From 1975-1977 I played lead alto with the Monterey Jazz Festival All-Star Band, performing in the hot, outdoor September sun on the Lyons Stage to a crowd of thousands of jazz fans. Yesterday, exactly forty years later, I returned to the Lyons Stage to play with the band, but this time as a guest soloist. Wynton and I joined the band playing “Una Muy Bonita,” an arrangement I did of the Ornette Coleman classic. Seeing and hearing these talented kids put their youthful spirit and energy into the music brought back so many memories and feelings from a time when my brain and soul soaked up everything musical around me.
And there was so much to soak up back in the mid-late 70s. Appearing at the Festival then were Bill Evans trio, Dizzy Gillespie Quartet, Horace Silver Quintet, The Heath Brothers, Joe Williams, Paul Desmond Quartet, not to mention the guests that played with the All-Star band: Clark Terry, Benny Golson, George Duke, Chuck Mangione and Pat Williams, to name a few.
After we finished Una Muy Bonita yesterday, I stayed back stage to listen to the rest of the group’s performance. I ran into Darlene Chan, the stage manager. We gave each other a hug and laughed, remarking on how we had first met forty years ago an that exact stage. She was stage manager then and I was an enthusiastic teenager. Darlene commented that we had come full-circle. I looked out at the band, still performing their set, and wondered which one of these youngsters would return to Monterey in forty years to be standing where I am now, thinking the same thing.
Here’s a video showing the highlights of the 1975 Festival.