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Various Artists: Jazz Celebration: A Tribute to Carl Jefferson

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It wasn’t just a jazz fest that took place on July 8, 1995, in Concord, California. It was also a love fest, celebrating the life of the late Carl Jefferson, founder and president of Concord Jazz, who died four months prior to this tribute concert.

And this well-produced boxed set lets us hear it all-five joyful hours of music from the cream of Concord Jazz’s crop of artists.

From Toshiko Akiyoshi to Denny Zeitlin, every last one of the 60+ artists who made it to Concord’s Pavilion did so for free out of tribute to “Jeff” and the label he established.

Live gigs seem to bring out the best in artists, and this festival was no exception. Each performance seemed especially energized-due no doubt to the emotionally-charged atmosphere following Jefferson’s passing and the audience that wasn’t shy about showing its appreciation.

You want energy? Check out Dennis Rowland’s “Wild Women Don’t Get the Blues,” or Red Holloway’s soulful tenor on “You’ve Changed.” Listen also to Laurindo Almeida and Charlie Byrd do their thing on Jobim’s “Meditation,” and to Rob McConnell’s mellow trombone on “Sunnyside of the Street.” And who better than pianist Gene Harris to end the fest and bring down the house with his “TBFCJ-The Blues for Carl Jefferson.”

Concord, of course, is also blessed with many top-shelf vocalists, including Karrin Allyson, who performed a mighty “Yardbird Suite.” Also check out a gorgeous “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” delivered by Susannah McCorkle, and Eden Atwood having a ball with trumpeter Randy Sandke on “Route 66.”

A few of Concord’s artists just couldn’t make it to the live gig due to other commitments or illness, but they are represented just the same with recordings made for this tribute. Among the gems are Rosemary Clooney’s mellow “Sentimental Journey,” the evocative “Echoes of Yesterday” by Marian McPartland, and Mel Torme’s “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.”

Recording quality is excellent, the annotations are complete and interesting, and the entire project focuses on Mr. Jefferson’s love for the music and the artists who make it happen.

This portable jazz festival is highly recommended.