Entertainment » Vol. 11

The Monterey Jazz Festival Records Label Presents “The Monterey Quartet: Live at the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival”

By Steve Henricksen

The best jazz festivals make musical history ~ whether it’s bringing together artists who have never played together before, debuting new musical compositions, or documenting a significant one-of-a-kind performance with a live recording ~ yet it’s unusual for all three components to align. However, the Monterey Jazz Festival, one of the world’s most renowned and prestigious jazz parties which, throughout its 50-year-plus existence, has continuously delivered adventurous programming, has scored that rarest of trifectas with the remarkable album The Monterey Quartet: Live at the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival.

Featuring the all-star group of bassist Dave Holland, pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, saxophonist Chris Potter, and drummer Eric Harland ~ the first time ever these talents had ever collaborated as a quartet ~ the CD documents the band’s premiere at the Monterey Jazz Festival’s 50th anniversary year in 2007. Highlighted by all new material composed specifically for the project, The Monterey Quartet will be released on the Monterey Jazz Festival Records label (an imprint of the Concord Music Group) on August 25.

While MJF Records was launched in 2007 with a series of archival recordings from throughout the festival’s history (including dates by Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, and Thelonious Monk), part of its mission is to also present jazz in the present tense. “The purpose of the label is to produce new as well as archival music,” says Monterey Jazz Festival General Manager Tim Jackson. “We’re trying to work with a new model that includes performing and recording in one package.”

(The first “tradition of the new” release was last year’s Live at the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival CD recorded live by the Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary All-Stars. It was nominated for two Grammy Awards, and won one [Best Jazz Instrumental Solo: “Be-Bop,” trumpeter Terence Blanchard soloist]).

The Monterey Quartet: Live at the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival was also recorded at the silver anniversary event, with the made-for-Monterey group headlining the arena-sized Jimmy Lyons Stage, followed by a performance at the intimate Dizzy’s Den on the festival grounds. While the first set intrigued the audience, the second set, with the band warmed up and totally in sync, enthralled them. Liner note writer Paul de Barros pointed out that all four players “privilege the idea of jazz as a conversation (as opposed to oration or, God forbid, soliloquy), which means they are all keen listeners as well as speakers. They can turn on a dime when someone else tosses in a dollar, remaining open to the flow of the music as it manifests itself.”

De Barros added, “These players also share a third, more elusive quality, one the Andalusian poet [Federico] Garcia Lorca called duende, and which might best be translated as ‘soulfulness.’ There is never a moment on this album when ~ like the bullfighter and bull in the ring ~ you feel the music is being played for stakes any lower than life and death. This is the real deal.”

The vision of this quartet came more than a decade before its manifestation. MJF Records General Manager Jason Olaine, then the brilliant booker at the renowned Yoshi’s jazz club in Oakland, Calif., attempted to unite Holland with Rubalcaba when the latter’s Cuba-based band mates were denied visas to perform in the U.S. However, the timing was off because of Holland’s schedule. But Olaine continued to think of the creative potential of such a collaboration. Potter came to Olaine’s attention when he was a Verve Records A&R exec a few years later. The final puzzle piece was Harland, who, it became apparent to all parties, would be the perfect fit to contribute to the making of a vital quartet.

Yet, the band idea stalled until 2007 when the MJF Records label was founded. “I pitched Tim Jackson the idea of them playing the festival, recording it, and having it come out on the label,” says Olaine. “He said, ‘Let’s do it.'”

The Monterey Quartet, which features two songs by each of the participants, spotlights the vitality of the band. In recalling the live sessions, bassist Dave Holland remarks, “There was really an electric atmosphere from the audience. There was an energy we all felt, that kind of circular energy that goes on between the musicians and the audience. It’s a very powerful thing when it really takes off.”

In the conclusion of his The Monterey Quartet CD liner notes, de Barros writes, “For while a ton of work went into writing and rehearsing it, once the downbeat hit, all four players just let the music sing, like it wanted to do. Monterey could not have asked for a better birthday gift.”

For more information and to order, visit www.jazzpublicity.com www.concordmusicgroup.com

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