Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour 55th Anniversary Celebration
Dee Dee Bridgewater, Christian McBride, Benny Green, Lewis Nash, Chris Potter, and Ambrose Akinmusire
Dee Dee Bridgewater / vocals
Few entertainers have ever commanded such depth of artistry in every medium as vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater. Fewer still have been rewarded with Broadway’s coveted Tony Award (Best Featured Actress in a Musical – The Wiz), nominated for the London theater’s West End equivalent, the Laurence Olivier Award (Best Actress in a Musical – Lady Day), won two Grammy® Awards (1998’s Best Jazz Vocal Performance and Best Arrangement Accompanying a Vocal for "Cottontail" – Slide Hampton, arranger, from Dear Ella), and France’s 1998 top honor --the Victoire de la Musique (Best Jazz Vocal Album).
Dee Dee captured the hearts of audiences worldwide in The Wiz with her signature song, “If You Believe.” According to Nick Ashford of Ashford and Simpson, Dee Dee’s rendition "personified a generation and gave us all hope."
As a sparkling ambassador for jazz, she bathed in its music before she could walk. Her mother played the greatest albums of Ella Fitzgerald, whose artistry provided an inspiration for Dee Dee throughout her career. Her father was a trumpeter who taught music – to Booker Little, Charles Lloyd and George Coleman, among others. It is the kind of background that leaves its mark on an adolescent, especially one who appeared solo and with a trio as soon as she was able. Dee Dee’s other vocation -- that of globetrotter -- reared its head when she toured the Soviet Union in 1969 with the University of Illinois Big Band. A year later, she followed her then husband, Cecil Bridgewater, to New York.
Dee Dee made her phenomenal New York debut in 1970 as the lead vocalist for the band led by Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, one of the premier jazz orchestras of the time. These New York years marked an early career in concerts and on recordings with such giants as Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Max Roach and Roland Kirk, and rich experiences with Norman Connors, Stanley Clarke and Frank Foster’s "Loud Minority."
Dee Dee doesn’t care much for labels, and in 1974 she jumped at the chance to act and sing on Broadway where her voice, beauty and stage presence won her great success and a Tony Award for her role as Glinda the Good Witch in The Wiz. This began a long line of awards and accolades as well as opportunities to work in Tokyo, Los Angeles, Paris and in London where she garnered the coveted Laurence Olivier Award nomination as Best Actress for her tour de force portrayal of jazz legend Billie Holiday in Stephen Stahl’s Lady Day. Performing the lead in equally demanding acting/singing roles as Sophisticated Ladies, Cosmopolitan Greetings, Black Ballad, Carmen Jazz and the musical Cabaret (the first black actress to star as Sally Bowles), she secured her reputation as a consummate entertainer.
Named Ambassador to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in October 1999, Dee Dee joined the battle against world hunger.
Taking over the reigns of Jazzset from the illustrious Branford Marsalis, Dee Dee continues to bring her message to listeners. NPR's JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater is the jazz lover's ears and eyes on the world of live music. It presents today's best jazz artists in performance on stages around the world, taking listeners to Puerto Rico and Cuba, as well as Marciac in the French countryside and across the North American continent from Montreal to Monterey.
Over the course of her career, Bridgewater has paid homage to monumental figures of the music world, recording albums dedicated to Ella Fitzgerald (the Grammy Award-winning Dear Ella, 1997), Horace Silver (Love and Peace: A Tribute to Horace Silver, 1995) and Kurt Weill (This Is New, 2002). Her latest recording, 2010’s Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie with Love from Dee Dee honors an iconic jazz figure, Billie Holiday, who died tragically at the age of 44 over a half-century ago.
In December 2012, Dee Dee received an honorary Doctor of Music degree from University of Michigan-Flint. Dee Dee made her first appearance at the Monterey Jazz in Festival in 1973 with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. www.deedeebridgewater.com
Christian McBride / bass, musical director
The Grammy Award-winning bassist Christian McBride has been at the forefront of jazz since he emerged as part of the talented generation of players that took the genre by storm in the early 1990s. Born in 1972 in Philadelphia, Christian began playing electric bass at age nine, mentored by his father and great uncle. After studying both jazz and classical music at Philadelphia’s High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, Christian was awarded a partial scholarship to attend the Juilliard School in New York City in 1989. Almost immediately upon his arrival in New York, McBride began working with saxophonist Bobby Watson's Horizon and started working at clubs with John Hicks, Kenny Barron, Larry Willis and Gary Bartz. After one year at Juilliard, McBride decided to leave school to tour with trumpeter Roy Hargrove. From that moment, McBride began a remarkable ascent to the top ranks of the music industry; many top jazz artists recognized his virtuoso status, such as trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, Superbass (with Ray Brown and John Clayton), Pat Metheny, Joshua Redman and many others.
During the 1990s, Christian recorded close to 150 albums as a sideman for such artists as Joe Henderson, Betty Carter, Roy Haynes, Benny Green, Kathleen Battle, Diana Krall, Dave Brubeck, Jimmy Smith, Joe Lovano, McCoy Tyner, George Duke, and many more, as well as appearing onscreen in Robert Altman's 1940s period film, Kansas City. Signed to Verve in 1994, McBride released four records as a leader, including Gettin' to It, Number Two Express, A Family Affair and SCI-FI.
In the new century, McBride continued to expand his scope of live and recorded performances with Sting, George Duke, Chick Corea, Chris Botti, John Scofield, Jim Hall, and dozens more. In 2004, he won a Grammy Award for his participation on McCoy Tyner’s Illuminations, and he undertook his first pop Musical Directorship for Carly Simon’s Christmas show featuring gospel royalty BeBe Winans. In 2006, McBride performed with the Godfather of Soul, James Brown at the Hollywood Bowl, and in 2007, he recorded with and acted as Musical Director for Queen Latifah, presented Charles Mingus’ Epitaph in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, and performed with Sonny Rollins and Roy Haynes at a 50th Anniversary concert at Carnegie Hall.
Confounding the purists by embracing the funky and electrified sounds of his youth, McBride has also pushed the boundaries of jazz with the Philadelphia Experiment (with The Roots’ drummer and high school classmate ?uestlove, Uri Caine and Pat Martino) and has released two recordings, Vertical Vision and Live at Tonic with his own group, the Christian McBride Band. Christian has also cultivated new sounds with his eclectic, anything-goes-electro-acoustic Christian McBride Situation, which can include DJs as well as traditional instruments.
Christian McBride is also a devoted jazz educator and mentor. He is the Artistic Director at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass summer program, the Co-Director of The Jazz Museum in Harlem, and is Creative Chair for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Past Artistic Director and residency positions include stints at the Henry Mancini and Brubeck Institutes, the Berklee College of Music, and Stanford Jazz Workshop.
McBride is also a talented composer/arranger and has written dozens of tunes and has received commissions from such entities as Jazz at Lincoln Center ("Bluesin' in Alphabet City," performed by Wynton Marsalis with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra) and the National Endowment for the Arts (“The Movement, Revisited,” a dramatic musical portrait of the civil rights struggle of the 1960s written and arranged for quartet and a 30-piece gospel choir.)
In 2008 alone he performed duties as artist-in-residence at both the Detroit International Jazz Festival and the Monterey Jazz Festival. A few years ago at a concert where they both performed, bass legend Ron Carter told McBride, steeped in the jazz tradition, “It’s good to see you respecting the music so much.”
McBride's critically-acclaimed Kind of Brown, recorded with Inside Straight, was released on Mack Avenue Records in 2009. A 10-track album featured his new acoustic jazz quintet, comprised of old friends (pianist Eric Reed, alto saxophonist Steve Wilson and drummer Carl Allen) as well as newcomer vibraphonist Warren Wolf, one of McBride’s former students.
Also in the period from 2008-2010, McBride has recorded and performed live with Melissa Walker, Joe Sample and Randy Crawford; Tia Fuller, Jeff "Tain" Watts, Lynne Fiddmont, Willie Nelson, Annekei, the Five Peace Band, Rosana Eckert; James Carter, Angelique Kidjo, Dee Dee Bridgewater, the New York Funk Exchange, The Manhattan Transfer, Benito Gonzales, Yotam Silberstein, Dana Lauren, Kirk Whalum, and more.
In 2010, Christian won his second Grammy for the Five Peace Band: Live, a live project featuring Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Kenny Garrett, and Vinnie Colaiuta.
Christian McBride reached another milestone with the release of The Good Feeling in 2011, his first big band recording as a leader, arranger and conductor--and latest release for Mack Avenue Records. McBride’s first foray into the world of big band composing and arranging dates back to 1995, when he was commissioned by Jazz At Lincoln Center to write Bluesin' in Alphabet City, featured on The Good Feeling and originally debuted by Wynton Marsalis & The Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra. The Good Feeling recently won a 2012 Grammy for Best Large Jazz Ensemble, Christian’s first as a leader and his third overall. www.christianmcbride.com
Benny Green / piano
Benny Green possesses the history of jazz at his fingertips. Combine mastery of keyboard technique with decades of real world experience playing with no one less than the most celebrated artists of the last half-century, and it's no wonder Green has been hailed as perhaps the most exciting, hard-swinging, hard-bop, pianist to ever emerge from Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers.
Born in New York in 1963, Benny Green grew up in Berkeley, California, and began classical piano studies at the age of seven. Influenced by his father, a tenor saxophonist, his attention soon turned into jazz. Benny played in school bands before hooking up with jazz singer Fay Carroll, and as a teenager he worked with Eddie Henderson, and got some big band experience with a twelve-piece group led by Chuck Israels. After his graduation, Benny freelanced around the Bay Area for a year, and then moved to New York in the spring of 1982. Back in the Big Apple, he met veteran pianist Walter Bishop Jr. and began a period of study with the jazz master.
After a short stint with Bobby Watson, Green worked with Betty Carter between 1983 and 1987. Afterwards, at the age of twenty-four, Benny Green joined Art Blakey's band. He remained a Jazz Messenger through late 1989, at which point he began working with Freddie Hubbard's quintet.
In 1993 Oscar Peterson chose Benny as the first recipient of the City of Toronto's Glenn Gould International Protégé Prize in Music. That year, Green replaced Gene Harris in Ray Brown's trio. Green stayed with the veteran bass player until 1997, and then resumed his freelance career, leading his own trios, accompanying singers like Diana Krall, and concentrating in his solo piano performances.
As a leader of his own groups, Benny's recording career began with two albums for the Dutch label Criss Cross: Prelude (1988) and In This Direction (1989). In 1990 Green started recording for Blue Note, recording Lineage (1990), Greens (1991), Testifiyin' (1992), That's Right! (1993), The Place To Be (1994), Kaleidoscope (1997) and These Are Soulful Days (1999). He has also recorded for the Toshiba label on Funky (1997); and for Telarc with Oscar Peterson on Oscar & Benny (1997).
In 2000, his debut recording on Telarc Jazz entitled Naturally was released, which featured bassist Christian McBride and guitarist Russell Malone, musicians who have both inspired and challenged him to explore new territory. It was recorded just days after an acclaimed performance at the 2000 IAJE Conference in New Orleans. With the release of Green's Blues, Benny returned to his roots and updated the tradition with an exciting solo collection of jazz standards by Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Erroll Garner and George Gershwin, among others, with his highly personal style.
2003 marked the release of Jazz at the Bistro (Telarc), a duo recording with guitarist Russell Malone, dedicated to the memory of the late jazz bassist, Ray Brown. The superstar duo returned a year later with a highly anticipated follow-up, Bluebird, which also arrived to critical success.
Along the way, Benny has appeared on a guest performer on over one hundred recordings, from albums with legacy artists such as Betty Carter (including Grammy award-winner Look What I Got), Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Watson, Milt Jackson, Diana Krall, and he is particularly featured in Ray Brown's trio series of CDs for Telarc: Bass Face (1993); Don't get Sassy (1994): Some of My Best Friends… (1994): Seven Steps to Heaven (1995): Super Bass (1996); and Live at Sculler's (1996). Benny also enjoys working with next generation artists, such as Japan's young drum virtuous and Columbia / Savoy artist, Tiger Onitsuka, with whom he recorded A Time in New York in 2008.
In 2009, the acclaimed pianist completed a ten-week engagement as the musical director of the Monterey Jazz Festival All-Star 50th Anniversary Tour. In 2010, he was a featured performer with Dizzy's All Star Band, and also embarked on a highly acclaimed Scandinavian tour with Swedish jazz guitarist and Oscar Peterson Quartet alumni, Ulf Wakenius. Benny also makes frequent appearances in Japan, where he is often asked to engage on extended tours.
Benny also continues to be a much in demand guest artist, leading repeat workshops and master classes at such educational institutions and music clinics as the Juilliard School, Interlochen, the Monk Institute, Eastern Washington State University, Jazz Camp West, Snow College, Centrum and the Brubeck Institute, all of whom host students who express eagerness and enthusiasm with each return engagement.
2011 also marked the premier tour of a long developed project, Monk’s Dream: 50 Years Fresh, billed as a “Celebration of the Expanding Musical Universe of Bebop.” With Monk’s Dream, Benny and band paid homage to the legacy and the man that is his first and most significant musical hero, Thelonious Sphere Monk.
A perpetual student of the history of jazz piano, the pianist mentions Erroll Garner, Ahmad Jamal, Phineas Newborn, Bud Powell and Oscar Peterson as some of his main influences. Benny Green's approach to Jazz can be resumed in his own words: "... for myself and a lot of musicians I admire, the main focus is to just swing and have fun, and share those feelings with the audience ...and, if I'm able to convey that, then I feel like I'm doing something positive." http://bennygreenmusic.com/
Lewis Nash / drums
Drummer Lewis Nash grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, where he was encouraged into jazz by his high school band teacher. By the age of 18, Nash was a first-call sideman for visiting musicians to Phoenix, and received the call to move to New York and join Betty Carter's band at the age of 22. Nash became a highly in-demand sideman during this period, and since his tenure with Carter, has gone onto record and tour with some of the most important and highly regarded musicians of all time, among them Tommy Flanagan, Oscar Peterson, Sonny Rollins, Ray Brown, Gerald Wilson, Horace Silver, Ron Carter, Hank Jones, Benny Carter, Milt Jackson, Art Farmer, McCoy Tyner, Joe Lovano, Christian McBride, Branford Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Pat Martino, Clark Terry, Diana Krall, Joe Williams, Nancy Wilson, and many others.
Though renowned as a master stylist, particularly in bebop and post-bop styles, Nash is seemingly at home in a wide range of stylistic territory, including funk, free, and latin-based jazz styles, and his versatility has made him one of the most in demand drummers of the past two decades. Nash is known for his seemingly endless depth of melodic vocabulary, drawing from all eras of jazz percussion, while adding his own unmistakably original approach to the construction of his comping figures and soloing. This identifiable voice puts Nash on a shortlist of drummers of the past 20 years, who have managed to incorporate the important traditions of American jazz music without overshadowing their individuality.
Nash's style can be characterized by an unrelenting ride cymbal beat, dazzling melodic invention between the snare, toms and bass drum; cymbal crashes which resolve these figures in complex, unpredictable ways; crisp technical execution of rudimental figures, a huge sweeping brush sound; and the use of three toms which gives Nash a pianistic range of melodic possibilities. Nash is recognized as one of the foremost brush stylists of his generation. In particular, Nash's recordings with the great pianist Tommy Flanagan display his mastery in this regard.
Nash is also renowned in the jazz drumming community for his passion and dedication to jazz education, and has fostered the careers of a long list of younger players. He is in high demand as a clinician and educator at schools, workshops and major educational jazz festivals worldwide. He formed his own group in the late 1990s and currently leads several groups of varying instrumentation, from duo to septet.
Nash has made three recordings as a leader, including Rhythm Is My Business (1989), It Don't Mean A Thing (2003) and Stompin' At The Savoy (2005). www.lewisnash.com
Chris Potter / saxophone
A world-class soloist, accomplished composer and formidable bandleader, saxophonist Chris Potter has emerged as a leading light of his generation. DownBeat called him "One of the most studied (and copied) saxophonists on the planet" while JazzTimes identified him as "a figure of international renown." Jazz sax elder statesman Dave Liebman called him simply, "one of the best musicians around," a sentiment shared by the readers of DownBeat in voting him second only to tenor sax great Sonny Rollins in the magazine's 2008 Readers Poll.
A potent improviser and the youngest musician ever to win Denmark's Jazzpar Prize, Potter's impressive discography includes 15 albums as a leader and sideman appearances on over 100 albums. He was nominated for a Grammy® Award for his solo work on "In Vogue," a track from Joanne Brackeen’s 1999 album Pink Elephant Magic, and was prominently featured on Steely Dan’s Grammy-winning album from 2000, Two Against Nature. He has performed or recorded with many of the leading names in jazz, such as Herbie Hancock, Dave Holland, John Scofield, the Mingus Big Band, Jim Hall, Paul Motian, Dave Douglas, Ray Brown and many others.
Born in Chicago on January 1, 1971, his family moved to Columbia, South Carolina when he was three. There he started playing guitar and piano before taking up the alto saxophone at age 10, playing his first gig at 13. When piano legend Marian McPartland first heard Chris at 15 years old, she told his father that Chris was ready for the road with a unit such as Woody Herman’s band, but finishing school was a priority. At age 18, Potter moved to New York to study at the New School and Manhattan School of Music, while also immersing himself in New York’s jazz scene and beginning his lifelong path as a professional musician.
Since bursting onto the New York scene in 1989 as an 18-year-old prodigy with bebop icon Red Rodney (who himself had played as a young man alongside the legendary Charlie Parker), Potter has steered a steady course of growth as an instrumentalist and composer-arranger. Through the '90s, he continued to gain invaluable bandstand experience as a sideman while also making strong statements as a bandleader-composer-arranger.
His initial gig with Red Rodney was an eye-opening and educational experience. “I wish I had had the perspective I have now to appreciate what a larger-than-life character Red was.” Potter's years with Paul Motian's Electric Bebop Band represented a wholly different approach from Rodney’s old school bebop aesthetic on stage. “Motian has really had a big affect on the way that I think about music,” says the saxophonist. “He approaches things from such an anti-analytical way. It’s so different than so many of the other musicians that I’ve had a chance to work with. Motian more relies on his aesthetic sensibility and his instinct. He’s basically just trusting his gut and he’s so strong about it that he can make it work. And it takes a lot of courage to do that.”
From bassist-bandleader Dave Holland he learned about the importance of focus and willpower. "Dave is determined to make his music as strong as possible and present it in the best way," says Potter, who has been a member of Holland's groups for the past 10 years. "Playing with him, you have the feeling there’s this mountain standing behind you that you can completely rely on. Working with him over the years has helped me see the true value of believing in what you’re doing.”
Potter performed and recorded with Dave Holland and the Monterey Quartet (Live at the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival), which also featured pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba and drummer Eric Harland at the 50th Anniversary of the Festival.
His most recent recording, Ultrahang, is the culmination thus far of five years’ work with his Underground quartet with Adam Rogers on guitar, Craig Taborn on Fender Rhodes, and Nate Smith on drums. Recorded in the studio in January 2009 after extensive touring, it showcases the band at its freewheeling yet cohesive best.
Looking back over his 20 years since arriving in New York, Potter says, “I’ve had the chance to learn a lot from all the leaders that I’ve worked with. Each gave me another perspective on how to organize a band and make a statement. It’s taught me that any approach can work, as long as you have a strong vision of what you want to do.” www.chrispottermusic.com
Ambrose Akinmusire / trumpet
Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, was born in Oakland, California, and attended Berkeley High School and was a member of the 1999 and 2000 Monterey Jazz Festival’s High School All-Star Band. While still in the Berkeley High School Ensemble, he caught the attention of the visiting saxophonist Steve Coleman, who later hired Ambrose as a member of his Five Elements band for extensive European tour. Akinmusire was just 19 years old.
After graduating from Berkeley High School in 2000, he moved to New York to begin a scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music, studying with Vincent Penzerella, Dick Oatts, Lew Soloff, and Laurie Frink. He performed publicly with Lonnie Plaxico, Stefon Harris, Josh Roseman, Vijay Iyer, Charlie Persip, the Mingus Big Band, and the San Francisco Jazz Collective, to name a few.
Ambrose returned to the West Coast in 2005 to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and simultaneously attended the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. His teachers include Terence Blanchard, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Billy Childs and Gary Grant. He has worked with such artists as Jimmy Heath, Jason Moran, Hal Crook, Bob Hurst, Terri Lyne Carrington, Ron Carter, Jason Moran, Wallace Roney, Herbie Hancock, and Wayne Shorter. After graduation in 2007, Ambrose won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition and the Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition in the space of one week.
After making appearances on recordings by Steve Coleman, Vijay Iyer, Alan Pasqua, Walter Smith III, Josh Roseman, Esperanza Spalding, Aaron Parks, and more in the 2000s, Ambrose signed to Blue Note Records, releasing When The Heart Emerges Glistening.
Co-produced by Akinmusire and his labelmate and mentor Jason Moran, the album’s 12 songs (10 of which were composed by Akinmusire) feature the 28-year-old trumpeter’s young quintet (tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III, pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Harish Raghavan, and drummer Justin Brown), a close-knit group of longtime friends and frequent collaborators that breathes a remarkable collective identity. The New York Times wrote that the quintet “seems destined for much wider recognition,” and described their unique sound as “limber, straight-ahead jazz with mystery and pop instincts that gets around most of the old, pervasive mainstream influences, both of trumpet playing and bandleading.” The New York Times also named When The Heart Emerges Glistening as their top CD of 2011.
The Los Angeles Times recently named Akinmusire one of their 2011 “Faces to Watch,” and offered this descriptive of the quintet’s recent Los Angeles performance: “Akinmusire and his band demonstrated a remarkably fluid, adventurous interplay and patiently imaginative way with melody that sounded as steeped in the music's history as it was hardwired with the sound of something new. With a chameleonic tone that can sigh, flutter or soar, Akinmusire sounds less like a rising star than one that was already at great heights and just waiting to be discovered.” www.ambroseakinmusire.com