[JPL] My blogs from the Montreal Jazz Fest

Rusell Davis davispro at nyc.rr.com
Fri Jul 3 22:49:12 EDT 2009


Hey, YO.jazzproglisters.it's festival season all over and I'm taking in the
30th edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal in beautiful
Quebec.  I thought you might like reading the blogs I've been posting on my
new website, www.mojaradio.com <http://www.mojaradio.com/> , as I attempt to
give you the flavor of this fine festival!  Below you'll see blogs covering
the fist two days of the festival, Tuesday and Wednesday, June 30th and July
1st.

 

Russ Davis
MOJA Radio/VOA's Jazz America 

www.mojaradio.com <http://www.mojaradio.com/> 
105 East 16th Street

# 7 South

New York, NY 10003

russ at mojaradio.com

 jazz-america at voa.gov

 

DAY ONE.

 Well folks, for the 6th year in a row I'm covering the jazz festival in
beautiful Montreal, the closest you can get to traveling to Europe and still
be in North America.  I guess Quebec City is really more like old Europe but
this is a pretty close second.  Honestly this is the best jazz festival of
all the ones I've been to including Montreux, North Sea, New Orleans and
others.  The reason is not only the vast variety of the music which is
unsurpassed by any other festival (3000 musicians from all over the world
play here over 13 days), but the beauty of the city and the things to do
when the music isn't happening, the amount of free music (shows on various
stages all  in walking distance from one another from Noon to Midnight every
day), the convenience of everything as the festival happens in the city
center all in close proximity of the Place Des Arts which is the giant
square where the city's art museum and the largest concert halls are
located, and lastly it's just the vibe of the whole festival.  The place and
the people are so inviting, it's a safe and hospitable event with families
all a part of the it, and the music is just great.

On day one, Tuesday the 30th of June, I arrived and checked into the new
home of the festival as they have just constructed a building that houses
the offices, galleries and a new jazz club dedicated to this great event
that brings millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of people to the
city every year.

In the press office I ran into the great Dave Holland, the master bassist,
composer, bandleader and multi-award winner.  He's here to play with an
all-star group they're calling THE MONTEREY QUARTET which includes Chris
Potter, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and Eric Harland.  We had a great conversation
that I'll share with you on Words & Music soon here on MOJA Radio.  I had
some errands to run after that, so I hit the streets of Montreal for some
shopping and a quick dinner then back to the festival grounds to make my way
to the beautiful concert hall the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, where I saw
Return To Forever last year, to see Wynton Marsalis. 

Wynton gets a lot of flack from many people, kinda like a reverse backlash
from modern, electric jazz fans who think he's too narrow-minded concerning
funk, fusion, and all forms of electric jazz.  There is certainly truth to
some of that criticism as those who feel that jazz did not stop in its
evolution in 1965 want to remind traditionalists that there's more to jazz
than the same ol' swing.  Well, I've seen Wynton play in various settings
and when he's doing one of those salutes to jazz men past it can get kinda
boring for me.  I like any form of jazz from ragtime, to big band, to bebop,
to fusion and all points north, south, east and west, and that's the point,
I like to mix it up.  Well on this night Wynton outdid himself as he and the
Jazz @ Lincoln Center Orchestra mixed it up with Latin Jazz pianist Chano
Dominquez and three of his compatriots who melded Flamenco with jazz in a
very cool and unique way.  There were moments that reminded me of Miles'
"Sketches of Spain" with Gill Evans, but with Wynton's compositions, and the
dude can write as well as play, and Chano's songs too all blending pure jazz
with flamenco (and Chano brought a percussionist, a flamenco singer and
flamenco dancer with him) I heard music unlike I'd ever heard before.  It
was, to use a term Wynton might not like so much, pure FUSION!

After the show I was off to see another big band led by Maria Schneider, but
couldn't make it to the hall, even though is was very close, because about a
quarter of a million people had poured into the city center to see the free
Stevie Wonder concert. Try as I could I was not able to get into the Theatre
Maisonneuve to see the show as the crowd was just too much.  I had gotten up
at 5:45 AM to get to the airport so I called it a night early.  I felt
satisfied though as I have 3 more shows to see on Wednesday (CANADA DAY by
the way) and many more people to meet and things to do.  More on that
later...ciao!

Russ Davis (your man in Montreal)

DAY TWO.


Folks...I'm actually writing this at the end of day three as I meant to
check in at the end of the day yesterday but just too much going on to stop
at the ol' computer and compose. Nome sane? I've taken a bunch of video's of
various scenes at the festival including a performance by Erik Truffaz at
the Gesu Theatre, a quick interview with the director of the festival, Andre
Menard, and a bunch of street scenes.  I warn you, if you are under 18 DO
NOT watch the one that starts with SEX SHOP as the title scene.  Promise?
OK...let's proceed.

Well, if you've ever been to this great city and festival you know it's a
ball with so much to do.  With the free music beginning each day at noon and
going until Midnight you can find yourself looking at the watch and
wondering where the day went becaue you just may run into something really
cool that you've never heard before.  Plus there's cool shopping in the
festival grounds for music, DVD's, clothes and other items commemorating the
festival and lot's of food and drink with outdoor cafes and beer gardens set
up everywhere.  The city is all around as you're in the middle of the city
center and the people are cool and friendly and you're most likely going to
strike up a conversation even if you have little or no French.  

Now, that's just what's happening outside.  The list of indoor shows is
great every day.  Unfortunately some overlap so you're bound to miss
something cool, but that's how it goes at a festival you know.  During the
day on Tuesday I hit the ground looking to talk to some of the artists.  I
try to set up interviews with the press office here and they're pretty good
about working things out but sometimes the artist's representative's try to
protect the artists and limit access because they think the time is too
tight between doing soundchecks & getting some food and rest before a show.
I sure understand that but I've got a job to do too and if I know the artist
personally and run into him or her and can get a quick comment that's all I
need.  In most cases I already have their life story on record so I just
want a quick "what's up" from them.  Most totally understand so at this
festival I have a basic plan.  I camp out in the lobby of the main hotel
where all the artists stay and catch them at check in or when they're
walking through the lobby.  It works great for everyone.  Christian McBride
calls me "The Howard Cosell of Radio" because I'm like a sideline reporter
with a microphone in my hand wherever I go.  I don't mind that reference,
especially coming from Christian, but I always thought Howard Cosell was a
little weird.

I ran into the great president of Blue Note Records, Bruce Lundvall, who
received the first BRUCE LUNDVALL AWARD, which will be given each year to a
non-musician who has left an indelible mark on the world of jazz.  It's
always great to talk to  Bruce as he's a real jazz-lover and historian as
well as a great businessman and all around funny and great guy.  We talked
about the Wynton Marsalis concert we'd both seen the night before and I'll
share that with you soon when we give you a Words & Music covering teh
Montreal Festival.  Later I ran into Reid Anderson and Dave King of the Bad
Plus and their special guest vocalist Wendy Lewis, who were playing
Wednesday night to open up the new jazz club in the new Maison du Festival,
the home of the festival year-round.  They were in great spirits and you'll
hear their comments soon. After a quick dinner it was off to hear the great
trumpeter from France, Erik Truffaz, do the first of three nights with a
different theme from his new 3-CD set RENDEZVOUS which I picked up here at
the festival but it is not going to be released in the USA.  Canada gets
lots of music that comes out in Europe but not in the States.  That's
another cool thing about coming here, picking up rare music to play for you.
You'll be hearing cuts from RENDEZVOUS and the comments of Eric Truffaz as I
had a chance to talk with him twice on Thursday, before and after his second
show, so be  listening for that.  The 3 CD's each has a theme, as Erik
traveled to Mexico, India and his home  in Paris and recorded with artist in
each place.  The results are some of the most creative MOJA you'll hear this
year.  I'll tell you more about that later.  It's pretty exciting to hear
something totally unique.  Eric's music is certainly that!

After hearing the Benares (Indian) portion of Eric's three performances I
headed over to the great little space called Club Soda for an unbelievable
duo performance by two of the most talented living Braziians, vocalist
Luciana Souza and guitarist Romero Lubambo.  Luciana is one of the most
charming and talented humans on this or any other planet and Romero, who's
worked with everyone from Dianne Reeves to Kenny Barron to his own group
Trio Da Paz, has the fastest flying fingers in the Southern Hemisphere.
Afterwards, walking in the streets, I heard The Marianne Trudel Quintet, an
unknown group of 20-somethings from Canada led by one fine pianist and
featuring a great kid on sax. Besides all of the above if you'd have been
here on day two you could also have heard Al Di Meola's World Symphonia 09,
Dave Holland, The Bad Plus, Jamie Cullum, Melody Gardot and even Kool & The
Gang.  Talk about "Celebrate Good Times...C'mon!"  More tomorrow...or the
next time I stop at the computer to take a blog break.  Thanks for reading!
Later ya'll!

Russ Davis

 


 

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