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Review: The Monterey Jazz Festival, 2013

The venerable institution still balances tradition and daring

Wayne Shorter and John Patitucci, Monterey Jazz Festival 2013
Bobby Hutcherson, Monterey Jazz Festival 2013
Diana Krall Monterey Jazz Festival 2013
Diana Krall, Monterey Jazz Festival 2013 (photo: Tomas Ovalle)
Dr. Lonnie Smith, Monterey Jazz Festival 2013
George Benson, Monterey Jazz Festival 2013
Madison and Bobby McFerrin, Monterey Jazz Festival 2013
Omara Portuondo of Buena Vista Social Club, Monterey Jazz Festival 2013
Roberto Fonseca, Monterey Jazz Festival 2013
Carmen Lundy, Monterey Jazz Festival 2013

For the 56th edition of the Monterey Jazz Festival, the world’s oldest continuously run jazz fest, the operation was up to its old and new tricks, the delicate balancing act of tradition and measured doses of daring that still make it the best in the west (and the U.S.?). Monterey is one of those summer bookend festivals, closing out the season that starts at the end of June at the Montreal Jazz Festival, which seems to do most everything right, with some years “righter” than others. Both festivals manage to give a compact accounting of what’s interesting and relevant in a given jazz year, along with the duties of nodding to veteran heroes and emerging hopefuls.

To wit: this year in jazz, two major milestones are the passing of legend Dave Brubeck-who played at Monterey countless times, going back to year one-and the 80th birthday celebration of living and evolving and thriving legend Wayne Shorter. These cultural points of significance were acknowledged in interesting, interactive ways in Monterey. The festival has long commissioned new works, and often large-scale works (such as last year’s wonderful hour-long Big Sur Suite by Bill Frisell), but this year, the commissioning forces were more focused and smaller-scaled.

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