"We Always Swing"® Jazz Series presents

Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour: 55th Anniversary Celebration

Photo Credit Monterey Jazz Festival

Catch the group in action this week on NPR's JazzSet!


Anyone who has attended the Monterey Jazz Festival [MJF], which takes place on its namesake county fairgrounds the third weekend each September, most certainly wants to return for a second bite of such a luscious apple. Under Artistic Director/General Manger Tim Jackson the last 20 years, America’s longest running jazz festival – which began in 1958 – has thrived. Stages and events have been added, including periodic cross-country tours featuring musicians performing first as an all-star aggregate at the festival, then subsequently touring under the MJF banner.  What’s also exceptional about the MJF projects is the artists involved don’t simply come together as an “all-star band” but rather they rehearse, create a specific repertoire and perform as a cohesive unit.


So, when we heard who was going to comprise this season’s ensemble we knew we had to participate in the Monterey Jazz Festival 55th Anniversary Tour and have this gem serve as a MU College of Arts & Science Special Event. This exceptional cast is charged with not simply performing as a sextet, but to offer audiences a variety of configurations – everything from an unaccompanied solo selection to duo, trio,  quartet and quintet efforts all the way up to having everyone present on stage. This will be a mix and match affair with the emphasis on touching upon 55 years of MJF “history.”


There isn’t a jazz icon – from Dizzy Gillespie to Miles Davis to Sonny Rollins to John Coltrane to Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan to Dave Brubeck to…, well you name it, who hasn’t appeared once or on multiple occasions at the festival.  The MJF 55th Anniversary Tour celebrates the Giants of Jazz and thus the repertoire will largely consist of interpretations and improvisations of compositions of some of the greatest of the greats who have graced the MJF stage the last half-century plus.  In the hands of these six artists that’s an amazing palate to draw from; essentially its an endless repertoire.


The ensemble incorporates a diverse set of talents. Vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater finally makes her first-ever Jazz Series appearance. She is a major songstress with scores of recordings as a leader as well as working with others during the course of her four-decade career. Labeling Bridgewater versatile only scratches the surface. A three-time GRAMMY Award winning singer-songwriter and a seven-time nominee, Bridgewater is a Tony Award-winning stage actress, most notably for her Broadway role in “The Wiz.” She is also the current host of National Public Radio's syndicated “JazzSet.”


The MJF 55th Anniversary Tour boasts a rhythm section second to none. The piano chair belongs to Benny Green, who just months ago wowed everyone with his trio performance. The one time Oscar Peterson protégé, and former member of Bobby Watson & Horizon, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, Freddie Hubbard’s Quintet and Ray Brown’s Trio among others, has been central to present-day jazz for 25 years. Now, on the cusp of 50, he has total command of his interest.


Joining Green is bassist Christian McBride, as close to a ubiquitous jazz figure as there is. With ongoing simultaneous multiple projects – both as a leader and working with the likes of Chick Corea, Pat Metheny and a number of other major figures, McBride, the Philadelphia native has followed in the footsteps of mentor: Ray Brown. Having arrived in New York as a teenager, he quickly impressed those more than twice his age including the late pianist James Williams who, in many ways, introduced McBride, 40, to the jazz world. McBride’s last Jazz Series visit took place three years ago – with Green – as a tribute to Brown.


Lewis Nash stands among the most musical jazz drummers alive – and thus one of the most in-demand. His last Jazz Series visit dates to 2009 appearing as a member of the Blue Note 7. Nash is comfortable in nearly every setting, be it in duo with saxophonist Steve Wilson, leading his own sextet or working as he is here – in a cooperative project. At this point Nash’s discography may exceed 1,000 recordings – and most if not all of them are worth owning.


The MJF 55thth Anniversary Tour&

Audio and Video

Thursday, Apr 18, 2013

"Jazz in the District"

Doors: 6 p.m. | Start: 7 p.m.

Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour: 55th Anniversary Celebration

Dee Dee Bridgewater: Vocals
Ambrose Akinmusire: Trumpet
Chris Potter: Saxophone
Benny Green: Piano
Christian McBride: Bass
Lewis Nash: Drums

Press Photos