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Various Artists: Monterey Jazz 1958-1980

The Monterey Jazz Festival has presented so much great music over the past 43 years that this reissue should not be considered more than a cursory overview. It’s quite an overview, however, when you consider two CDs worth of live performances by giants like Dizzy Gillespie, Cannonball Adderley, Joe Henderson, Clark Terry and Joe Williams.

The first disc gets off to a jumping start with the funky, gospel-tinged “Sticks” from a 1966 performance by the Adderley quintet. Belgian harmonicat Toots Thielemans follows by engaging guitarist Mundell Lowe in a lilting “Green Dolphin Street,” saxophonist Joe Henderson gives a lesson in virtuosity on his original “Isotope,” Johnny Griffin tears into his blues “The Jamfs Are Coming” and the Jimmy Giuffre trio with Jim Hall and Bob Brookmeyer walk the contrapuntal tightrope on “Doxie.”

The second disc includes a long jam session with Dizzy Gillespie and the Buddy Rich Big Band, a heartfelt “God Bless the Child” by Clark Terry, Joe Williams singing with “Pres Conference,” Benny Golson playing his own “I Remember Clifford” and Joanne Brackeen leading her 1980 trio with Clint Houston and the late Motohiko Hino.

This collection is more a hip souvenir than historical document. The sound quality is inconsistent and some of the soloists and sidemen are slightly off mike. It’s also puzzling why so many of these performances from the ’60s and ’70s are in mono; could these performances be taken from Voice of America tapes that were meant for short-wave broadcast? Technical qualities aside, this is a worthwhile document of a significant jazz festival. If you need further incentive, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this set goes to support jazz education.

Originally Published