The Spirit Of Gil And Miles

KUSP Crew’s vote for ‘Best Set of MJF 54′? Miles Davis/Gil Evans: Still Ahead, Sketches of Spain.

Sometimes you have to let the goosebumps speak for themselves.

Orches­tra directed by VInce Men­doza and fea­tur­ing Ter­ence Blan­chard, Peter Ersk­ine and Miles Evans. More details.

Photo by Stephen Laufer

Big Thanks to KUSP’s Maureen Davidson, Mwende Hahesy, Mike Lambert, Sean Rameswaram, Terry Green, Stephen Laufer, Geo Warner, Brett Taylor, Larry Blood and NPR’s Patrick Jarenwattananon, without whom KUSP’s online coverage would have been far less worthy of your clicks this weekend.

Ask Dr. Dawn (On Day 3 At Monterey Jazz)

As I wander around the Monterey Jazz Festival on this beautiful Sunday afternoon, I am relaxed and lulled into a mood of universal love by the gentle strains of a harp from Mali on my right and the distant strains of Peruvian panpipes on my left.

Soon, another concert on the main stage will start and pull me into who knows what state of emotional energy.  Music has such power to entrain our thoughts.  In fact, numerous scientific studies have demonstrated that our brainwaves are readily entrained, that is pulled into different states of consciousness, by different types of music.

Need to focus on your studies?  Listen to a Don Campbell Mozart compilation.

Need to relax?  Try Silvia Nakash and a light spray of lavender water on your scalp.

Brotherhood and generosity are on my mind as I walk by a booth near our KUSP booth and see that they are registering bone marrow donors.  It works like this: DKMS is the world’s largest bone marrow registry with over 2.6 million donors registered.  It takes 15 seconds to swab your cheek and send off a few skin cells.   It is analyzed for the surface markers on the white blood cells and entered into the database with your contact info. The registration is free.  What do you get?  The chance to someday save a life and how cool is that?

Bone marrow donation nowadays is no more painful that a peripheral blood draw.  It is the same process as any blood donation and then the blood is processed to separate out the white blood cells, including the stem cells.  The times in my almost 25 years as a physician which are among the most meaningful are, unsurprizingly, the times I have been privileged to save a human life.  Here is an opportunity for anyone to experience the same sense of personal validation and special significance:

Go to or to learn more about how you can give to another special person the gift of life.

Strollin’ On A Sunday Afternoon At MJF

The dappled light spilling through the trees just seemed the perfect filter for a hazy start to the last day of the Monterey Jazz Festival. People seem lazier and laid back, everything slower and a bit less frenetic than Saturday’s jollity. No slowing down the music, though.  Listening to KUSP while driving to Monterey, a colossus of sound propelled me down Highway 1 as I took in the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra directed by the ever-inspiring Paul Contos, with such lights as Joshua Redman in front. Ow, so tight I could have bounced on it down the road, but just listened with awe, not just to Redman–who gave every ounce again just as he had the night before with his own James Farm on the Jimmy Lyons Arena Stage. This time it was all relayed toward the ensemble of the best and brightest young musicians from high schools all over the country.

Arriving to that aforementioned mellow dappled place I headed right away to hear India Arie and Idan Raichel on that Arena stage in honor of the young woman, Symphony, whom I interviewed yesterday. According to Symphony’s mother who should know, she is a fabulous singer who did get into the Next Generation Jazz Camp and is headed to a career in music. Symphony said India inspired her and she was thinking this was the kind of music that will bring more young people to jazz.

So thinking of this young woman and others of her age I witnessed India create a sacred space of the huge arena with “We Are Immortal” reaching down into the deep resonant place where her voice came from and into the heights. I can see how young singers love her, the stylings of pop, the One World Message, the constant motion that seems redolent of Sufi dances and yoga. She was beautiful.

Standing in line to get into the Nightclub I spoke with Anna from Los Angeles who was just coming to hear “the young folks” play and hadn’t realized we were about to hear the Hamilton High School Academy of Music Combo perform. Ana was thrilled, “They’re from my neighborhood. I can’t believe it.” Synchronicity seems to rule this event.

The first place winners of the NexGen High School competition, the combo of sax, guitar, piano, bass and drums began with a hardbop “Yes and No” finding the audience suitably blown away. They moved into “Swell” an original bossa nova composition by their pianist, Anthony Luca. A fine piece and a great combo, they took the energy of the bossanova and pushed it into abstract realms before bringing it back to a satisfying melodic resolution.
In the Garden Stage I ate my late lunch of catfish and potato salad (we are walking it off, you see) and joined the Garden Stage in full and absolutely gleeful swing with Cow Bop fronted by Bruce Forman on guitar, Alan King on bass, Jake Reed on drums and the vocals of Pamela Formans. It was a fine surprise to see the great Phil Salazar of Ventura on fiddle, I’ve followed him for years.  What a joy they were, funny, nevermissabeat masterful and danceable music of the Cow Cow Boogie variety, a tight and lovable ensemble.  Salazar can do symphonic, he can do Hot Club, but what he does so memorably is tie those notes up into twisty cowtails and send them home laughing. One MJF moment…just after Forman finished flogging their Cow Bop Party Pack (a flashdrive with bottle opener handle and coasters, just add beer) when overhead some jets roared by…Salazar played the notes of the jet.

So that was a full afternoon of musical fun. Now for a warm jacket and a night of it.

Photos and words by KUSP’s Mau­reen Davidson

Night Of The Piano

Photo by John Whiting

When night fell on the Festival Saturday night, the mood changed: The lights of the booths and venues brought everyone into sharper focus while the fog softly hugged the grounds.

A good weather day and a not too chilly night blessed the Saturday event and prepared the way for the more cerebral straightahead piano trio of Geri Allen.

The set in the Arena began with Allen in a slightly somber and thoughtful solo.  As the sounds of her music seeped over the grounds, the chatty bonhomie of the Festivalgoers seemed to quieten some, perhaps the conversations deepened.

The long lines for food provided another friendly context for conversation; while coffee attracted a new audience.

The arena audience was thinner in the cold, but slowly slowly the seats filled and made ready for the appearance of Allen’s base player, Kenny Davis and drummer Kassa Overall, masterful, both. And as an homage to Sammy Davis Jr., Maurice Chestnut provided another instrument, the percussion of his tap dancing in an original composition commissioned by the 2011 MJF called “The Dazzler.” The pieces including “Lover Man” performed with tap as part of the instrumentation was as exhilarating to watch as to hear.

Allen is one of the steadiest of jazz artists, consistently creating intelligent and accessible music, capable of torrents of technical brilliance, she tends to be spare, leaving a lot of room for the notes to ring and influence each other, an artist whose work never gets stale.

Written by KUSP’s Maureen Davidson

Berklee Flamenco a World of Overtones

Photo by Mike Lambert

The future of jazz seems secure in the hands of the Berklee College of Music whose Berklee Flamenco ensemble soared in a modern fusion approach to the music that is already a blend of influences from the journey of the Romani people from ancient India to Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans and eventually throughout the world.

The instrumentation was fascinating, the percussionist Sergio Martinez played conga, tabla and cajon…already three continents represented, sometimes switching from hand-playing to sticks in dazzling succession.  Ali Amr from Palestine played on an Egyptian version of the zither, a quanun, adding a fascinating and unmistakably Middle Eastern harmonic overtones and microtones, resonating and ornamenting under the whole sound; Enrique “Kalani” Trinidad from Chile performed with a soaring intensity on flute providing a crisp melodic pathway; Noam Wiesenberg on bass kept it all grounded and Ariadna Castellanos Rivas played a lyrical and inventive piano.

Together their sound had the duende of flamenco, with its abstracted passages, complex rhythms and passionate intensity.  The qanun and flute player also performed palmas to others’ solos. The thrilling weave of instrumentation and the sheer talent of the young performers brought the audience to its feet throughout. As jazz, the interplay of artists, the daring rhythmic explorations and the challenging melodic structures made it one of the most thrilling performances of the day.

Written by KUSP’s Maureen Davidson

“It’s no capital crime, when you don’t have a dime!”

Photo by Sean Rameswaram

In a blissful wander through a “story in every direction” festival site, I passed the Garden Stage yesterday afternoon where Mitch Wood and His Rocket 88’s were singing a common song.

“We’re broke” Mitch said, “How about you?”

As the audience answered in an unconvincing squeak, “Broke, broke, ain’t got no dough…hey…” he exhorted, “Even people from Carmel can sing along!”

He got them, “It’s no capital crime, when you don’t have a dime!” And the audience was feeling it,  “Broke, broke,” they shouted cheerfully.

A master at working his audience, Woods worked them with his gravelly-voiced swinging storytelling and the Rocket 88’s ripping the ridges with a 40’s style boogie.

Written by KUSP’s Maureen Davidson

What To Expect When You’re Expecting MJF (Day 3)


KUSP’s final day of EXCLUSIVE broadcast will end with a bang:

Los Angeles County High School for the Arts Big Band:  This passionate group of teenagers live and breathe jazz.  Stop by and check out the future of the form.

Next Generation Jazz Orchestra with special guests Joshua Redman [artist in residence], Benny Green & Donny McCaslin: The program was created in 1971 as a part of the Monterey Jazz Festival’s commitment to jazz education.  The students are selected through an application process each spring to be immersed in big band style jazz under the direction of Paul Contos, the renowned saxophonist and flautist.

India.Arie & Idan Raichel: The neo-soul queen and Israeli superstar will perform their highly anticipated collaboration of genre-bending, globally inspired songs. They’re sure to spread the peace and harmony with their Sunday afternoon set.

Donny McCaslin Group: Donny was born and raised in Santa Cruz, but is now based in New York. He came up through the Monterey Jazz Festival’s celebrated Next Generation Program.  Look forward to his more electrified sound for this MJF 54 performance.

On The Third Day They Jazzed On

Day 3 at the 54th Monterey Jazz Festival brings the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts Big Band, MJF’s Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, The Miles Davis/Gil Evans: Still Ahead Orchestra and, of course, India.Arie — seen here sound checking — to KUSP’s live broadcast. Sunday’s coverage begins at 12:30 pm. She’ll be on around 2:45.

‘James Farm’ featuring Joshua Redman, Aaron Parks, Matt Penman and Eric Harland was one of the many highlights Saturday night.

Photos by Stephen Laufer and Sean Rameswaram