Funny, I don't remember the 1970s being this much fun the first time around.
Maybe that's because the Saturday acts at this weekend's 56th annual Monterey Jazz Festival did such a good job of editing out the boring stuff about that decade, retaining the wild celebratory essence of fusion, the bracing political honesty of consciousness music and the supreme funkitude that saturated the best of the era's music.
Signs of Seventies were all over the place Saturday: Nearly every pianist was also toting a chunk of electronics, including Orrin Evans rocking a vintage Farfisa. Electronic effects were a source of wonderment and experimentation, most notably for the supremely adaptive keyboardist Craig Taborn. Guitars were squealing like John McLaughlin never stopped running the voodoo down. Grandly talented bassist Charnett Moffett even managed to bow a more-than-credible tribute to Jimi Hendrix's version of the national anthem.
- Keboardist/singer Brian Jackson reminded us how funky a revolution can be as he and a top-notch group of younger collaborators revisited Jackson's hugely influential work with proto-rapper Gil Scott-Heron.
- Guitarist Kevin Eubanks apparently has a few things to get off his chest after an eternity running The Tonight Show band. He was an absolute wildman in a reimagined version of bassist Dave Holland's fusion project Prism, propelling songs with solos of epic vision and dexterity.
- Keyboardist Marc Cary impressed with the most fluid transitions between electric and acoustic roles, aided by percussion-enriched trio that gave kept a solid groove cooking.
- If we can't have Trombone Shorty every year, trombonist and former Dirty Dozen Brass Band stalwart "Big Sam" Williams will get us through. Working with his Funky Nation, the dynamo served up a big helping of spicy N'awlins funk seasoned with instrumental virtuosity.
- I know we Americans like big, pretty explosions, but can we at least consider dropping Bobby McFerrin on Syria instead of a couple gigatons of explosives? Closing out the main arena Saturday night, McFerrin applied his vocal magic to a set of original tunes and re-imagined spirituals, each one suffused with an appreciation of the mystical joy of life. Listen to McFerrin caress a cavalcade of emotion from "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," and then tell me there's room for reckless death and destruction in that world.
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