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Titillating Trio Serve as Monterey Jazz Artists-in-Residence

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By Taylor Jordan

Barrier-breaking trumpeter Clark Terry, saxophone melodic master Frank Wess and versatile violinist Regina Carter...

... will pose a triple threat of musical magic at the 47th annual Monterey Jazz Festival presented by MCI Sept. 17, 18, and 19.

The trio designated as artists-in-residence for the world’s oldest continuous jazz festival will perform in a variety of ensembles as leaders and accentuating accompanists throughout the five-concert weekend on the Monterey County fairgrounds.

Tickets are still available for the five arena shows on the Jimmy Lyons Stage and for grounds-only tickets to enjoy concerts on the garden and courtyard stages as well as the nightclub, Dizzy’s Den and coffeehouse. The arena stage performances will be simulcast in the jazz theater.

Arena tickets vary in price, according to location in the main arena. Grounds tickets are $30 for Friday, $40 each for Saturday or Sunday and $95 for all three days. Tickets may be purchased through the festival box office, (925) 275-9255. Additional information: (831) 373-3366 or www.monterejazzfest.com.

Carter returns to the festival this year as its first year-round artist-in-residence. She will join Terry and Wess as masters mentoring the next generation of jazz artists through weekend interactions and a Sunday afternoon arena performance with the Monterey Jazz Festival High School All-Star Big Band, an ensemble of the best teenage musicians in the nation.

Terry and Wess, both former stalwart stable members of the legendary Count Basie Jazz Orchestra, will reminisce about their experiences in the Basie band, performances with other jazz legends and musical memories in a “Jazz Legends” conversation before fans, critics and colleagues. The two legends in their own time will also perform as special guests with the Bill Charlap Trio on the Lyons stage Saturday evening show that also includes the a cappella ensemble Take 6 and the Don Byron Trio with Jack DeJohnette and Jason Moran.

Wess will additionally participate in a workshop focusing on the flute with Holly Hofmann and Ali Ryerson on Sunday afternoon. Carter will lead her quintet in a grounds concert Sunday and perform on the Lyons Stage Sunday night.

Terry broke the orchestral television color line in 1960 when he joined The Tonight Show Orchestra conducted by trumpet virtuoso Doc Severinsen. Severinsen was quoted as saying if he hit a hot note, he stole it from Terry, his choice for leader of the late night show’s trumpet section. While in The Tonight Show band, Terry’s trademark low-voiced comments while playing or listening earned him the nickname Mumbles.

Terry and Dizzy Gillespie could undoubtedly be Monterey’s two favorite trumpeters. The former’s exemplary artistry, pleasant personality, laid-back humor and friendly interactions with fans make the trumpeter and flugelhorn player an always-welcome addition to the festival program. A recognizable world artist, a T-shirt by jazz photographer Will Wallace of Pacific Grove prompts positive responses and orders from jazz fans who may not speak English, but they know and love the music of Clark Terry.

Terry, Wess and Carter all started playing music as children.

Terry, born in St. Louis in 1920, began playing trumpet at age 15 in a drum and bugle corps. He soon shifted to jazz music. He played in an all-star Navy band, worked with Lionel Hampton, Charlie Ventura and Charlie Barnet before joining the Basie band in 1948, left Basie to play with Duke Ellington and moved again to join Quincy Jones’ band. He has led his own groups and collaborated with such giants as Oscar Peterson, Horace Silver and Bob Brookmeyer.

Although he was born in Kansas City in January 1922 and was a principal player in the Kansas City jazz styled Basie Band, Wess was raised primarily in Washington, D.C. He began his musical training at age 10 in Oklahoma, moved to the nation’s capitol at age 13 and began playing professionally shortly after high school graduation and while attending Howard University’s Music Conservatory.

During World War II, he served as an assistant bandleader and solo clarinetist in the Army band. Leading a swing band backing Josephine Baker’s performance for soldiers highlighted his gigs in the North African war theater.

Wess honed his skills on tenor saxophone touring with the Billy Eckstine, Eddie Heywood and Lucky Millender bands, then earned a bachelor of music degree as a flute major at the Modern School of Music before joining the Basie band in 1953. He became half of the popular “Two Franks” tenor team with Frank Foster in the Basie band and expanded his reputation as a melodic and mellow instrumentalist. He left Basie in 1964 to free lance as a leader, composer, jazz educator and arranger.

Wess has collaborated with Roy Haynes, Tommy Flanagan, Oliver Nelson, Ray Barretto, Thad Jones, George Duvivier, Kenny Barron, Marvin “Smitty” Smith, Rufus Reid and Foster.

Carter, a 2004 Grammy winner and JazzTimes Violinist of the Year, was born in Detroit and began studying violin in elementary school.

Stylistically diverse, she provided solo instrumental distinction on Wynton Marsalis’ Pulitzer Prize-winning “Blood on the Fields” epic recording, the robust sound behind Cassandra Wilson for the singer’s “Travelin’ Miles” performance at Lincoln Center, classical excellence with the Detroit Civic Symphony Orchestra and New York City’s String Trio and innovative artistry with such musically different artists as Max Roach, Kenny Barron, Aretha Franklin, Steve Turre, Billy Joel, Lauryn Hill, Dolly Parton and Mary J. Blige.

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