As the fiftieth Monterey Jazz Festival wound down, we received this communique from Rifftides reader and Montery veteran Robert Walsh.
Thanks for passing along the NPR coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Monterey Jazz Festival, venue of many of my most cherished memories. (Jimmy Lyons and I worked together on the American College Jazz Festival sponsored by American Airlines in the early 1970s,) Here are some of those memories:
Saturday afternoon blues shows. Black ladies in red jump suits sashaying around with bright parasols. Jimmy Witherspoon and Joe Williams “cutting” each other for a half hour or more.
Joyous, spontaneous jitterbugging in a corner at stage left.
Thursday night “cast parties” featuring broiled tuna caught a day or two earlier off Montauk Point on Long Island by Percy Heath. Relaxed background jazz led by Mundell Lowe and his wife, Betty Bennett
Fending off bogus “press” (always with their whorish girl friends) while a volunteer at the gate. They tried every ruse in the book.
Watching the charismatic Black Jesus pimp and his entourage slithering through the lounge.
Raving about the superb high school all-stars on Sunday afternoons. I think Matt Catingub (Mavis Rivers’ son) was one. Another was young Ted Nash. The pro guests went all out themselves.
Eavesdropping on guitarist George Benson rehearsing “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” with the MJQ. Georgeous; don’t think it was ever recorded.
Meeting an affable Buddy Rich (long on the outs with Jimmy Lyons because of a costly overtime performance), who had volunteered to fill in for an ailing Stan Kenton, despite having broken a big toe poolside at home. He goosed up “Intermission Riff” a tad, to the obvious delight of the band members, and playing his (to me, unique) Channel One Suite.
I wish more credit for the depth, diversity and quality of MJF performances was given to John Lewis, its music director for many years. He was constantly checking out new talent (e.g., Ornette Coleman) and people suggested to Jimmy Lyons. My personal example: I asked Jimmy at one point why Marian McPartland had never been invited to MJF. He told me John had long felt Marian was too derivative. But when, presumably at my belated prompting, Jimmy asked John to take another look at Marian, John found that she had at last found that elusive “voice.” (PS, John once told me his favorite jazz pianist was, of all people, Thelonious Monk.)