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.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos