Sunday, January 20, 2008

Monterey Jazz Festival - 50th Anniversary All-Stars (Concord, 2008)

sings This CD was recorded live at the Monterey Jazz Festival on September 23, 2007 by a special group put together for the occasion, with Terence Blanchard on trumpet, James Moody on alto sax, flute and vocals, Benny Green on piano, Derrick Hodge on bass, Kendrick Scott on drums and Neena Freelon on vocals. It turns out to be a bit of a mixed bag, with the music split almost evenly between vocal and instrumental selections. With the caveat in place that traditional vocal jazz isn't my favorite, Neena Freelonadequately on her features, especially on the up-tempo "Time After Time" which ends the disc with a JATP type jam session feel. Disappointing is her duet with Moody, whom I normally enjoy very much, but their version of "Just Squeeze Me" is too cutesy and saccharine sweet to be effective. The instrumental passages are much better, especially the lead off track "Be-Bop" which is taken at a furious pace with terrific solos and ensemble playing. A moody version of Gerald Wilson's "Monterey Mist" is a fine spotlight for Blanchard's fluid trumpet playing, and he also solos well in the long "Benny's Tune." Overall, it's a solid disc, but recommending it really hinges on whether you enjoy singing. If so, have at it. If not, this can probably be passed by, unless you want to use amazon or itunes to cherry pick some of the fine instrumental passages.

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