Monk Institute All-Star Gala Concert Honors Shorter, Duke
Paying tribute to jazz icons Wayne Shorter and the late George Duke—and featuring performances by top-flight jazz artists such as keyboardist Herbie Hancock, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, saxophonist Jimmy Heath and trumpeter Roy Hargrove—the Thelonious Monk Institute’s annual All-Star Gala Concert took place immediately following its International Jazz Competition on Sept. 16 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
The gala began with a salute to the blues featuring the standards “Saddle My Pony” and “Please Set A Date.” The cast included musical director John Beasley with vocalist Cassandra Wilson, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, guitarist Robben Ford and bassists James Genus and Marcus Miller.
The Monk Institute presented Shorter with a Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his six-decade career as a saxophonist, educator and composer. In the institute’s nearly 30-year history, this is only the second time the award has been presented, the first being to Quincy Jones in 1996. Shorter was given the award following remarks by lifelong friend and musical compatriot Hancock.
A musical tribute to Shorter included Hancock, Hargrove, Heath, Miller, pianist Gerald Clayton, vocalist Kurt Elling, saxophonist Branford Marsalis, drummer T.S. Monk and vocal group Take 6 performing some of Shorter’s most well-known compositions—including “Black Nile” from his classic Blue Note years, “Fall” and “Footprints” from his time with the Miles Davis Quintet, and “Palladium” from Weather Report’s Heavy Weather album.
Shorter then took the stage with the members of his current quartet—drummer Brian Blade, bassist John Patitucci and pianist Danilo Pérez—to perform his classic compositions “Over Shadow Hill Way” and “Joy Ryder.”
Also performing during the festivities were the Monk Institute’s Jazz Performance Program College Students along with the 2013 edition of the Thelonious Monk Institute National Performing Arts High School All-Star Jazz Sextet.
The evening concluded with a heartfelt tribute to Duke, a longtime Monk Institute collaborator who died on Aug. 5. (The keyboardist was to have served as the evening’s musical director.) Vocalist Ledisi performed “You Never Know” from DreamWeaver, Duke’s final album, and Take 6 sang an a cappella rendition of Duke’s “Fly Away.”
After the results of this year’s Monk Competition were announced, first-place saxophonist Melissa Aldana joined the rotating cast of musicians for an unhinged romp through Heath’s landmark composition “Gingerbread Boy” as the All-Star Gala Concert came to a close with roaring applause.
For more information on this year’s Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, read DownBeat’s online coverage.