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

It should surprise no one that James Moody was among the biggest crowd-pleasers when the Monterey Jazz Festival celebrated its golden anniversary last fall, and for that reason alone this concert recording is worth hearing. Suffice it to say that the irrepressible octogenarian makes the most of his scat-laced pairing with singer Nnenna Freelon on “Just Squeeze Me (But Please Don’t Squeeze Me).” But the All-Stars impress long before Freelon and Moody flirtatiously share the spotlight, thanks to the opening performances of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Be-Bop” and Gerald Wilson’s “Romance (Winter Love).” The former succeeds as both a fitting tribute to Gillespie, who hosted Monterey’s inaugural festival, and as a curtain-raising salvo. After Terence Blanchard and Moody vibrantly lock horns on the knotty theme, the trumpeter steps forward, improvising with as much fire as finesse while backed by a rhythm section-pianist Benny Green, bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Kendrick Scott-that vigorously spurs him on. The latter tune, drawn from Wilson’s 40th-anniversary suite “Theme for Monterey,” boasts an insinuating melody that deserves to be heard more often, with or without the fanciful lyric Freelon has composed for it. The singer and pianist Green subsequently personalize “Misty” with a spacious arrangement. Yet more rewarding are the ensemble performances of Milt Jackson’s “Monterey Mist,” a soulful, swinging showcase for the horns and prodding rhythm section, and “Benny’s Tune,” a Lionel Loueke ballad that acquires a burnished, blues-tinted glow before the band nimbly introduces colorful shifts in mood and texture.

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