January 24, 2008


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Various Artists, Monterey Jazz Festival: 50th Anniversary All-Stars
Monterey Jazz Fest Records, Jan. 15
Outside the fringes of pop culture dwell many artists whose existence is news to you regardless of their accomplishments, a phenomenon suffered by jazz players more commonly than anyone else. With no small degree of casualness we tick off the list of career highlights of the members of the jazz supergroup that came together to celebrate the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival and post this live tour-de-force — trumpet whiz Terence Blanchard’s Best Jazz Album Grammy award in 2005; reedman James Moody’s Jazz Master Award from the National Endowment for the Arts; singer Nnenna Freelon’s Eubie Blake Award. The jam captured here was too good for a one-off, thus right now the troupe is about a quarter of the way through a national tour scheduled to land at the Music Hall in Portsmouth on Feb. 28. Highlights on this CD are many — Moody trying to goof up Freelon as she mimics a wah-wah-muted trumpet during a scat clinic, Blanchard’s wing-and-prayer runs in “Monterey Mist,” and the incorrigible brightness the band finds in “Misty.” Three generations of jazz greats are here, all tuned in to the same explorative, fully collaborative mindset. A — E. W. S.