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Paradise Jazz

Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour

Featuring Dee Dee Bridgewater, Kurt Elling, Lakecia Benjamin, Christian Sands, Yasushi Nakamura & Clarence Penn
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Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour

Featuring Dee Dee Bridgewater, Kurt Elling, Lakecia Benjamin, Christian Sands, Yasushi Nakamura & Clarence Penn

Sunday, April 23, 2023—8:00pm

Sunday, April 23, 2023—8:00pm
Orchestra Hall
2 hours

As one of the world's longest-running and most iconic jazz events, the Monterey Jazz Festival celebrates its 65th year with a must-hear once-in-a-lifetime ensemble. Featuring Tony and Grammy Award-winning NEA Jazz Master vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater alongside Grammy Award-winning vocalist Kurt Elling and critically acclaimed rising star saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin, this stellar band will be directed by visionary pianist Christian Sands and anchored by his longtime rhythm section, bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Clarence Penn.

Artists

Dee Dee Bridgewater

vocalist

Over the course of a multifaceted career spanning four decades, Grammy and Tony Award-winning jazz giant Dee Dee Bridgewater has ascended to the upper echelon of vocalists, putting her unique spin on standards, as well as taking intrepid leaps of faith in re-envisioning jazz classics. Ever the fearless voyager, explorer, pioneer, and keeper of tradition, the three-time Grammy Award-winner recently won the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album for Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie With Love From Dee Dee.
Bridgewater’s career has always bridged musical genres. She earned her first professional experience as a member of the legendary Thad Jones/Mel Louis Big Band, and throughout the 70s she performed with such jazz notables as Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, and Dizzy Gillespie. After a foray into the pop world during the 1980s, she relocated to Paris and began to turn her attention back to Jazz. Signing with Universal Music Group as a producer (Bridgewater produces all of her CDs), Bridgewater released a series of critically acclaimed titles beginning with Keeping Tradition in 1993. All but one, including her wildly successful double Grammy Award-winning tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, Dear Ella, have received Grammy Award-nominations.
Bridgewater also pursued a parallel career in musical theater, winning a Tony Award for her role as “Glinda” in The Wiz in 1975. Having recently completed a run as the lead role of Billie Holiday in the off-Broadway production of Lady Day, her other theatrical credits include Sophisticated Ladies, Black Ballad, Carmen, Cabaret, and the Off-Broadway and West End Productions of Lady Day, for which Bridgewater received the British Laurence Olivier Nomination for Best Actress in a Musical.
As a Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Bridgewater continues to appeal for international solidarity to finance global grassroots projects in the fight against world hunger. She spent the last year on an extensive global tour in support of “Dee Dee’s Feathers” and was recently honored with a stage dedication in her name at the new People’s Health New Orleans Jazz Market. In June of 2016, it was announced that Bridgewater is the recipient of an NEA Jazz Masters Fellows Award with honors to be bestowed at the Kennedy Center in April 2017. She is currently in the studio at work on her next CD to be released in 2017.

Kurt Elling

vocalist

Renowned for his singular combination of robust swing and poetic insight, two-time GRAMMY winner Kurt Elling has secured his place among the world’s foremost jazz vocalists. The New York Times proclaimed Elling, “the standout male vocalist of our time”. Over a 25-year career of touring and recording, Elling has won three Prix du Jazz Vocal (France), two German Echo Awards, two Dutch Edison Awards, and has been nominated for a GRAMMY award 15 times. He has had a 14-year run atop the DownBeat Critics and Readers polls, and has won 12 Jazz Journalists Awards for “Male Vocalist of the Year”.

Kurt Elling’s voice is instantly recognizable, embracing listeners with his warm, rich baritone and navigating the full span of his four-octave range as a virtuoso improvisor and a compelling storyteller. The Guardian (UK) has named Kurt Elling, “a kind of Sinatra with superpowers,” and, “one of jazz’s all-time great vocalists.”

Lakecia Benjamin

saxophone

Voted by 2020 Downbeat Critics Poll Rising star Alto Saxophonist and Up and Coming Artist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association,  charismatic and dynamic saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin fuses traditional conceptions of Jazz, HipHop, and Soul. Benjamin’s electric presence and fiery sax work has shared stages with several legendary artists, including Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, The Roots, and Macy Gray. As the bandleader of Lakecia Benjamin and Soul Squad, she melds the vintage sounds of James Brown, Maceo Parker, Sly and the Family Stone, and the Meters with soaring, dance-floor worthy rhythms. Benjamin’s grooves take the classic vibe to a whole new level with sultry alto saxophone creating something special on every cut – be it a smoldering late-night ambiance, or a forceful jazz intensity, or even the tight funk multi-horn harmony sections.

A streetwise New York City native born and raised in Washington Heights, Benjamin first picked up the saxophone at Fiorello LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts. From there she joined the renowned jazz program at New York’s New School University. However, even at that early stage, Benjamin was already playing with renowned jazz figures like Clark Terry and Reggie Workman, which introduced her to opportunities to play and tour with an array of artists such as Rashied Ali, the David Murray Big Band, Vanessa Rubin, and James “Blood” Ulmer. With her deep jazz roots, she was soon in demand as an arranger and horn section leader, landing stints with such acclaimed artists as Anita Baker.

Currently Benjamin’s latest album Pursuance is an intergenerational masterpiece that takes one on a journey through the lineage of the music with the works of John and Alice Coltrane. Benjamin pays homage to those who have come before by featuring innovative bandleaders of her generation, such as, Reggie Workman (Coproducer and playing), Ron Carter, Gary Bartz, Dee Dee Bridegwater, Meshell Ndegecello, Regina carter, Bertha Hope, Last poets, Greg Osby, Steve Wilson, John Benitez, Marc Cary, Marcus Gilmore, Keyon Harrold, Marcus Strickland, Brandee Younger, Georgia Anne Muldrow, and Jazzmeia Horn.

Christian Sands

piano

Christian Sands is only 29 years old, but he’s been playing piano for the past 25 years and has five Grammy Award-nominations under his belt, including Best Latin Jazz Piano Solo. Wynton Marsalis named him a “jazz star of the future,” and he spent six years as the pianist in Christian McBride’s trio and Inside Straight Quartet.

Sands’ stylistic range includes stride piano, swing, bebop, progressive jazz, fusion, Brazilian, and Afro-Cuban. In 2016 he was signed to the prestigious Mack Avenue Records label. His debut CD REACH was released in April of this year holding down the #1 spot on Jazz Chart for four weeks. This young Steinway Artist Nominee takes his place as a leader and an emerging jazz force. He brings a fresh look at the entire language of jazz.

A deeply rich and soulful feeling can be heard in Sands' music, characterized by his infectious energy and spirit. That same spirit is what caught the attention of Grammy Award-winning bassist, Christian McBride, with whom he has toured throughout the world’s finest venues for more than six years. “When I first met Christian in 2009, it marked a seminal moment in my career as a bandleader. He was the FIRST young musician I’d met who had the drive, passion and skill of my peers like Roy Hargrove, Eric Reed, Greg Hutchinson and Antonio Hart. He’s only worried about being the best musician he can possibly be. He’s the ultimate professional” — Christian McBride

Yasushi Nakamura

bass

Yasushi Nakamura is praised for imaginative, quicksilver bass lines that deepen the groove. His blend of guitar-like precision and gut-level blues has sparked collaborations with artists such as Wynton Marsalis, Wycliffe Gordon, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Hank Jones, Dave Douglas, Steve Miller, etc. With his charismatic stage presence and artful, hard swinging melodic touch, Nakamura is a first-call performer capturing new audiences and fans around the world.

Born in Tokyo, Nakamura moved to the United States at age 9, and considers both places home. He began with clarinet and tenor saxophone, but his older brother’s study of guitar and drums drove him to pick up the bass. His love of rock and funk aside, the music of Charlie Parker, Ray Brown, and Miles Davis, were a potent influence on him. Nakamura received a BA in Jazz Performance from Berklee School of Music in 2000, and was awarded a full scholarship to The Juilliard School for his Artist Diploma in 2006. He credits Myron Walden as an early champion, and keeps close ties to Juilliard mentors Victor Goines, Wycliffe Gordon, Carl Allen, and Ben Wolfe, all of whom maintain him in their bands.

Nakamura’s career is flourishing, with consistent engagements at premier jazz festivals including Tokyo, North Sea, Monterey, Ravinia, and venues such as Birdland, Village Vanguard, the Blue Note, the Kennedy Center, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall. In 2014, he was honored to play the “NEA Jazz Masters Concert: Celebrating Jamey Abersold, Anthony Braxton, Richard Davis, and Keith Jarrett,” sharing the stage with Joe Lovano and Dave Liebman. A wide array of projects permits him to explore musical styles and collaborations. In 2016, he recorded with one of his long-time inspirations, Toshiko Akiyoshi, for her recent release, Porgy and Bess. His performance with Akiyoshi’s Jazz Orchestra was also broadcast as a documentary film. Recent works include For the Love of Duke with New York City Ballet choreographed by Susan Stroman, and Ellington at Christmas: Nutcracker Suite with Savion Glover, Lizz Wright, the Abyssinian Baptist Choir, and David Berger conducting. In 2010, he toured the Middle East with Jazz at Lincoln Center’s “Kings of the Crescent City” project, and he toured Asia in 2008 with the Juilliard All-Stars. As an educator, Nakamura has led master classes and summer intensive courses at the The Juilliard School, New School, Koyo Conservatory, Osaka Geidai, and Savannah Swing Central.

In 2016, Nakamura release his first album A Lifetime Treasure and in 2017 he also released 2nd album Hometown from Atelier Sawano featuring Lawrence Fields, Bigyuki, and Clarence Penn which received album of the year 2017 in JazzLife magazine.

Clarence Penn

drums

Clarence Penn is one of the busiest jazz drummers in the world, a leader of multiple bands, a composer, a prolific producer, and an educator.

Since 1991, when he arrived in New York City, Penn has placed his unique blend of mega-chops, keen intellect, and heady musicianship at the service of a staggering array of A-list artists—a chronological short-list includes Ellis and Wynton Marsalis, Betty Carter, Stanley Clarke, Steps Ahead, Makoto Ozone, Michael Brecker, Dave Douglas, Maria Schneider, Luciana Souza, Richard Galliano, and Fourplay. Penn’s impressive discography includes several hundred studio albums (including the Grammy Award-winning recordings 34th N Lex by Randy Brecker and Concert in the Garden and Sky Blue by Maria Schneider) representing a 360-spectrum of jazz expression, and he’s toured extensively throughout the United States, the Americas, Europe, Japan, and Southeast Asia. He’s composed music for films and commercials, and produced tracks for numerous singers in the pop and alternative arenas. He earned a “Ten Best of 1997” accolade from the New York Times for his first leader recording, Penn’s Landing.

A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he was a protégé of Ellis Marsalis, Penn is active as an educator and drum clinician. From 2004 to 2012, he taught on the faculty of the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music. He’s also served on faculty at the Stanford Jazz Workshop, the Saint Louis College of Music in Rome, Italy, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Intensive Jazz Institute.

Penn currently leads several ensembles. His most recent “rhythmically intoxicating” recording is 2014’s Monk: The Lost Files arrangements of the music of Thelonious Monk. Released on the Origin record label, an amazing quartet comprising saxophonist Chad Leftkowitz-Brown, pianist Gerald Clayton/Donald Vega, and bassist Yasushi Nakamura performing the music of Thelonius Monk with today’s modern jazz sensibility. Near completion is a “world music” studio project of songs and instrumentals that melds background voices—including his own—with a world class band.

Whether Penn is leading his own band or performing as a sideman, he brings to the table unfailing versatility and professionalism, an ability to find creative ways to interpret a global array of styles and idioms, and a stated intention “to play music that’s warm and organic for the people and for myself.”

His motto: “When people hear my name, I want them to think, ‘I don’t know what band he’s playing with tonight or what he’ll be doing, but it’s going to be good, it’s going to be musical.’”

Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour (Live in New York) | JAZZ NIGHT IN AMERICA

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