When the Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour arrives at the Lobero Theatre this week, it will be like having the two best jazz venues in the world come together. The band — which includes Dee Dee Bridgewater on vocals, bassist Christian McBride as music director, and four more superstars including the extraordinary saxophonist Chris Potter — represents the best of what happened in September at the beautiful Monterey Fairgrounds, which has been the center of the jazz universe annually for more than half a century. This concert offers a chance to hear the same great musicians — or hear them again if you were lucky enough to attend the fest — in the warm indoor embrace of the Lobero, a place where the top players sound their best.
The musical strength and integrity of this edition of the Jazz Fest on Tour group stems from the maturity of jazz as an art form and from the generous approach to innovation and change that has been the hallmark of the Monterey Festival’s programming from the beginning. Drummer Lewis Nash and pianist Benny Green both came up through Betty Carter’s band, so they have a deep well of inspiration on which to draw. Young trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire is unquestionably the hottest brass player of his generation, so his presence alone makes this evening something special.
With jazz it’s sometimes the case that a single great player will cast a spell over listeners, bringing something to his instrument that makes him seem like the one necessary voice, at least for a while. For me at least, at the moment that player is saxophonist Chris Potter, heard most recently here in Santa Barbara at the Lobero with the Pat Metheny Unity Band. Potter was unforgettable that night, and when I spoke with him on Friday, he said that he was excited to tour with this group and that he was particularly impressed with the work of young trumpeter Akinmusire, of whom he said, “He’s an honest searcher who is always looking for new ways to approach the trumpet, and that is part of what makes him the kind of player I like to be around.” Potter is having a big month — in addition to touring with the Monterey group, he will release his first ECM disc as a leader on January 29. The Sirens is inspired by Homer’s Odyssey and features, among others, the great drummer Eric Harland.
The Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St.) hosts the Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour on Tuesday, January 15, at 8 p.m. Call or visit lobero.com for info.