Wednesday, September 17, 2008

MJF/51: Concert for Kids

When: Thursday, Sept. 18 • Where: Monterey Jazz Festival, Garden Stage • Who: Berklee Latin Jazz All-Stars: Niv Toar, trumpet and flugelhorn; Enrique “Kalani” Trinidad, flute; Abraham Olivo, piano; Juan Maldonado, bass; Marcos Lopez, timbales; Paulo Stagnaro, congas

If you want kids to listen to jazz, take them out of school, give them lunch, and make it Latin jazz played by musicians near their age.

The 51st Monterey Jazz Festival unofficially (or officially?) began with a free concert on Thursday for the children of the Monterey County Public Schools. The festival spends close to $1 million each year on jazz education, and the annual Concert for Kids, a 13-year-old tradition, is part of its educational outreach program.

The Berklee kids are serious: top scholarship students at the Berklee College of Music in Boston (not the UCLA Berkeley, as we were reminded more than once). DownBeat named them the 2008 Best College Jazz Band (under the name La Timbistica); they have performed or recorded with Paquito D’Rivera, Dave Valentin, Cachao, Danilo Perez, and Victor Manuelle. This was their first MJF/51 set but won’t be their last; they are also scheduled to play on Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

They gave us a program of standards and originals, not a dud among them. Foot-tapping, head-bobbing music with that irresistible Latin beat. Some of the kids listened closely. Others texted or played with their cell phones or iPods. Several formed conga lines and danced around the picnic tables. The sun shone brightly, and the set started at noon and lasted 45 minutes, just long enough that no one got too restless.

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