WBGO Blog
  • Bourne's Montreal: Very Montreal

    August 8, 2014. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    "What's this group like?" asked one of the folks on the WBGO trip to the festival.

    "I don't know," I answered.  "I always want to hear up here music I've never heard before."

    I've often written that the Montreal jazz festival virtually re-defines jazz. I hear every year musicians incorporate new forms and styles of music into jazz.

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    I wrote an essay in Montreal a few years ago about an electronic group called Plaster that generated riffs with samples and various whizbangs yet reminded me of the Basie band in the 30's swinging riffs.

    Hip-Hop.  House.  World Beat.  Beat Box.  And especially electronics have expanded the palette of jazz melodically, harmonically, and certainly rhythmically.

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    With his group Shadow Theater, Tigran played synthesizers (or whatever little boxes with wires and knobs are called nowadays) to create looping melodies and rhythms,  sometimes only an ambience, to play within.

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    White Horse, the husband and wife team of Luke Doucet and Melissa McLelland, created tapestries of sound criss-crossing technological devices with traditional instruments.

    Doucet played guitar and miscellaneous percussion, including hammering on a floor drum sonic booms that echoed this way and that.

    McLelland, hugely pregnant in a green cocktail dress, played a Fender bass.  Together they "built" songs like a Dublin tapster "building" a pint of Guinness.

    Photo by Frederique Menard-Aubin
    Photo by Frederique Menard-Aubin

    BadBadNotGood played the late show at Club Soda — where every night something different was happening.

    These kids from Toronto play what someone called "post-rock" -- but the interplay sounded rather like be-bop.  Rocking.  Bopping.  Lively.  And fresh.  They became instant sensations on the web about a minute ago, and already they've been working with hip-hop stars.

    "They're just kids," I said to Laurent Saulnier, the festival's VP of the Edge. "Nerds."

    "No," he said, laughing like only he can.  "Geeks!"

    Geeks that, notwithstanding electronically, swing …

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix
  • Bourne's Montreal: Zappa, Meet Zappa

    August 7, 2014. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    I first encountered Dweezil Zappa, who played FIJM at Montreal’s Metropole this year, in the womb.

    I met his father, Frank Zappa, on the 4th of July, 1969, in Indianapolis at a Holiday Inn.  I was interviewing Frank for a cover story in Down Beat.  Frank's wife Gail was great with child.  Dweezil.

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    I was nuts about Frank's uniquely jazzy/rocky/funny theatrical music, and I hung with The Mothers of Invention variously on the road from '69 into the 80's.

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    I'd never heard  Dweezil playing his father's classics until Montreal, and I was singing along from the jump.  "Call Any Vegetable."  "Suzy Creamcheese."  Mostly songs from the early Mothers albums and some of the best of Frank's  satiric ("I Am The Slime," about television) and surreal ("Montana," about dental floss) classics.

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    Dweezil's band was loudly orchestrated, almost as if the living albums with the volume turned up, and all in the band are virtuosic enough to whip it out — especially singer and saxophonist Scheila Gonzalez, whose animated  presence on stage reminded me of Frank's sexy (and very musical) Ruth Underwood.

    Except that he didn't play extended concerto-like improvs, Dweezil's guitar chops sounded very like his dad's.

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    I missed every other gig that night.  "Zappa Plays Zappa" was so cool I was flooded with great memories — and the contact high with all the other older Zappaholics in the crowd was quite bulbous.

  • Bourne's Montreal: The Best Of The Rest

    August 6, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    I enjoyed Montreal for 12 days. And of the festival's more than 800 concerts, I attended all or most of 40. That's not even 5 percent of the Festival International du JAZZ de Montreal. That's how big it is.

    Here's (some of) what else I enjoyed at FIJM 2014. At Gesu:

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    Photo by Denis Alix

    Gamak, the intensely (and very differently swinging) Indo-jazz of alto saxist Rudresh Mahanthappa.

    Now This,  the lyrical almost-dreamscapes of pianist Marc Copland, bassist Gary Peacock, and kaleidoscopic drummer Joey Baron.

    Photo by Frederique Menard-Aubin
    Photo by Frederique Menard-Aubin

    Dr. Lonnie Smith with his octet.  Playing 4 (or was it 5? or more?) keyboards.  He's one of the best (and one of the last) of the McDuff/McGriff/Smith generation on the Hammond B3.   He played like a tidal wave.  Or like a baby's whisper.  He played tunes, but really much more as if a sculptor of grooves.  He blew the roof off the Jesus.

    At L'Astral:

    Photo by Marie-Claire Denis
    Photo by Marie-Claire Denis

    Some of the best (often world-class) "locals" played the 6PM gig at L'Astral in the Maison du Festival, including pianist Vincent Rehel, trumpeter Jacques Kuba Seguin, and the lively kids-play-Pops group Misses Satchmo.

    Photo by Marie-Claire Denis
    Photo by Marie-Claire Denis

    Guy Belanger is a helluva harmonicat.  Comes from blues essentially, but he erases all the lines between blues, jazz, and whatever other genres get too often boxed.  On even what looks like a dimestore harmonica from his pocket, he can sound orchestral.

    Photo by Marie-Claire Denis
    Photo by Marie-Claire Denis

    Honored this year with the Oscar Peterson Award for a Canadian musician, trumpeter Ron DiLauro played Kind of Bluealmost note-for-note.

    Photo by Marie-Claire Denis
    Photo by Marie-Claire Denis

    Usually when a great (and frequently Miles Davis) album is performed, I feel that I'd rather listen again to the actual album — but Ron's sound is so exquisite (especially through the mute on "Flamenco Sketches" and "Blue In Green") that the masterpiece of Miles et al came alive again.

    So many good players on the Montreal scene never get heard much (if at all) below the 49th Parallel, and some of them (like Ron DiLauro) have played for decades with Vic Vogel.  Sorry that I missed his big band.  He's the only musician who's played all 35 years of FIM.

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