Breathtaking – not to be missed

The second set was a breathtaking performance by the 2nd edition of the Monterey All Stars. Anchored by pianist Kenny Barron’s trio with Kiyoshi Kitagawa on bass and Johnathan Blake on drums, the band featured violinist Regina Carter, Russell Malone on guitar and vocalist Kurt Elling. The fact that most of this group had played with one another previously in one shape or form more than made up for lack of rehearsal time.
Starting with a swinging rendition of “When I Get Too Old To Dream,” with everyone providing an introductory solo, they moved on to the Billie Holiday standard “Don’t Explain,” featuring first Barron and then a heart-tugging violin solo by Carter. Malone took over with a nod to Wes Montgomery on “Road Song,” Kenny Barron chiming in with a spirited riff.

Then Kurt Elling nearly stole the show with a Kerouc-inspired free-poetic reading of Barron’s “What If.” Everyone in the band was burning at this point, but there was more to come, with Barron’s composition “Calypso” featuring Malone and Carter, and then Elling with a nod to Jon Hendricks on “Soul Food.”

Russell Malone is always terrific on up-tempo tunes, but when he does a ballad, the earth stops. He described the advice he had been given, that a ballad should be “like a kiss, sweet, deep and slow” and proceeded to show why with an achingly beautiful “Time After Time.”

They closed with an Elling-led romp through “Nature Boy.” This group will be touring in the winter, and hopefully will release a CD of this performance, as did the first edition of the All Stars. They are not to be missed.