Monterey Jazz All Stars evoke memories of Janis Joplin

Monterey Jazz Festival All-Stars are coming to Proctors this weekend with their 50th anniversary lin
Trumpeter Terence Blanchard will be part of the Monterery Jazz Festival All-Stars coming to Proctors this Saturday.
Trumpeter Terence Blanchard will be part of the Monterery Jazz Festival All-Stars coming to Proctors this Saturday.

OK, I have to admit, the only time I ever attended the Monterey Jazz Festival, in the fall of 1967, I don’t remember any jazz at all. There must have been some, but all I remember is Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company.

A loud, long-haired, San Francisco hippie band, they were the token rockers on the gig, when jazz and folk festivals began trying to draw younger audiences. They were a revelation for the jazz fans at Monterey.

Before they scared everyone with feedback blasts on a psychedelic mutation of Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King,” Joplin did something I’d never seen music do before: She made grown men cry as she sang “Ball and Chain.” Elegant, old black men in dark suits rose from their seats, pounding the chair-backs in front of them, tears rolling down their cheeks.

Hours later, some friends and I met her and the band at the Bullseye Tavern in downtown Monterey; their yellow Anglia (British Ford) station wagon with the band’s name painted on the doors was parked outside. They drank hard and threw darts badly, but onstage they were unforgettable.

Trumpeter Terence Blanchard is hoping a touring version of the festival will also be unforgettable when it comes to Proctors (432 State St., Schenectady) on Saturday. Playing with the Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary All-Stars, he seems determined to make sure no one forgets the devastation of his hometown after Hurricane Katrina.

Blanchard has scored most of Spike Lee’s films including “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts,” in which he also took his mother back to their flood-wrecked home in a heartbreaking scene. In his September 2007 appearance at the Monterey Jazz Festival, Blanchard performed his “A Tale of God’s Will: A Requiem for Katrina” — a remarkable fusion of compassion and compositional ingenuity.

Blanchard and the Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary All-Stars perform on Saturday at 8 p.m. at Proctors. Blanchard plays trumpet, with saxophonist James Moody, pianist Benny Green, bassist Derrick Hodge, drummer Kendrick Scott and singer Nnenna Freelon. Tickets are $38, $34, $30 and $20. Phone 346-6204 or visit www.proctors,org.


Another all-star jazz crew visits this week: Adam Rudolph’s Moving Pictures plays on Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the Sanctuary for Independent Media (3361 6th Ave., Troy).

Percussionist and leader Rudolph worked with the Mandingo Griot Society, Hassan Hakmoun, Pharoah Sanders, Yusef Lateef and others before forming this world-music octet. Rudolph plays hand drums, other percussion and thumb pianos with Graham Haynes (cornet, flugelhorn), Hamid Drake (drums and percussion), Steve Gorn (bansuri flutes, clarinet and Pakistani oboe), Shanir Blumenkranz (bass and sintir), Brahim Fribgane (oud, cajon, bendir and tarija), Kenny Wessel (guitars) and Ned Rothenberg (shakuhachi, bass clarinet and other reeds).

Admission is $10. Phone 272-2390 or visit


One-of-a-kind bluesman Taj Mahal brings his Trio to The Egg on Saturday, and one of the most imposing reputations in contemporary roots music.

He’s powerful, versatile and larger than life.

When he missed his train from Montreal in 1973 and arrived hours late to open at the Palace for Hot Tuna, he impatiently waved fans’ angry boos away and boomed, “No, no — it’s not like that. Be quiet now. We’re late, we’re here, we’re gonna play now.” Everyone in the packed Palace immediately grew quiet as he lit up “She Caught the Katy.” An ironic song choice: it’s about catching a train. He made ecstatic pandemonium at the Palace, instantly winning over the angry horde.

When he came alone 15 years later to QE2, Albany’s late, lamented punk-rock paradise, he was even more famed as a guitarist and harmonica player. However, he played the whole show at the piano, surprising only those unaware that he had once led a band comprising four tubas.

Taj was the first artist to link the earthy blues and commercial soul music, the first American to master reggae for real, and one of the first artists of any sort to record an album of children’s songs.

After his show last year with his Trio at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, I wrote in these pages, “If some performers show-boat, this guy is a whole fleet. . . . He often sounded as if the fingers of Pat Metheny were animated by the ghost of Robert Johnson.”

The Taj Mahal Trio (bassist Billy Rich and drummer Kester Smith) performs on Saturday at The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany). Tickets are $29.50. Phone 473-1845 or visit


The Gospel Train, the sacred-music duo of Michael Eck and Tom Lindsay, will both accompany and open for Frank Jaklitsch on Saturday at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs).

Greg Haymes, harmonica; Steve Butler, bodhran; and Steve Gray, guitar complete the ensemble backing Celtic-folk-blues veteran Jacklitsch at 8 p.m.

Admission is $15, $12 for Caffe members; and proceeds will benefit the Shaker Veterinary Hospital’s Save-A-Pet fund. Phone 583-0022 or visit


Troubadour Jim Gaudet and his new band the Railroad Boys bring their elegantly written and beautifully performed Americana music to LaSerre Restaurant (14 Green St., Albany) tonight in a free-admission showcase, starting at 7:30 p.m.

His “Recalling It Quits” was one of last year’s best albums, a welcome return by an articulate and powerful artist who took way too long a break.

Show time is 7:30 p.m. Admission is free and the restaurant will serve a special bistro menu. Phone 463-6056.

Categories: Life and Arts

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