Thursday, May 1, 2008

The 50th Anniversary All Stars: Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival 2007

Concord Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 5.1.08
Buy CD: Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival 2007

2007 marked the 50th anniversary of the Monterey Jazz Festival, and this live album is the first that hasn't been released from the festival's archival files. 

The intent was to assemble a band that had a history with the festival, then record the session and send the group on a 54-date tour; that began in January 2008 (the month this album was released) and concluded in March. The sextet features James Moody (tenor sax), Terence Blanchard (trumpet), Benny Green (piano), Derrick Hodge (bass), Kendrick Scott (drums) and Nnenna Freelon (vocals). These artists, combined, have a history of 28 appearances at Monterey Jazz Festival concerts from 1962 through '07. 

It's a shame this album doesn't live up to the history, or the hype, associated with the festival. Of the 10 tracks here, only four are instrumentals; the other six consist of three vocals by Freelon, and spoken introductions to those vocals. She doesn't come close to previous Monterey Jazz Festival singers such as Anita O'Day and Sarah Vaughn; Freelon's voice isn't unpleasant, but she's simply not on a par with those two ladies. 

And the time taken for the introductions would have been spent better on an additional instrumental. 

It's also unfortunate that Moody, Blanchard and Green aren't nearly up to their usual standards. The only stand-out in this group is Hodge; he puts down a driving beat and has a couple of very nice (although short) solos. 

This is not an auspicious beginning for Concord's MJFR label.

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