The weather and the music were hot for the final day of the Monterey Jazz Festival. The day was bittersweet in a way because you have been moving at a frantic pace trying to see as many acts as possible but you know come tonight, it is all over until next year. I picked up a previous year’s festival t-shirt and sweatshirt (great buys!!!) and checked out the vendors for a final time. You may find it hard to believe but I did not buy any music while I was here. I did browse but there was nothing that really grabbed me and I already have enough music flowing through my brain at the moment. Before I cover the headliners of the day, here are a few things I checked out as I was moving throughout the festival.
The Crusaders have been making good music since the 50’s. The players have changed over the years but they continue their fine tradition of making good music. The band includes Joe Sample on fender rhodes and electric piano, Wilton Felder on tenor saxophone, Ray Parker, Jr. on electric guitar, “Ready” Freddie Washington on bass, Steve Baxter on trombone and Kendrick Scott on drums. They began with the soulful jazz cuts “Viva De Funk” and “Creepin‘” from their current Verve release, Rural Renewal. Joe told how The Crusaders’ music is played on the Fender Rhodes and the Wurlitzer electric piano and how he purchased his first Wurlitzer in 1963 after being inspired by the music of Ray Charles. He then played the classic “A Ballad for Joe” which featured Ray on an excellent guitar solo. Joe also told a couple of great stories on the band’s beginnings and praised each member before they jammed on “Way Back Home” and “Put It Where You Want It” on which Wilton shined on the sax. Even with the heat, people were grooving in their seats and a few were up dancing. The Sunday afternoon crowd in the arena is the diehard Monterey festival goers and you can tell that many of them have been coming for years. Ray’s cousin Letitia Body filled in for Randy Crawford, who was out due to an injury, with her soulful rendition of “Street Life.” They closed out their show with Ray’s “Ghostbuster’s” theme song with all of us yelling “Crusaders” as the chant. Afterward, they receive a standing ovation. It was definitely an enjoyable and fun show.
Interesting fact: Wilton Felder originally played the electric bass and several members of The Crusaders played on many of Barry White’s hits.
Vocalist Nnenna Freelon has a special way of interpreting the lyrics of a song. We saw and heard how deeply she feels a lyric in her vocalization and spirited bird-like movements as embraces a song note for note. She is truly amazing to watch perform. As I was coming back to my seat, she was singing “Better Than Anything“, which in a line gives a nod to “checking in at Monterey.” She warmed us under the stars and the autumn breeze as she crooned “I Love You” and “Stella by Starlight.” She told us how singing “I Feel Pretty” brightens up any “bad hair” day. Her set also included a reggae flavored rendition of “Body and Soul” and “All or Nothing at All” infused with Latin rhythms. She then took us into the book of “Wonder” with “My Cherie Amour” and closed the evening with “Tears of a Clown.” As she glowed in her beautiful gown, she shared with us that tonight celebrated 20th year in the music business. Keep soaring Nnenna! She was accompanied by an incredible band which included Scott Sawyer on guitar, Brandon McCune on piano and keyboards, Wayne Batchelor on upright and electric bass, Woody Williams on drums, and Beverly Botsford on percussion. Nnenna has a new live album coming on 10/07 and advanced copies were available at the festival.
The Swingin’ Finale of the festival closed with the Herbie Hancock Quartet featuring the incomparable Herbie Hancock on piano, Bobby Hutcherson on vibraphone, Scott Colley on bass, and Terri Lyne Carrington on drums. Their set included Herbie’s classic “Maiden Voyage“, “Theme from Dolphin Dance” and Bobby’s composition “November.” Herbie has played with the great legends of jazz so just watching him play under the stars was a great experience. The quartet played succinctly, each complimenting the other while showcasing their unique talents. Bobby provided rich and glorious tones on the vibes while Scott thumped his bass to perfection and Terri, wow!! Her drum solos were powerful and spellbinding. It was definitely a pleasure to finally get to see her live.
Festival Food Treats: Spicy grilled salmon with rice, fried plantains, and black-eyed peas
See you there next year!!!!