Dixieland Monterey expands way beyond the music born in New Orleans.
Thursday, March 2, 2006
Jazz’s development was so rapid that in a mere 30 years the music evolved from the ascendance of Louis Armstrong to the freedom of Ornette Coleman. In the head-long rush of innovation, one style after another was was absorbed and supplanted by a rising generation. So perhaps it’s not surprising that jazz’s first stylistic revival took place in the early 1940s, less than 15 years after the traditional New Orleans ensemble sound had been eclipsed by the rise of swing orchestras. Ever since Frederick Ramsey and William Russell tracked down trumpeter Bunk Johnson and clarinetist George Lewis while researching their book “Jazzmen,” the 1920s New Orleans style and its sibling Chicago sound, also known as trad or classic jazz, have maintained a broad-based popular following.
The Monterey Dixieland Festival, which runs from Friday through Sunday at various downtown locations, offers some two dozen acts covering an array of classic jazz styles. Now in its 26th year, the festival is part of a vital circuit of weekend events running from the San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Festival and Los Angeles Classic Jazz Festival to the Sacramento Jubilee.
Like those festivals, Monterey has long ago outgrown its name, offering a broad array of pre-modern jazz styles, including ragtime, boogie woogie, big band and small group swing, and of course various iterations of trad.
Here are some of the highlights on tap for the weekend. These musicians all play multiple sets throughout the weekend.
• B.E.D. takes its name from the first initials of its three principals, the vocal stylist Becky Kilgore, the guitarist, banjo player and vocalist Eddie Erickson, and master trombonist Dan Barrett. Joined by bassist Joel Forbes, the musicians have performed and recorded together in various settings over the past two decades. With their rhythmic panache, easygoing sense of humor and far-ranging repertoire, B.E.D offers renditions of standards from the 1920s and 30s.
• The Jim Cullum Jazz Band has gained a national following through PBS broadcasts from its home on San Antonio’s Riverwalk. Over the years, the band has honed an extensive repertoire of pre-World War II material, from 19th century cakewalks and the highly arranged compositions of Jelly Roll Morton through classic tunes associated with Louis Armstrong and trumpeter King Oliver. The band explores the music of trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke and songwriter Hoagy Carmichael.
• Vocalist Pat Yankee is a living link to Northern California’s great trad tradition. She first gained fame performing with Turk Murphy in the late 1950s, and she has carried the classic jazz torch ever since. Whether belting a Bessie Smith blues, improvising on a New Orleans jazz tune or crooning a Gershwin ballad, Yankee is an engaging performer who makes her material her own. She performs with a group of veteran West Coast players.
• Yve Evans is a captivating artist who turns everything she sings into a vehicle for soulful expression. Equally commanding performing jazz, blues and gospel, Evans is also an accomplished pianist with a bright, ringing keyboard touch. Her five CDs are all live recordings, a wise move as she is a crowd- pleasing performer who radiates energy. Her band features players who know when to step forward for a solo and when to get out of her way.
DIXIELAND MONTEREY takes place all weekend at the Portola Plaza Hotel, the Monterey Conference Center, Fisherman’s Wharf and the Golden State Theater, Friday ($35), Saturday ($50) and Sunday ($35), March 3, 4 and 5. Tickets available at the Portola Plaza Hotel and at 633-5053. Children under 12 free with an adult.