Make us your home page

Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour stops at the Straz

Bass virtuoso Christian McBride, above, performs with his band, Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour, in Tampa on Saturday.

Straz Center

Bass virtuoso Christian McBride, above, performs with his band, Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour, in Tampa on Saturday.

What's in a band name?

Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour is the rather unwieldy official name for the group featuring acclaimed jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater and celebrated bass virtuoso Christian McBride.

It's not exactly original, as two previous bands have toured under that name. And the billing serves the blatantly commercial purpose of promoting the brand of the northern California festival, widely regarded as one of the country's oldest, biggest and best gatherings of its kind.

But after playing more than 25 shows on a 40-city tour that began in January and makes a stop at the Straz in Tampa on Saturday, the six top-shelf jazz musicians feel like a real band, McBride said last week from New York.

There, Bridgewater, McBride, saxophonist Chris Potter, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, pianist Benny Green and drummer Lewis Nash played a dozen sets over six nights at the Blue Note, the famous Manhattan jazz club.

Tim Jackson, artistic director of the Monterey festival, asked McBride, the tour's musical director, to "try to capture the feel of the festival, which is kind of hard to do because musicians make the festival," he said by telephone. "After digging further into his think tank, he (Jackson) says, 'There are a few artists who've always been associated with Monterey more than most — Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie, James Moody, Gerald Wilson, Charles Lloyd. Give us a few songs by those grand masters who have been closely associated with Monterey, but do your own music as well.' "

Consequently, the group draws from music that might variously be classified as straight-ahead jazz, hard bop, soul jazz, and ballads, on original compositions as well as pieces including Brubeck's Mr. Broadway, Dizzy Gillespie's Tanga, and Bobby Hutcherson's Highway One. Bridgewater sings God Bless the Child, Don't Explain and Your Mother's Son-in-Law and other numbers associated with Billie Holiday. Holiday, honored by Bridgewater on her 2010 CD Eleanora Fagan, sang at the debut Monterey Jazz Festival, held at an outdoor horse-show arena in 1958.

"Even beyond the repertoire, with standards and originals, and a gamut of styles, we wanted it really well rehearsed and well oiled so we're not just a jam band," McBride said. "We wanted to make sure this band had a look and a concept and a sound. I've worked very hard on really approaching it as if we're a real band, and at this point, we are. We've been going since Jan. 10, so it's safe to say we're lived-in. It's come together well as a unit, not just an all-star jam band. We've seen enough of those over the years."

The sextet's members, who collectively have racked up nearly 35 performances at the Monterey fest, come by their synchronicity naturally. McBride, who estimates that he has played on nearly 300 jazz recordings, has worked with drummer Nash on 60 of those releases, and both have collaborated with pianist Green.

The rhythm section, McBride said, has developed an easy rapport with Potter, a journeyman saxophonist who recently toured with Pat Metheny, fast-rising trumpeter Akinmusire, at 30 the crew's youngest player, and Bridgewater. The singer, 62, the elder stateswoman of the group, has gained a worldwide following via numerous recordings and concert appearances, and her work as host of National Public Radio's JazzSet program. Additionally, she has won two Grammys, as well as a Tony for The Wiz.

"Dee Dee has seen it all, done it all, and worked with everyone," McBride said. "She knows exactly what she's doing. There's nothing you can get by her or nothing she doesn't want to try. She approaches her art the same way any instrumentalist would. She's so sure footed — she sings with such assuredness. We just love her fearlessness."

.if you go

Monterey Jazz

Festival on Tour

The 55th anniversary tour has a concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Ferguson Hall at David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. $18.25-$36.50. (813) 229-7827.

Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour stops at the Straz 04/10/13 [Last modified: Thursday, April 11, 2013 7:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 'Stronger' a sobering, sap-free survivor tale from the Boston Marathon bombing


    What didn't kill Jeff Bauman made him Stronger, surviving not only the Boston Marathon terrorist bombings but a crush of well-meaning yet corrosive attention for doing it.

    Jake Gyllenhaal in “Stronger.” The inspiring real life story of Jeff Bauman, an ordinary man who became a symbol of hope following the infamous 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
  2. 20 local museums are offering free admission or deals Saturday for Free Museum Day

    Visual Arts

    For all the community's support of the arts in the bay area, it's nice to be rewarded with free admission once in a while. And that's exactly what many area museums are offering on Saturday.

    The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg is among the museums participating in the Smithsonian's Museum Day Live, offering free admission. (LANCE ROTHSTEIN   |  Special to the Times)
  3. OMD announces dates for extensive North American tour


    OMD fans have been waiting for this for a long time: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark has just announced a huge tour of North America set to begin in spring 2018. Three Florida stops are included in their road trip. 

  4. Saturday festival will celebrate the sweet potato


    NEW PORT RICHEY — It's harvest time for the sweet potato.

    MICHELE MILLER |  TIMESMore than 300 pounds of sweet potatoes have been harvested from local organic gardens for the inaugural Sweet Potato Round-Up and Fall Farming Festival set for this weekend in New Port  Richey. Those who go will be able to purchase sweet potatoes and get some hints on what to grow during the hot summer months, said Sylvia Spencer, shown here, manager if the Habitat garden as well as the Grand Garden Community Plot on Grand Boulevard.