Voices at Large

All Eyes On The All-Stars

19 JAN 08 JEFFREY SPECTOR

They came. They saw. They swung. For nearly two and a half hours a nearly sold out house at UCLA's storied Royce Hall witnessed a piece of Jazz history unfold like a parachute descending upon a field of cool -- a performance by the Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary All-Stars.

The lineup included trumpeter Terence Blanchard, vocalist Nnenna Freelon, saxophonist James Moody, pianist Benny Green, bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Kendrick Scott. These aren't farm club players. They are, as the name states, all-stars.

Touring 54 cities over eight weeks as the Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary All Stars (and with the recently released Live At The 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival available in stores), these six not only represented the genre's most enduring annual festival, but added to its considerable legacy. From Freelon's effortless Ella-like vocal turns to icon Moody's (defying all 82 of his years) lush solos to Blanchard's intense requiem for his hometown New Orleans (as evidenced by two selections inspired by Hurricane Katrina), this was a night that would've made festival founders Jimmy Lyons and Ralph J. Gleason proud.

Sinatra may have sung about it "happening in Monterey" all those years ago, but last night at Royce Hall and through the rest of this tour, Monterey is happening everywhere.

Jeff Lorber - Hacienda