[JPL] Russ Davis: One last blog from the Montreal Jazz Festival

Rusell Davis davispro at nyc.rr.com
Mon Jul 6 08:49:35 EDT 2009


 

 

Russ Davis
MOJA Radio 

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

# 7 South

New York, NY 10003

russ at mojaradio.com

 

One last blog before I go.and believe me it's hard to leave an inviting
place like Montreal and a great festival like this, and my last day here
certainly reaffirmed that this is truly a festival for music lovers.  I took
in three more impressive performances inside the clubs and concert halls and
caught more free shows in the out of doors by artists from Mexico, Argentina
and the good, ol' USA (celebrating another birthday today!).  I started the
day as I often do when I'm here by taking the walk up to the top of the
mountain that gives the city its name, Mount Royal, to take in the
incredible view from the top.  I posted a video on www.mojaradio.com
<http://www.mojaradio.com/>  in the music/video section so you can see what
it's like.  It doesn't do justice to one of the great views of any major
city in the world.  It may seem like a daunting task to "walk up a mountain"
but it isn't THAT hard, though you can get a pretty good little workout if
you take it at a brisk pace.  All you have to do it walk from anywhere in
the city to Rue Peel and turn up the mountain where you can enter the park
at Ave. Pins.  That's where the park begins and the path is obvious from
there.  It's a great way to get the blood flowing for the rest of the day.

 

Just as the musicians enjoy seeing one another at festivals since they are
usually traveling in different directions, so do jazz broadcasters, print
journalists and other professionals get together in rare, mini-convention
style meetings to share ideas and catch up.  There was a press reception in
the afternoon for those covering the festival and I had a number of
conversations with folks from everywhere doing the same thing I am.looking
to support jazz and make a living doing it. Here's a special shout out to
Thurston Briscoe, the Program Director of Newark's great jazz station WBGO,
who celebrated his 62nd birthday on July 4th!  Happy B-Day Mr. B!  He's one
of the greats in Jazz Radio and a regular at the Montreal Festival as well.
Everyone loves the idea of MOJA Radio and wants it to succeed.  Some
possibly meaningful alliances were initiated.  To be continued.

 

After the press gathering it was off to hear the music and my first stop was
one of my favorite settings ever, the intimate theatre called the Gesu.
It's maybe 400 terraced seats that put you face to face with the musicians
and makes for a very intimate experience.  I'd seen Erik Truffaz there the
last three nights and this time I saw Joshua Redman in the first of his
three shows in a row.  For this first show, Joshua led a very clean-cut
quartet, two guys had very closely trimmed hair and two were bald.talk about
clean-cut.  Josh played his signature tenor and alternated on soprano, and
he was joined by Eric Harland on drums, Matt Penman on double bass and Aaron
Parks on piano.  Mr. Parks has certainly been getting lots of press these
days and in his checked shirt and sneakers he had the look of Charlie Brown
who'd been doing his scales for a long time in preparation for this as he
kicked off a polite piece of what I call "chamber jazz."  This was a night
of all-acoustic music that was mostly in control though Joshua stalked the
stage and emitted the occasional shout to fire up the troops.  Mr. Harland
needed no encouragement as he brought the energy to the set and may have
been the player of the day, except for the fact that he had Joshua Redman on
the same stage, and Josh brings it every time.

 

After my last night in the Gesu, I rushed the three long blocks to my second
night in the Club Soda to hear my third Brazilian show in the week.  This
time it was vocalist, guitarist and composer Joyce Moreno, who goes by the
single name Joyce.  Her performance, leading a very professional and
spirited quartet, was wonderful as she cranked out one sizzling electric
samba after another featuring her powerful voice.  Joyce is no shy Brazilian
songbird, as she brought the speed and energy of the music and her strong
voice to every tune.  Her good friends Joe Lovano and his vocalist wife Judi
Silvano were in attendance and they, as well as all in attendance, were not
disappointed. I remember playing her music when I was working at the New
York contemporary jazz, later turned smooth jazz, station CD 101.9 and
loving it then. It seems the American audience has lost contact with her but
not the Montreal audience. They are aware of music Americans miss, and vice
versa of course, and that's another great reason to check in with Montreal
for time to time.  You'll always find some cool, rare music.  Joyce was a
delight.

 

I wolfed down a quick dinner and made my way to the beautiful Theatre
Maisonneuve for one, last show.the all-star aggregation called MILES FROM
INDIA.  Back in the day, and that day was the beginnings of the fusion era
according to Miles Davis, Miles brought in Indian tabla master Badal Roy to
add that exotic touch to the electric jazz presentation he was serving up on
albums like BITCHES BREW.  Well, this time it was much more of a production,
there were 14 guys on stage, and the idea was to blend the two musical ideas
in a more obvious way then just adding a little touch of the mystical  sound
of India with jazz improvisation.  I wanted to like, make that love, this
show very much but there were flaws, none of which can be attributed to the
incredible level of talent on the stage.  There were three complete drum
kits manned by Lenny White, Ndugu Chancler and Miles' own nephew Vince
Wilburn. There was a booming bass commanded by Daryl Jones.  Two
keyboardists playing multiple electric and acoustic keys created a lot of
sound and one of them was Miles sideman Bobby Irving III.  Badal Roy was
there behind the tablas and seated beside him were 4 other great Indian
musicians.  Fronting the band were three of the finest horn players you can
find, Nicholas Payton playing Miles' parts on trumpet, Bill Evans on tenor
and soprano as he had in Miles' band in the 1080's, and on alto and leading
the band, Rudresh Mahanthappa, whose two recent solo albums have been
helping establish his own name as a master of new, world-fusion.  When this
huge band kicked off the first notes of SPANISH KEY the wall of sound they
created filled the hall with wonderful electrifying jazz that was more Miles
goes to Africa then Miles from India.  The subtleties of the Indian
instruments were totally obscured by the sheer volume. The music was great,
but no "India" to be found.  In the 2+ hour show the sitar, in my way of
thinking an essential element of Indian music, was hardly heard and only
featured in relatively short segments three times.  Another basic flaw was
trying to co-ordinate this large group sound-wise to the liking of everyone
on stage, something that more advance preparation, something not always easy
to find time for in a festival setting, could possibly have fixed.  The
players on stage were constantly asking the monitor guys to turn this one up
or that one down.always distracting to the audience.  Don't get me wrong, I
loved much of what I heard, but I love Indian music and would love to have
heard more of the real Indian influence in the mix, literally and
stylistically, in the performance.  Their next show is in Budapest, we were
told, so I count myself lucky to have been able to see this show and that's
just another reason the Montreal festival is so special.the unique shows
they book. 

There are other artists I'd love to suggest FIJM book in future festivals,
but what jazz lover wouldn't like to book his own dream festival?  But all
in all the 30th edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal
was as close to festival perfection as I am likely to experience.  Can't
wait till next year!

 

Russ Davis

VOA/MOJA Radio



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