Random Thoughts From The 55th Monterey Jazz Festival.

The thing about jazz is that it's so...inefficient. This guy plays, then that guy plays, then a third one plays, it seems like if they'd just play together more often we could save a lot of time and maybe get this festival in on one day.

Ha ha.....kidding of course, but we all know that's exactly the type of thinking that'll happen when the corporations start to control the arts. Which is why my heart did a little happy dance when I saw the Best Buy tent had been replaced by one from Amoeba Music. Amoeba is awesome and if you are in Berkeley or San Francisco or Hollywood you need to stop reading this now and go check them out.  I scored a cherry vinyl copy of Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew," the seminal album that essentially invented jazz fusion. Contrast this with last time I was here when the Best Buy tent featured a giant ass display plugging the Beatles and "Guitar Hero." Which is exactly why you'd go to a jazzfest. To play a video game to the tune of "Yellow Submarine." I felt the grooves of Miles in my hands and knew that things were looking up.

That night I saw Tony Bennett, who reiterated a lesson first taught to me by Johnny Cash. Stay authentic to who you are. Cash and Bennett were both about as uncool as a person could get in the 70's, and both faced pressure from their record labels to become more "marketable." Neither did, and both ended their careers as cultural treasures and with their pride intact. For a counterpoint, look at Kenny Rogers. Kenny Rogers is a sad, sad man in many ways.

Anyway, Tony Bennett was really good. That's what I'm trying to say. I hope he made it up to San Francisco and maybe found his heart again.

Earlier in the day it was Trombone Shorty.




Let me tell you one thing about Trombone Shorty. You will like Trombone Shorty. You will not have a choice. Trombone Shorty's music will grab you by the nads and scream at you. "YOU WILL LIKE ME BITCH!!! WE UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER????"

And then you'll be all like, "Dude, no need to get all abusive on my testicles, you're fucking awesome."

Whereupon the music will say "Yeah, that's what I thought. Now listen to me school this muthafuckin' trombone"

Next thing you know it's an hour later and your ears are like, "Holy hell we may never have an experience like this ever again."

Click here for a tiny taste of what Trombone Shorty can do, but protect your testicles. 

If Trombone Shorty is music on fire, than the next day Esperanza Spalding was the cool soothing relief of relaxation. I saw her her a couple years ago, during the Best Buy days, and she was great, but I got the sense she was still, to some extent, proving herself to the industry. Her beautiful Afro was tied back, and it felt like she was still trying to please the normies a bit. A few months later she won her Grammy and the power that comes with it. This year the Afro was free and in all its glory. She was confident and sexy and leading us to where she wanted to go. Even an incredibly intrusive interruption by the Thunderbirds or The Blue Angels or whichever one of those jet fighter penis extensions in the sky our government puts up there to help recruit the next generation of thugs to enforce the will of the empire couldn't shit on Esperanza's parade. When they were gone I stood up, closed my eyes and put my hands in the air, felt the cool breeze in my face and the sounds of a strong woman descended from people the empire once held in slavery in my ear. It's a moment I never want to forget.

By the time I got over to the Amoeba Records tent, the line for an Esperanza autograph was hopelessly long, but I snuck around and snapped some pictures, which might put me somewhere on the stalker scale:



And just for shits and giggles, here's a random kid who seemed to be enjoying the festival:





There were other acts of course, the band of kids I suspected to be from some church-type organization that kicked ass, although I think they'd rather I say they played really well. The Norwegian fiddler, which sounds like some sort of oxymoron, the talented Meklit Hadero, who had the misfortune of being booked on an outdoor stage at night when the temperature was something like minus a hundred and ten degrees. There was Kettle Corn and Cajun food and so much fun I didn't even touch any alcohol. The last band I saw was called Ninety Miles, named after the political distance that separates its members, who are both Cuban and American. They wrapped me in a warm blanket of jazz for the long, cold walk home, told us of their performances in Cuba, and left me with hope that Best Buy would never, ever, be back.

It was a good weekend.
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Random Thoughts From The 55th Monterey Jazz Festival.
Random Thoughts From The 55th Monterey Jazz Festival.
Reviewed by malaria
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Rating : 4.5