by Josef Woodard

GET HAPPY, GET WISTFUL: For those with a
healthy curiosity, love of a rugged view, and a sturdy
constitution, the sweetest route from Santa Barbara to Monterey is
along the twisting, twining ribbon of Highway 1. Surviving the long
slalom section, entering the Big Sur wonderland, you’re rewarded
with Nepenthe Restaurant, with one of the most life-affirming views
in America. A beer for luck and you’re on your way.

That seemed the proper trajectory for last weekend’s annual
pilgrimage to the Monterey Jazz Festival — the
best in the west. This was, after all, the season of Lloyd.
Charles Lloyd, that is, the jazz celeb who has
called Big Sur and Santa Barbara home for 35 years. It was raining
memories and milestones last week: Friday’s Lobero concert marked
25 years since the first of Lloyd’s many concerts in that beauteous
hall; Saturday’s headlining slot in Monterey came 40 years after
recording his live album Forest Flower there, now one of
jazz’s all-time bestsellers, which also introduced the wider world
to the genius of Keith Jarrett.

Back when, Lloyd was a feisty, soulful 28-year-old, waging
peaceful revolution and soaking attention from the Summer of
Lovers. The lean, stylish 68-year-old last weekend was working and
refining the same song with his hot current quartet, this time in a
new century, with a huge monitor beaming his face like some
post-hipster Wizard of Oz. Lloyd’s set was basically half of what
the Lobero crowd heard, but without any of the “lyrics” we got at
the Lobero — the dizzying Lloydistic articulations of language and
philosophy. He’s got his own flavor of rap going.

Just before ending the Monterey set, Lloyd paused sententiously
before his career-launching “hit,” “Forest Flower,” as if having
second thoughts about even deigning to play it. But play it he did,
mightily, stretching the ending as if to elasticize time and savor
the moment and the fuzzy 40-year-old memory.

Some musicians at the festival were bound for Santa Barbara gigs
(a practice which should happen with greater regularity). Singer
Tierney Sutton, officially loved here, was headed
for a Lotusland garden party the next day. In Monterey, her
band — with the unique sound of two basses bassing — played several
new charts from an album freshly recorded at Capital Studios. The
theme: happiness, and presence, and lack thereof. From the evidence
here, it will be another doozy, including two radically different
versions of “Get Happy” — one a dirge, one an up-tempo romp with a
cautionary vibe. Similarly, “Happy Days Are Here Again” artfully
parses the cheer of its corniest versions, while she sunk
eloquently into the heart of Sinatra darkness on “Glad to Be
Unhappy.” As usual, she’s onto something here, something cool and
something with layered meanings.

Introspective guitarist-deserving-wider-notice Ben
, who played at Center Stage last night, made his
first West Coast tour as Ben Monder, although he’s played Monterey
with the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra. Guitar
fans could also catch Robben Ford’s signature
blues-cum-jazz maze in Dizzy’s Den, while, across the lawn in the
“Nightclub,” Benin-born dazzler Lionel Lueke
worked up a fascinating brainy African-jazz stew. Lueke is one of
jazz’s most exciting new guitarists — and jazz artists, period.

On Sunday, festival regular — and charter
performer — Dave Brubeck brought it all home with
the premiere of his “Cannery Row Suite,” an interesting amalgam of
Disneyland-ish sea shanties and some genuinely impressive jazz
“arias,” sung by Kurt Elling and Roberta
, this year’s amazing and exacting new singer to
watch/hear. Gambarini then sang a short set at Dizzy’s Den with the
great octogenarian pianist Hank Jones, who then
was rushed to the main stage for an encore jam with Oscar
, a meeting of vets introduced by longtime
festival supporter Clint Eastwood, who even
tinkled on a third piano before the greats commenced to blow into
the night.

It was a closing night “only in Monterey” confluence. (Got e?


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