Jazz Notes 03/12/08 

Monterey Jazz at the Walker

In 1958, popular San Francisco jazz disc jockey and jazz critic Jimmy Lyons launched his dream to present real jazz in a festival setting. This year, his Monterey Jazz Festival, based in Monterey, Calif., is celebrating its 50-year anniversary, making it the longest-running jazz festival in the world.

Taking the show on the road, the Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary All-Star Band will play the Madame Walker Theatre Thursday, March 13 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25.

The artist lineup represents performers from Monterey festivals past, present and future. Directing the band is critically acclaimed pianist Benny Green. Making up the frontline are legendary saxophonist James Moody and multiple Grammy-winning trumpeter Terence Blanchard, while the rhythm section features newcomers Derrick Hodges, bass, and Kendrick Scott, drums. Another multiple Grammy winner, Nnenna Freelon, will be featured on vocals.

I asked the same questions of a veteran musician, James Moody, and a newcomer, Benny Green, to see how the generation gap informed their answers. The results were surprisingly similar.

NUVO: Have your musical goals changed over time?

Moody: My goal in life is to play better tomorrow than I did today. I don’t define myself musically; I just do the best I can. The more I learn the more I don’t know.

Green: I always play music because I love it. When I was a younger person, there was a sense of having something to prove. As I have been getting older, I have begun to tune in more to music being an offering to people. That’s probably a shift from when I first started to play. I never would define myself musically.

NUVO: James, you have a history as a bebop player. Is bebop becoming passé among younger musicians?

Moody: No, first of all music grows with whomever wants to play it. A composition like Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation” is a bebop tune. You can take any composition and grow with it. The point is, if you are going to play jazz, it would be beneficial to you to come through bebop.

Green: When you refer to bebop, it’s a language that was cultivated by people like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and many other people. I think that language really doesn’t have a beginning or an ending. It didn’t begin with those people and it didn’t end with their lifetime. Especially today, there is so much melding of all sorts of influences of different generations. I respect Duke Ellington’s statement: “There are only two kinds of music: good and bad.”

Green says that it’s an honor, a privilege and, most of all, a great joy to work with musicians from several generations. “We are definitely a group of individuals, but we all came to find very quickly in the tour how much we have in common.”

Elsewhere this week

The Indianapolis Jazz Foundation will present its “Jazz For Kids Matinee” Tuesday, March 18. The event is an introduction to the history of jazz for young audiences.

A trio led by Jamaican-born jazz pianist Monty Alexander will perform Saturday, March 15 at the Jazz Kitchen with shows at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. Admission is $20.

Stranded in NYC

The New York Voices didn’t quite come together last Saturday. Only music director Darmon Meader made it to the Jazz Kitchen, with three other NYV singers and their instrumental trio stranded in New York.

Still, in front of a hastily assembled rhythm section comprised of Chris Rutkowski on piano, Kenny Phelps on drums and Frank Smith on bass, Meader pulled off a heroic and humorous evening of standards and jazz classics. He sang and ripped off some virile tenor sax solos with exceptional rhythm support.

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