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Jazz on the Bay

Jon Jang
Chris Fukuda

Monster Pianist: Jon Jang's musical ideas are bigger than any one instrument.

Jon Jang and his Sextet bring an improvisational twist to this weekend's Monterey Jazz Festival

By Nicky Baxter

WHAT CAN you say about the Monterey Jazz Festival (Sept. 20­22) that hasn't already been said? It's fab, it's phat, it's got Clint Eastwood on its board of directors. And, as often as not, the three-day festival features some of improvisational music's choicest acts. Besides the action transpiring on three stages, the event also offers fans the opportunity to glimpse archival jazz footage and listen in on discussions about the state of improvisational music.

In addition to the big names--Joshua Redman (Friday evening), Taj Mahal (Saturday afternoon), Jon Hendricks and George Benson (Saturday night) and Cedar Walton and Herbie Hancock (Sunday evening)--Monterey '96 also features some interesting names that aren't yet household familiar. One of the best is Jon Jang, whose sextet performs Sunday at 8:30pm. A pivotal figure in the creative-music movement, the pianist and composer has spliced together the music of two peoples--U.S.­Africans and Chinese--and almost single-handedly sired a new music. Of perhaps equal significance is the cultural and political unity implied in these bicultural endeavors.

Jang's musical palette relies heavily on the special skills of others--poets Maxine Hong Kingston, Sonia Sanchez and Genny Lim, for instance. Foremost among the musicians Jang has worked with over the years is brilliant, if mercurial, saxophonist David Murray. Jang has developed an even closer relationship with flute great James Newton. Those two, along with the Shanghai Conservatory­trained erhu-ist Chen Jiebing, comprise the sextet's frontline. Completing the lineup is Santi Debriano on bass and daluo (a Chinese gong) and Jabali Billy Hart on drums. This is the ensemble Jang used to record Two Flowers on a Stem (Soul Note); this is the ensemble you don't want to miss at Monterey.

The Monterey Jazz Festival takes plays Sept. 20­22 at the Monterey Fairgrounds. Tickets are $18­$23. (BASS)

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From the September 19-25, 1996 issue of Metro

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