Author John Steinbeck said of Monterey, CA it “is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.”
I experienced many of these things returning to my home state last week to be the Artist in Residence at the Monterey Jazz Festival Jazz Summer Camp. I will never forget it.
First, the setting: coastal California is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Every time I come here I ask myself why I live any where else.
Second, reliving my youth: during my three years in high school I played lead alto in the Monterey Allstate Jazz Band (now called the Next Generation Band), an experience that had a tremendous affect on my development as a musician. It was amazing to get the opportunity to give back to this program that not only had me in a youth band that included fellow students Eric Marienthal, Joe Alessi, Randy Kerber, Steve Bernstein, Larry Lunetta, Larry Koonse (Google them), but great guest artists like Clark Terry, Benny Golson, Chuck Mangione, George Duke, Pat Williams, to name few. Check out my blog about Benny Golson here and Clark Terry here.
Third, a wonderful faculty: working alongside these great musicians and teachers was like stepping into someone’s living room during a party that had been going on for some time, but where you didn’t feel like an outsider.
Forth, the students. Seeing them light up is what it’s all about. It’s what makes 12-hour days of masterclasses, rehearsals, workshops and performances worth every intense minute. And I’m not going to lie: I was exhausted at the end of these four days.
One young alto saxophonist, Marina Panzetta, caused me to smile ear-to-ear when she performed my arrangement of Ornette Coleman’s “Una Muy Bonita” along with her band mate Alili Bradley on trumpet. They brought a beautiful spirit to this difficult piece of music and a willingness to try things they had never explored before. Check out this video of us playing this piece at the concert and my trading phrases with Marina.
Marina and her family were in NY these past few days and stopped by to check out our Jazz at Lincoln Center rehearsal yesterday. A completely synchronistic moment occurred when Wynton called Una Muy Bonita, preparing for a set of Ornette’s music we will perform next week in Colorado.
Tim Jackson, director of the Monterey Jazz Festival, asked if I would sit in on Una Muy Bonita with the honor band at this year’s festival in September. I am so excited to play again with this great group and in particular with Marina, who will be a senior year next.