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Hancock and Hutcherson are Monterey Jazz Hot Tickets

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By Taylor Jordan

Officials of the 46th annual Monterey Jazz Festival know the best way to keep all arena fans in their seats until the final note is played at the three-day musical event. Schedule pianist/producer/composer Herbie Hancock and vibraphonist great Bobby Hutcherson as the closing Sunday night artists.

No one but the totally insane would leave the Monterey County fairgrounds before the festival on Sept. 19, 20 and 21 ends and miss a chance to see the two legends in their own time.

And since the sane will remain, they will also enjoy a weekend packed with the music that put America at the top of the world’s culturally creative list.

Hancock and Hutcherson are hard acts to follow, so it is particularly fitting they close the five concerts on the arena’s Jimmy Lyons Stage. There can be no doubt that their dual performance, with Hancock as ensemble leader and Hutcherson as his “very special” guest, will be exhilarating, uniquely rhythmic and perfectly blend the best of jazz expressions.

Although Hutcherson was inspired to become a vibraphonist when he heard Milt “Bags” Jackson, probably the best vibraphonist of all jazz times, his style is hardly typical of the Modern Jazz Quartet vibes artist’s lyrically lilting and melodic sweetness. He plays a ballad with the best, but magical things traditionally leap off when he moves into high-energy, physically demanding and rhythmically challenging licks.

Hutcherson’s edge-of-your-seat playing has captured the hearts of fans and respect of instrumental peers worldwide. His musical partners include pristine and unequivocally notable pioneers: Hancock, Charles Lloyd, Al Grey, Billy Mitchell, Jackie McLean, Hank Mobley, Eric Dolphy, Dexter Gordon, Chick Corea, Cedar Walton, Billy Higgins, Harold Land Sr.

He’s such a formidable but friendly personality that he didn’t have to play a note in the critically acclaimed film “Round Midnight” to be remembered. His character cooked red beans and rice and soulful staples of home for the American musicians performing and living as ex-patriates in Europe.

Hancock achieved popularity among Monterey Jazz Festival and international audiences for his unwillingness to stay in one place or style. He constantly morphs and evolves into new musical expressions as a pianist, producer and composer continually cutting and moving the instrumental edge.

Musically dexterous, Hancock began as a classical pianist and soloed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as an 11-year-old child prodigy. Possessing a balanced blend of left-brain, right-brain talents, he majored in electronic engineering at Grinnell College before music claimed his career path. Legendary trumpeter Donald Byrd discovered and mentored him into jazz, hiring Hancock as a sideman in his New York group.

He signed with Blue Note Records in 1960, first stepped on the international ladder with his classic composition “Watermelon Man,” began a five-year association with Miles Davis as a sizzling sideman and composer, immersed himself in electronic music for the 1960s’ decade and continued to evolve as a seminal figure in jazz as he broke ground in video and synthesized experimentation, interactive electronics, world music and memorable artistry.

Hancock’s skills as a composer and pianist have frequently been simultaneously presented. This was particularly true with his 2001 Monterey Jazz Festival debut of “Directions In Music.” This tribute to John Coltrane and Miles Davis featured the talents of trumpeter Roy Hargrove, drummer Brian Blade, bassist John Patitucci and saxophonist Michael Brecker and sept the MJF audience to a spontaneous standing ovation for Brecker’s sizzling sax solo.

Hancock, who also played piano and acted in the film, won an Oscar for scoring “Round Midnight.”

Topping Monterey’s main arena artists list are song stylist Nnenna Freelon; vocalese great Jon Hendricks as the leader of “Four Brothers” with singers Kurt Elling, Mark Murphy and Kevin Mahogany; the Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra featuring bassist John Clayton, drummer Jeff Hamilton and saxophonist Jeff Clayton; all the Neville Brothers - Aaron, Cyril, Arthur and Charles; Afro-Cuban and salsa singer Isaac Delgado; virtuoso pianist Michel Camilo; The Crusaders with guest vocalist Randy Crawford; New Orleans’ musicians Buckwheat Zydeco and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and fusion guitarist John McLauglin with India tabla player Zakir Hussain.

Weekend highlights include the arena debut of trumpeter Dave Douglas, the 2003 commissioned composition “Traditions and Commissions” to be presented by acoustic guitarist Ralph Towner and vibraphonist Gary Burton and the screening of “Piano Blues,” a new film by producer, director and jazz aficionado Clint Eastwood. The movie, executive produced by Martin Scorsese, is one of seven films in the Public Broadcasting System’s “The Blues” series.

John and Jeff Clayton and Gary Burton will be the weekend’s artists-in-residence and Ralph Towner will be the showcase artist. All will make multiple appearances on the arena and free ground stages.

Besides tickets to the five arena concerts, jazz fans may purchase grounds-only tickets - $25 for Friday, $35 each for Saturday and Sunday or $80 for a three-day pass - for entertainment at Dizzy’s Den, the nightclub, garden and courtyard stages, the coffee house gallery and jazz theater.
Information: (925) 275-9255 or montereyjazzfestival.org.

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