Thursday, September 21, 2006
MJF Reaches New Heights (Again)
It was, in retrospect, a brilliant move on the part of Tim Jackson, the artistic director of the Monterey Jazz Festival, to commission Dave Brubeck to write a jazz opera based on John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. The piano master and longtime friend of the Festival rose to the occasion, finding in the novel operatic characters, drama and poetry.
Brubeck’s musical decisions were brave and inspired. His son Chris Brubeck and his band, as Mack and the Boys, set the scene with a chorus—a hokey sea-shanty (“Monterey, Monterey, a hell of a place/to work and to play…”) featuring a blistering harmonica solo. Then Roberta Gamborini, as Dora, and Kurt Elling, as Doc, delivered their characters with two soaring, densely angular modernistic arias. Iola Brubeck, Dave’s wife and longtime collaborator, contributed uncanny lyrics that, in 30 minutes, captured the poetic humanity Steinbeck found amid the fishermen, whores and bums, “just for a small and forgotten time.”
It was only one of many highlights at this year’s fest. Another came just a few minutes earlier, when Brubeck’s quartet, featuring saxophonist and flautist Bobby Militello, delivered a stunning set. Later that night, Oscar Peterson, 93 and recovering from a stroke, played a dazzling set with one hand, before being joined onstage by Hank Jones, 84. It was like that all weekend.
Already everyone is asking: What is Jackson going to do for
the big 50th anniversary show next year? —Eric
Artist Studio Tour Doesn’t Happen
Perhaps there should have been a big empty rectangle in the Arts & Entertainment Calendar this week. That space would have been a good symbol of the absence of an event that for the last 17 years has occurred this weekend and the next.
The Monterey County Artists Studio Tour drew an estimated 2,000 participants annually—many of them out-of-county visitors—to follow a treasure map that would take them from Castroville to King City, from Carmel to Prunedale, to visit the studios of 96 county artists who, for a weekend or two, share their artistic process and sell work directly to the public.
The Monterey County Artist Studios Tour is a non-event in 2006. Michael Duffy, president of the Artists Equity of Monterey Bay, which organized the event, explains why with a one-word sentence: “Funding.”
“Two years ago, the Monterey County Arts Council granted us $10,000 to help us produce an event that cost about $32,000. Last year we were taken by surprise: their funding shrunk to $1,500—they just didn’t have it to give. As a result, for the first time we ran a large deficit; and that has been very hard to overcome.”
Paulette Lynch, executive director of the Monterey County Arts Council, agrees that the “Artists Equity was hit with the perfect storm last year.”
The Arts Council once received funding from the state that it could trickle down to support local events, but since the California Arts Council funding was almost written out of the state budget several years ago, the Arts Council itself has struggled to survive.
“We are developing new partnerships that we hope will create new funding sources, Lynch says. “Meanwhile, I consider this event simply on hold.” —Maureen Davidson