Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour Celebrates the Fest at 65


Vocalists Dee Dee Bridgewater and Kurt Elling, saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin, pianist Christian Sands, bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Clarence Penn delivered an amazing night of music as the Monterey Jazz Festival Tour begins its run across 12 states from January through April 2023 in celebration of the fest’s 65th anniversary.

On Jan. 19, with a stop in Palm Desert, California, the MJF Tour performed at the McCallum Theatre for the Performing Arts for 1,000 patrons who responded with a standing ovation and clear appreciation.

The full band opened with the familiar “Too Close For Comfort” featuring Bridgewater and Elling on vocals plus solos by Benjamin and Sands. Elling’s lyrics were featured on the tune “A Remark You Made,” plus a swinging rendition of “Did You Call Her Today” featuring the duo of Elling and Nakamura.

Bridgewater paid homage to Chick Corea with a vocal rendition of “Spain” (lyrics by Al Jarreau), followed by her reflection on “Bye Bye Blackbird,” the first song she ever sang at the MJF with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra.

One of the highlights of the night was a Benjamin original written in homage to John and Alice Coltrane titled “Trane.” Her fiery solo matched by the intensity of Sands on piano, drawing an inspired reaction from the crowd.

Sands as music director of the tour displayed full command of the night, but also shared an intimate arrangement of Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way” with an opening piano solo and a bass solo by Nakamura.

The show concluded with the Eddie Harris classic “Compared To What” featuring the full band with a drum solo by Penn and even a nice rap by Benjamin. With personal reflections of their mentors and stories of early Monterey Jazz Fest performances, the night embraced the spirit and 65-year legacy of Monterey Jazz Fest and its tradition of bringing the music of the festival to jazz audiences across the country.

Click HERE for tickets and tour-date information. DB

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    Bennett had a wealth of material to draw upon, and he had a direct association with much of it.

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