‘The Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour 55th Anniversary Celebration’ at The Kennedy Center by Mike Spain

The Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour 55th Anniversary Celebration concert at The Kennedy Center Friday night brought together six talented jazz musicians and an overabundance of pure joy and fun. If the tour represents what the famous jazz festival is all about – I certainly want to go!

Dee Dee Bridgewater. Photo by Robert Wade.
Dee Dee Bridgewater. Photo by Robert Wade.

The show started with the Tony Award-winning and three-time Grammy Award-winning vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater taking the stage with three-time Grammy Award-winning bassist Christian McBride. The two played a very playful version of Duke Ellington’s “I’m Beginning to See the Light.” I’ve never seen just a bassist and vocalist perform a song together. However, Christian McBride showed he had more than enough skills to accompany the great Dee Dee Bridgewater. The playful interaction between Bridgewater and McBride was entertaining to watch as they were definitely having a ball!

Then they brought out the rest of the all star band and the playfulness continued. I think Dee Dee Bridgewater was willing to attempt to sing anything that came across her musical mind. She even broke into a little bit of “Play that Funky Music” when she introduced Chris Potter.

Benny Green was the groups piano player. Green’s resume includes having played with the likes of Ray Brown, Diana Krall, Art Blakey and many more. He had played The Monterey Festival numerous times and was the musical director for the 50th Anniversary Tour. Drummer Lewis Nash is one of the foremost brush stylists in jazz and besides putting out his own records he has recorded with many jazz greats including Christian McBride, Oscar Peterson, Sonny Rollins, Branford Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Horace Silver, Nancy Wilson, and more. Grammy-nominated saxophonist Chris Potter and heralded trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire made up the evening’s horn section.

Next they performed the jazz standard “All of Me” by Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons and made famous by the likes of Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby and more. Dee Dee Bridgewater took a much deserved break and the band performed Christian McBride’s own composition “The Shade of the Cedar Tree.” Next the horns joined Dee Dee on a break and the remaining musicians performed Dizzy Gillespie’s “Tango.” The musical piece really highlighted Lewis Nash’s brush style drumming.

Dee Dee Bridgewater rejoined the full band for an incredible version of Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child.” Throughout the show Bridgewater showed she was one of the best scat singers in jazz. Bridgewater took another break and the band launched into an instrumental number called “Certainly.”

Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour: (l to r) Chris Potter, Christian McBride, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Lewis Nash, Benny Green, Ambrose Akinmusire. Photo by R.R. Jones.

Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour: (l to r) Chris Potter, Christian McBride, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Lewis Nash, Benny Green, and Ambrose Akinmusire. Photo by R.R. Jones.

Next the rest of the band left the stage except for Benny Green. Green performed a solo piano piece he composed called “Here’s That Rainy Day.” As you can imagine the piece was a showcase for his incredible piano skills.

Everyone came back on stage and they finished their set with Horace Silver’s “Filthy McNasty” which the band enjoyed performing as much as the audience enjoyed listening. Not only did the band enjoy being playful and joking with each other, they also had incredible respect from each other. Many times throughout the performance the other musicians would watch their band mate’s solos. Together they made a joyful noise which the crowd loved. After the Horace Silver number the audience gave the all star band a standing ovation.

They came out for an encore where they playfully tried to play an improvised D.C. jam they were making up. That fell apart and Dee Dee Bridgewater sang few bits of some other songs before the band decided to stick with something they had rehearsed. They finished the night off with an old television show theme song written by Dave Brubeck called “Mr. Broadway.” After the encore the musicians received a second standing ovation.

Photo by Robert Wade.
Photo by Robert Wade.

As the audience filed out of the Terrace Theater I heard them describe the performance as “fantastic,” “great” and “wonderful.” The playfulness of the musicians might have back fired for a group with less talent and respect for one another. It was not the case tonight the playfulness and fun the band shared together on the stage carried out into the audience. The musical talent of each musician was appreciated by each musician and by each audience member as well. In the end it was a magical evening of outstanding jazz.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour 55th Anniversary Celebration played two performances on Friday, February 1, 2013 at the Terrace Theater at The Kennedy Center at 7 PM and 9:30 PM. For more information on future Kennedy Center events, visit their website.


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