Body and Soul” which is from his latest Blue Note release, Jason Moran and The Bandwagon. His set also included “Intermezzo, Op. 118, No. 2“, “Out Front“, “Planet Rock” and a very nice arrangement of “Estate’.” Tarus and Nasheet brought color and texture to the set with their excellent solos. Jason’s music challenges the listener’s ears in new ways and that is exactly what we want our music to do.
Next up was the incredible vocalist Mary Stallings at the Night Club/Bill Berry Stage. Before she came onstage, there was a buzz in audience. Several people knew her from San Francisco, which is her hometown and where she currently lives. Her band came onstage and opened with “Green Dolphin Street.” Mary came out in a sultry, red fitted dress and opened with “Old Devil Moon” with a sassy Killer Joe-like rhythm. Next, she took us down to the “Street of Dreams.” She infused the bluesy “Sweet and Lovely” with some scatting and a mellow fade out on the end. Babatunde Lea came in on the drums, then Glen Pearson came in with an excellent piano solo and Mary swung in with “The Gypsy In Me.” She slowed down the pace a bit with the Cole Porter ballad “You’re Sensational.” It was slow samba and she had a call and response with the piano. She delivered a smoldering version of “A Sunday Kind of Love“. Babatunde gave gentle brush strokes on the drums and Glen tickled the ivories in a way that could make you shiver and the bass tied them all together. Mary made it her personal testimony. The crowd just ate it up. She closed with a hard swinging “I’ve Got Rhythm” and after a round of loud applause, she came back out and encored with “I Love Being Here With You.” She kept us swaying, clapping, and toe-tapping all evening. Mary’s latest recording on MAXJAZZ Records is Live at the Village Vanguard.
Afterward, the Soulive funk was already in session over at Dizzy’s Den so I stopped outside to catch a bit of the groove. The jazz funk soul band of Eric Krasno on guitar and brothers Neal Evans, on Hammond B3 organ and Hohner Clavinet D6 and Roland A-33 keyboards, and Alan Evans on drums were just one of the acts brought in to attract the younger jazz fans. The mission was accomplished as young and old alike were moving to their soulful funk groove. If you were sitting in the back, you might not have been able to see the stage as people were up out of their seats and dancing to the music. In addition to playing cuts from their recent Blue Note albums, they included the Sly & the Family Stone classic, “If You Want To Me Stay.” Some funk is just meant to be heard while standing so you can just let it move you. Even when they slowed the funk down, it was still hot. They continued jamming until after 12am. Their new release on Velour Records is due out in October. As I was leaving, I overheard a young guy say, “I want to be a roadie for Soulive.” Me too!!
Festival Food Treats: Turkey Steak Sandwich, Peach Cobbler
Honorable Mention: Fried Calamari at Old Fisherman’s Wharf
Monterey Jazz Festival Highlights – Part 2
Monterey Jazz Festival Highlights – Part 3