Album Remarks & Appraisals:
"A decade ago, when he was commissioned to write music to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the Monterey Jazz Festival, Gerald Wilson produced the memorable, double Grammy Award-nominated Theme for Monterey (MAMA Records,1998). Now the 89-year-old dean of American Jazz composers has scored another triumph, saluting the festival's golden anniversary with a picturesque seven-part suite, Monterey Moods, that musically epitomizes the scope and character of that annual event.
The motif is deceptively simple: a three-note idea used in various ways as the bedrock of each movement (Allegro/Jazz Swing Waltz/Ballad/Latin Swing/Blues/Bass Solo/Hard Swing), much as a single melodic phrase was deftly rearranged to underscore each section of Theme for Monterey.Wilson's orchestra introduced Moods at the Monterey Festival and recorded it in a studio for Mack Avenue Records. The album's playing time has been increased to nearly an hour by appending Wilson's atmospheric arrangement of Cole Porter's "I Concentrate on You (featuring son Anthony Wilson's mellow guitar) and his gregarious "Mini Waltz (solos courtesy of trumpeter Jimmy Owens, baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber and special guest Hubert Laws on flute).
The suite is almost entirely upbeat; even the slower-paced "Ballad simmers in a Basie-like groove behind heated solos by Laws and tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington. The remaining movements personify their names, using Wilson's spare entrée as a springboard for a series of bright and swinging vignettes marked by powerful rhythms and persuasive solos. The rhythmic muscle is supplied by Anthony Wilson, pianist Renee Rosnes, bassist Peter Washington and drummer par excellence, Lewis Nash. The improvisations for the most part are by Laws, Cuber, Owens, Wilson, trumpeters Terell Stafford and Sean Jones, saxophonists Kamasi Washington, Ron Blake, Antonio Hart and Steve Wilson. Peter Washington is also showcased on the suitably named "Bass Solo.
Writing a suite like Monterey Moods would be a daunting task at any age, let alone for someone on the doorstep of his ninetieth birthday. But Wilson has risen to the challenge, composing another in a series of masterful compositions whose evolution began nearly seventy years ago. In the liner notes, Wilson says he's looking forward to "the sixtieth celebration at Monterey. So are we." -AllAboutJazz
JazzTimes (p.105) - "He gives the suite unity by threading a little three-note fanfare from the diatonic scale throughout its seven different 'moods'."
Gerald Wilson: Anthony Wilson (guitar); Antonio Hart, Steve Wilson (alto saxophone); Kamasi Washington, Ron Blake (tenor saxophone); Ronnie Cuber (baritone saxophone); Jimmy Owens, Jon Faddis, Sean Jones, Terell Stafford, Frank Greene (flugelhorn); Jay Ashby, Luis Bonilla, Douglas Purviance, Dennis Wilson (trombone); Renee Rosnes (piano); Todd Coolman, Peter Washington (bass guitar); Lewis Nash (drums); Gerald Wilson.
Additional personnel: Hubert Laws (flute).
Gerald Wilson has been a fixture at the Monterey Jazz Festival in California since its inception, and has been commissioned to write works for that festival. On Monterey Moods, he presents a seven-part suite featuring different elements of jazz, all in modern big-band style, based on three notes signifying the evenly paced word "Mon-ter-ey." Each segment sings and swings in its own way, yet has similar characteristics, much as a cohesive fashion collection might. Wilson, at 89 years young, has recruited a New York-based all-star band, not one from his resident southern California, for this endeavor. All are heavyweights, and are given liberal solo space after the sparse head arrangements. The music is for the most part punchy, vital, and alive with the spirit of the breezy, ocean-splashed, spacious West Coast. Hubert Laws is the most prominent soloist, as the distinctive flute master weaves his magic throughout. A quick-witted hard-bop "Allegro" starts the proceedings, followed by "Jazz Swing Waltz" with a lengthy piano intro from Renee Rosnes in prelude for three flutes fronting the call-and-response horns, a complex chart, and a total of six soloists. The next four pieces, a suite within a suite, cement the quite similar three-note phrase in easy late-night calypso with Afro-Cuban (seven soloists!), blues (another five), and solo bass modes, with the seventh-part finale a no-solo clipped coda epilogue. Wilson's writing is no less than remarkable and as good as it gets, especially considering his age. The remainder of the program is a feature for son/guitarist Anthony Wilson for the very slow tender ballad standard "I Concentrate on You" and "The Mini Waltz," another showcase for the brilliant, bright, and quick flute of the ever-present Laws. This session is quite comparable to Wilson's Grammy-nominated Theme for Monterey, and quite accurately reflective of the ambience there. It's easy to hear Wilson at the peak of his very formidable powers, and this recording is highly recommended for those who enjoy the modern mainstream big-band sound of now. ~ Michael G. Nastos