An all-star band featuring Dee Dee Bridgewater, Christian McBride and Benny Green
The Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour (MJF) stops at Cal Performances for a concert featuring a roster of master musicians on Saturday, January 19, at 8:00 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall. The concert showcases the long history of artistic excellence and sophisticated informality for which the MJF has gained international fame. Chosen for their devotion to spreading jazz around the world, outstanding leadership abilities and masterful performing skills, the 55th Anniversary band celebrates the MJF’s golden moment as the world’s longest-running jazz festival. Bassist and musical director Christian McBride is joined by vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, pianist Benny Green, drummer Lewis Nash, saxophonist Chris Potter and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. Both Green and Akinmusire call the East Bay home. The program will be announced from the stage.
MONTEREY JAZZ FESTIVAL
The Monterey Jazz Festival is internationally recognized as one of the world’s most important annual jazz events. Begun in 1957 by Jimmy Lyons, the MJF developed its stellar reputation by consistently presenting the finest artists in jazz—who perform by invitation only—in an intimate, informal setting to a devoted and knowledgeable audience. Since 1966, all-star bands have been part of the Festival. Over the years, these bands have included Gil Evans, Gerry Mulligan, Elvin Jones, Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Ray Brown, Sonny Stitt, Max Roach, John Lewis, Shelly Manne, Bobby Hutcherson, Hank Jones and Milt Jackson among many others. Until now, however, these supergroups could be heard only by the fortunate few who had secured coveted Festival tickets. To commemorate its 50th Anniversary in 2008, MJF put together an all-star touring band featuring Terence Blanchard, James Moody and Nnenna Freelon. In 2010, a second band was organized that included Kenny Baron, Regina Carter and Kurt Elling. This year’s tour marks the festival’s third all-star band.
Another reason that the Festival enjoys such an exalted status is its empowerment and support of its artists. Jimmy Lyons appointed John Lewis, the pianist of the Modern Jazz Quartet, as Artistic Director in 1959—a position he held until the early 1980s—to commission new works by some of the jazz world’s best composers. Newly commissioned works became a defining feature of the MJF with pieces from the likes of Dave Brubeck, Jon Hendricks, Gerald Wilson and others taking center stage. When Lyons retired in 1992, his successor, Tim Jackson, created the Artist-in-Residence program in an effort to continue this legacy. Ambrose Akinmusire, who plays trumpet in the 55th Anniversary touring band, was named MJF’s 2012 Artist-in-Residence. For more information on the Monterey Jazz Festival visit montereyjazzfestival.org.
Winner of three Grammys and a Tony, nominated for a Laurence Olivier award, and recipient of the Victoire de la Musique, vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater began her New York jazz career in the 1970s playing with greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon and Max Roach. In 1974, she played Glinda in The Wiz, a performance that earned her a Tony. In the 80s, she continued singing and performing in musicals, earning a Laurence Olivier nomination for her portrayal of Billie Holiday in the 1986 West End production of Lady Day. Her recent album, Eleanora Fagan (1915-1949): To Billie with Love from Dee Dee Bridgewater, won the 2010 Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album.
Philadelphia-born Christian McBride began playing bass at a young age, studying both jazz and classical at Philadelphia’s High School for the Creative and Performing Arts and later attending Juilliard. He left the renowned music school after only a year and went on to perform with Roy Hargrove, Freddie Hubbard, Pat Metheny, Johsua Redman and more. In the 90s, McBride recorded nearly 150 albums with artists such as Joe Henderson, Benny Green, Diana Krall, Dave Brubeck, Jimmy Smith, Joe Lovano and McCoy Tyner. He is the frontman for three bands, Philadelphia Experiment (which also features Roots drummer and McBride’s childhood friend), the Christian McBride Band and the Christian McBride Situation. These bands produce an eclectic mix of both traditional and new noise, blending electric and acoustic sounds. McBride currently holds positions as Artistic Director at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass summer program, Co-Director of the Jazz Museum in Harlem and Creative Chair for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Pianist Benny Green and MJF go back to 1978, when he performed as a 15-year-old student. Green grew up in Berkeley and has played at the MJF six times in four decades. In 1987, at age 24, he joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, performing with the band for nearly three years. In 1993, Oscar Peterson selected Benny to be the first recipient of the City of Toronto’s Glenn Gould Protégé Prize in Music and later that year he joined Ray Brown’s trio. Since 1997, Green has led his own groups, touring extensively and releasing more than a dozen albums under his own name. The New York Times describes Green’s playing as “funky and hard,” breathing “not only be-bop but Oscar Peterson’s virtuosic effusions as well.”
Born and raised in Phoenx, Arizona, drummer Lewis Nash quickly gained recognition in the jazz world. By the age of 18, he was playing as a sideman for musicians coming through Arizona. Since then, he has played with Oscar Peterson, Sonny Rollins, Horace Silver, Ron Carter, Milt Jackson, McCoy Tyner, Joe Lovano, Christian McBride, Branford Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Pat Martino, Diana Krall and many others. He is known for playing in a wide variety of styles, including bebop, post-bop, funk, free and Latin. As a bandleader, Nash has produced three recordings: Rhythm is My Business (1989), It Don’t Mean a Thing (2003) and Stompin’ at the Savoy (2005).
Hailed by DownBeat magazine as “one of the most studied (and copied) saxophonists on the planet,” Chicago-born Chris Potter was discovered by legendary jazz pianist Marian McPartland at age 15. Finishing school was a priority however, and Potter went on to study at the New School and the Manhattan School of Music. Since then, he has played alongside Paul Motian, Dave Holland and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. His most recent album, Ultrahang (2009), represents the culmination of five years of collaboration with his Underground quartet.
Oakland native and Berkeley High School alumnus Ambrose Akinmusire was listed in “Faces to Watch” by the Los Angeles Times in 2011, who described him as “less like a rising star than one that was already at great heights and just waiting to be discovered.” By the time Akinmusire graduated from high school in 2000, he had already gone an extensive tour of Europe with Steve Coleman’s Five Elements band. After graduating from Manhattan School of Music, he attended the University of Southern California and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz where he studied under Terence Blanchard, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. His recent album, When the Heart Emerges Glistening, was named the top CD of 2011 by the New York Times.
Tickets for Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour on Saturday, January 19 at 8:00 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall range from $20.00 to $56.00 and are subject to change. Tickets are available through the Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall; at (510) 642-9988; at www.calperformances.org; and at the door. Half-price tickets are available for UC Berkeley students. UC faculty and staff, senior citizens, other students and UC Alumni Association members receive a $5.00 discount (Special Events excluded). For select performances, Cal Performances offers UCB student, faculty and staff, senior, and community rush tickets. For more information about discounts, go to http://calperformances.org/buy/discounts.php or call (510) 642-9988.