Monterey Jazz Fest 2011: Day 1
September 17, 2011
Photos by Nic Coury
Yes, there was organized chaos in every direction on the first day of the 54th Monterey Jazz Festival, but this year's opening night blew my mind a little more than the others because of one little feisty female pianist: Hiromi Uehara. She wore a smile the entire night...and much more.
The musicians's hands looked like spiders with ADHD moving up and down the ivory piano keys and her erratic and sensual movements evoked orgasmic qualities that garnered standing ovations in between each of her compositions. Uehara also had a pair of amazing musicians by her side: six-string bassist Anthony Jackson (Paul Simon, The O’Jays, Steely Dan, Chick Corea) and cosmic drummer, Simon Phillips (Toto, The Who, Judas Priest, David Gilmour). Her blood-red Puma sneakers also had some impact.
Less than 45 minutes after playing the main arena, Hiromi, her trio and all their equipment, ventured to the opposite end of the Fairgrounds for another, more intimate performance at Dizzy's Den. This woman's knack for keeping folks from leaving her shows entailed flawless key-pounding as if she was playing for her last breath. I've been forever won over by this immaculate talent.
The Friday night finale: Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band featuring Terence Blanchard was the perfect way to end the night. The master percussionist—who made his MJF debut in 1975—led a killer set of tunes paying homage to the work of Chano Pozo and Dizzy Gillespie. And watching Clint Eastwood groove quietly to the delightful sounds only enhanced the overall experience. How does that guy age so gracefully?