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Sarah Vaughan: Live at the 1971 Monterey Jazz Festival

Sarah Vaughan 1971
Sarah Vaughan at the 1971 Monterey Jazz Festival (photo: Veryl Oakland)

The Monterey Jazz Festival reached the half-century mark in 2007, being the only jazz festival held at the same venue for 50 straight years. While there have been “live at Monterey” recordings before, most notably the arguable high points in the careers of Charles Mingus (1964), John Handy (1965) and Charles Lloyd (1966), for the first time the festival itself has begun issuing recordings from its own archives on the Monterey Jazz Festival label. Since I wrote the liner notes to Sarah Vaughan’s Live at the 1971 Monterey Jazz Festival, I will refrain from commenting on that CD. While none of the other sets caused a major impact in the careers of the leaders, each contains worthwhile music. Louis Armstrong’s Live at the 1958 Monterey Jazz Festival features Satch at the debut festival running through his repertoire with his all-stars, featuring trombonist Trummy Young and clarinetist Peanuts Hucko. Armstrong plays less trumpet than usual, but his vocals are in prime form.

Miles Davis’ set from the 1963 festival features the trumpeter at an important juncture in his career, early in the development of his second classic quintet. It was one of his first American concerts with his new rhythm section of pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams. Davis and tenor saxophonist George Coleman are in excellent form on lengthy versions of four songs that the trumpeter had been playing since the late 1950s. Thelonious Monk’s Live at the 1964…, in addition to four quartet numbers with Charlie Rouse on tenor, drummer Ben Riley and a young Steve Swallow sitting in on bass, includes versions of “Think of One” and “Straight, No Chaser” on which the group is augmented by five horns including some particularly wild playing by trumpeter Bobby Bryant. Dizzy Gillespie’s Live at the 1965… has Dizzy’s group with tenor saxophonist James Moody and pianist Kenny Barron fooling around a lot, but also playing effective versions of “A Night in Tunisia” and the calypso “Poor Joe.” Of these releases, the Davis and Monk sets are most significant.

Originally Published