Los Angeles – Monk Institute Vocalists Competition

If you don’t know about the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, you really should look it up for all its glorious details.  But for short, Thelonious Monk III, Maria Fisher, and Clark Terry created it in 1986 for the purpose of furthering the legacy of jazz by finding and educating young musicians and singers. Amazingly, they have also partnered with the United Nations to put on an international Jazz Day. Each year, on April 30, over 80 nations around the world celebrate jazz, and its contribution and influence.

I’ve been blessed to be a part of International Jazz day for a few years now.  Last April, we were in Paris. A couple of years before, we were in Istanbul. Herbie Hancock is Chairman of the Board and is an eloquent spokesman for the group. This year, along with featuring a wonderful group of singers in competition, the institute did a tribute to Quincy Jones, with a large audience with a 20 piece band directed and rehearsed by John Beasley at Dolby Theater, in Hollywood. Anyone has to say that this is a wonderful upscale undertaking that really does jazz proud, for its wonderful importance and significance. We did the preliminary judging at UCLA basking in the sunshine and glow of one of the great universities on the planet. All for jazz!

I can’t say enough about the whole affair, and it would take too long if I could. Just try to believe me when I say that you’d have totally impressed with this year’s group of singers, taught and tutored by a cadre of well known professionals, including Kenny Burrel.   They were amazing… knocked my socks off.

There were singers in this class who are already singing at a high quality professional level. It’s too bad that the competition forces us to pick one winner, and a second and third place place finalist, but in doing so we are also rewarding these leaders with valuable scholarships. Each of the judges wishes we could do it for all of the contestants. The semifinals we on Saturday, we had the finals of the singing competition on Sunday, along the tribute to Quincy Jones, featuring appearances and comments by actor/director/singer Seth McFarlane, Jeff Goldblum, Billy D. Williams, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Freddy Cole, Patti Austin, Deedee Bridgewater, Luciana Souza,  and myself. I did a duet with Gretchen Parlato (a recent winner of the vocal competition), of “Human Nature,” one of Quincy’s massive musical successes. All in all, this was a magnificent two day celebration of jazz and the legacy of jazz, with its special contribution of improvisation, that lives even in today’s rock guitarists. Hello, Eric Clapton, and Slash, too! They took the queue from jazz to improvise.

By the way, let’s not overlook the wonderful support of this event by Concord Music Group, United Airlines, and Northrup Grumman… these guys get it!

And so, as the sun sinks slowly in the west, we say “see you soon!” to the wonderful Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. This time, in Los Angeles and Hollywood, the world’s Mecca of stardom and entertainment. Smile 🙂

I’ll see you next time!


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