Sunday, September 20, 2015

365 True Things: 175/Jazz II

The day before yesterday, I was sighing about missing this year's Monterey Jazz Festival. But then last night when we looked—just out of curiosity, mind you—and saw that this evening's lineup included Chick Corea and Béla Fleck, both of whom we love, as well as Dianne Reeves, whom we saw at the Jazz Fest, oh, fifteen years ago and very much enjoyed, we looked at each other and said, "I wonder if we can still get tickets."

Sure enough, tickets were to be had, and so this evening we had the great pleasure of hearing some great music. From one of the back rows of the bleachers to be sure, but the bleachers have the advantage of being in tiers, so even if we had to use binoculars—to look at the projection screens!—we got a pretty good view.

Chick and Béla played duets: some originals by each, plus a little Scarlatti that was amazing. Piano plus banjo approximates harpsichord? They even played some bluegrass—though in Corea's case I'd call it bluegrass slant. Here is an NPR story on their collaboration that catches their excitement beautifully—and includes a fabulous tune from their most recent album, the "Bugle Call Rag." (Thanks to Susan Mack for pointing the story out to me!)

Dianne sang "Stormy Weather," and a lovely Afro-beat syllabic (wordless) song that morphed into a sung story (with words) about listening to songs she can't understand the words of, to a Latin beat. She's got an amazing range, and a big beautiful sound. Another highlight was "One for My Baby" (from the George Clooney movie Good Night and Good Luck), starting out with just her and her stand-up bassist, Reginald Veal. At the end, she sang Mali Music's "Beautiful" with its refrain, "Put your lighter in the air for love"—which the audience dutifully did (substituting cell phone lights for lighters). And then she got us all singing along with her. Such fun.

The last act was Chris Botti, but we took off after one and a half tunes. He may be the biggest-selling instrumental jazz artist in the world, but we sure weren't feeling him. Capable, but (in our view) not very interesting.

I often say I'd like to hear more live music. I'm glad we took the opportunity tonight. It was even in walking distance from our house, just half an hour, and it happened to be a beautifully balmy evening for the walk back home (after a 90-degree baking day: payoff).

And now maybe I'll dream of Scarlatti-inspired banjo-piano duets. I sure hope so.

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