Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary All-Stars – Monterey Jazz Festival Records/Concord Music Group

by | Apr 6, 2008 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary All-Stars – Monterey Jazz Festival Records/Concord Music Group MJFR-30433, 55:36 *****:

(Terrence Blanchard, trumpet; Nnenna Freelon, vocals; Benny Green, piano, musical direction; James Moody, tenor sax, flute, vocal; Derrick Hodge, bass; Kendrick Scott, drums)

Recorded live during the 50th Anniversary  performances of the oldest jazz festival in continuous presentation, this is a must-have CD for all modern jazz fans.  It was recorded live at the festival on the California coast on September 23, 2007.  The festival – founded 50 years ago by DJ Jimmy Lyons and with Tim Jackson at the reins since 1992 – has been a highlight of summer’s end for jazz lovers in California and elsewhere for half a century now.

The lineup of the All-Stars front line really fits their title.  Blanchard is one of the top trumpeters and composers in jazz today, Moody is a such a jazz legend that it may surprise many that he’s still around and blowing and singing with as much gusto as ever today, and young pianist Benny Green can handle just about any playing or arranging task in jazz with the greatest aplomb and good nature. The small lady with the big voice, Nnenna Freelon begins her four vocals with a lyric setting she added to Gerald Wilson’s tune Romance – from the suite he had composed for his big band for the 40th Monterey Anniversary, Theme for Monterey.  It and the other vocals were designed to reflect singers associated with the festival in the past 50 years.

One of those singers was saxist James Moody, and he joins Freelon in an absolutely delightful duet on Just Squeeze Me that would have had Fats Waller rolling around in the aisles. Misty brings to mind the unique Johnny Mathis as well as Nat Cole, and the closing Time After Time updates the great Broadway show tune of Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne. The major instrumental on the CD is Milt Jackson’s Monterey Mist, which will remind longtime Festival-goers of the many appearances there by the MJQ – especially during the time John Lewis was Music Director of the Festival.

This is one of the important jazz releases of the year, and all the profits from its sale go to the education efforts of the Festival itself – so don’t miss out on these musical treasures.  I was only wishing Concord eventually would release the video of this evening’s great performances.

TrackList: Be-Bop, Romance, Just Squeeze Me, Monterey Mist, Misty, Benny’s Tune, Time After Time.

 – John Henry

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