• Bourne's Montreal Day One: Pizza, Beer and James Taylor

    June 30, 2012. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    The 33rd Festival International de JAZZ de Montreal is my 20th as a journalist and/or broadcaster. I first came almost accidentally in 1992. I've come back ever since, always amazed and amused that the jazzfest is bigger and better every summer. I still can't parle français much more than schoolboy French, but jazz is the universal language.


    I am always ritualistic, and in Montreal one of my favorite rituals is Pizzedelic. Once settled in, I was joined by Vincent Lefebvre, wrangler of the international press, at my favorite of the four pizza joints named (though not really a chain) Pizzedelic. They each have a unique personality and somewhat different menu. Brightest (and breeziest) is the pizza resto on rue Notre Dame across from the basilica. Pizzas are square with a matzo-like crust and a grand variety of toppings.


    2012 Pizza #1: trois fromages, three cheeses: mozzarella, parmesan, feta. It's actually quatre fromages, but I don't like the blue cheese. I added black olives, pepperoni, and spicy saucisse Calabrese. And a red beer, La Belle Gueulle rousse.

    Tomorrow night is the festival's official opening, but James Taylor played an early concert at the big hall, Salle Wilfred-Pelletier of the Place des Arts. Just before the concert, he'd been presented with the Festival Spirit Award, and he walked on-stage with the metal sculpture, a self-portrait of Miles Davis.

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    He thanked the festival (in way better French than mine) and played charmingly more than two hours, interrupted only by an intermission. "I don't know why," he said at the break. "We're just going to stand behind the curtain for 20 minutes."

    That he was having a good time radiated from the stage, even when singing songs ("Fire and Rain," "The Secret of Life," et al) that he's performed countlessly. When someone in the balcony shouted for one of his hits, he held up a chalkboard with his set list and pointed to that title. I'd been looking forward to "Sweet Baby James." "That was written for my nephew," he said. "He was named after me. He's a big thing now."

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    Another highlight was his song inspired by a man found long after he'd been lost in ice, "God Have Mercy on the Frozen Man." And he let the band play, no wonder. "This is an excellent band," Taylor said as he introduced the stellar ensemble, including saxist Lou Marini, trumpeter Walt Fowler, keyboardist Larry Goldings, and drummer Steve Gadd.

    He'd gotten a standing O after "Fire and Rain," and the audience was up and dancing for "Your Smiling Face," dancing and singing along with "How Sweet It Is." Taylor's encore was that much more joyful with everyone chubbing and checkering "The Twist."

    Photo by Denis Alix

    Having someone having as much fun as James Taylor was was an ideal overture to another great jazzfest in Montreal.

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