Jimi, Ritsuko and Trombone Shorty

Blue plaque to Jimi Hendrix on his house at 23...
Blue plaque to Jimi Hendrix on his house in London

We met a man on the second day of the Monterey Jazz Festival, a wiry Californian wearing a Jimi Hendrix T shirt – Jimi’s face with striking rays of sunlight beaming out from it.  When I told him I liked the T shirt, he told us, “Jimi left us forty years ago today.”  Forty years!  Jimi Hendrix died on September 20, 1970 at his London apartment, apparently from an accidental overdose of sleeping pills combined with some alcohol and drugs.  Suicide was ruled out.

Yes, I remember that day very well.  I got off the bus from school in Richmond – I was preparing for my entrance exams to Oxford University – when a good friend met me at the bus stop, in tears, to tell me the news.  He was a “nerdy” young man who worshipped Hendrix – even before his death, his room was already a shrine to him, covered wall to wall with posters).  I remember crying through supper that evening, and my parents expressing mild sympathy (and exasperation) at my distress.

Play on, Jim, play on…

One of the outstanding musical offerings on Saturday was a group from Tokyo – Ritsuko Endo and FRV (FRV stands for “Funky Ritsuko Version”!)  Ms. Endo, a middle-aged lady who played the piano with great verve, introduced their pieces in halting English.  Sax player Masahiro Fujioka gave it everything he had – which was plenty of passion.  He paced up and down the stage, then got down and played to us in the front row, eyes tightly closed.  Tappy Iwase on drums (who had dyed blond hair and a wry smile) and conga player Yoshinori Nomi, compact and energetic, wearing a flat  cap that emphasized his broad face, kicked up a storm in the rhythm section.

Then there was the Trombone Shorty party!  Young Troy Andrews, from New Orleans‘ Treme district, got his nickname from his older brother after he saw him marching in a parade at age four.  After bringing the house down at the main arena, TS and company moved to the open air Garden Stage, which is no longer big enough to accommodate the crowds.  We sat behind the stage on the grass (which was also packed) and though we could not see, we had a tremendous party of our own.  Three well-dressed African American women, who had been enjoying a few margaritas, suddenly sprang to life and started dancing like their lives depended on it.  Gradually one or two other women in the grassy area joined in.  A few minutes later, there were at least twenty women of all ages and backgrounds (plus some men and kids) dancing together in a spontaneous outburst of joy.  Trombone Shorty’s music gets you like that.  It’s a celebration.

His new album is called “Backatown,” named after the area of New Orleans (Treme) he grew up in.  Go out and get it, and let the music wrap you up in happiness!


  • Fresh lemonade (pink and regular)
  • Chicken teriyaki
  • Red beans and rice
  • Italian sausage
  • Peach cobbler
  • Canned sparkling water
  • Red Californian wine
  • French fries with garlic and parmesan


  • Gillian, born in the UK, living in Oakland, a baby boomer who rebelled in her youth and landed in the United States, where she got involved in the Black Panther movement.  Now with “empty nest” syndrome with five grown-up children, she is seeking to “find herself” in the Third World – Nicaragua, for some reason…?
  • A couple from Los Angeles – she a pretty woman fortyish with bright flowery tattoos all over her arms and chest, he a stocky African American with an amiable smile and a “pork pie” hat.  She is a “tech designer” in the clothing industry, he (with a shrug) “works for the City.”
  • A Puerto Rican man, lover of Latin jazz, from Los Angeles…proud of his heritage, but he has only been back to Puerto Rico once.
  • A woman organic farmer with deep brown skin and silver-white hair.  She lived in Fiji for a while and learned all about cassava.  We discussed sustainable agriculture and whether Jamaica could become self-sufficient in food production.  She mentioned several crops that can be substituted for wheat, “which isn’t good for you anyway.”

Next post…the final, and completely dazzling day of the Monterey Jazz Festival.  “Stay tuned”…

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