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: Oliver Jones And Friends

    July 28, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    No musician in Montreal is beloved like pianist Oliver Jones. He's like a musical godfather of the jazzfest.

    Photo by Victor Diaz Lamich
    Photo by Victor Diaz Lamich

    On the same floor as the press room of the Maison du Festival is a museum of the jazzfest, which includes the aged upright piano of Daisy Peterson, teacher of her brother Oscar and also of Oliver. Oliver often remembers lurking by Daisy's house, listening to Oscar practise.

    Through the years, Oliver has played some of the most purely enjoyable concerts of FIJM. Especially after he "retired" about a dozen years ago.

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    He's been back pretty much every festival since then. Playing solo concerts. Playing trio concerts. Playing duets with just-turned-90 Hank Jones. Playing duets to climax the last festival concert of his life-long friend Oscar.

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    And most memorable for me was the last of his "Invitation" "farewell" concerts all those years ago. I'll never forget when, after a lovely solo recital, he thanked the audience for his musical life, and then he asked in his always friendly Franglish, "Mesdames et messieurs, what would you like to hear?"

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    Song titles came flying from the house, and Oliver delightedly and delightfully played every request.

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    To celebrate his 80th birthday this year, Oliver gathered musical friends at Theatre Maisonneuve. With his trio, always generously spotlighting his long-time bassist Eric Lagace, he played charmingly.

    Photo by Frederic Menard-Aubin
    Photo by Frederic Menard-Aubin

    "Teach Me Tonight." And his own "Looks Good To Me." "We're gonna play some ballads," he said, alternating English and French. "Let's see if any favorites of yours." "When I Fall In Love" segued into favorites aplenty.

    Highlights were pretty much constant. A duet of riffs between Jones and Legace. A favorite classic of his friend Oscar, "Place St. Henri" from Peterson's Canadiana Suite.

    Photo by Frederic Menard-Aubin
    Photo by Frederic Menard-Aubin

    Other friends joined in - singer Ranee Lee, violinist Josee Aidans, pianist Lorraine Desmarais - and then came a surprise for all the Quebecois in the house.

    Ginette Reno is, or has been called, "the Streisand of Quebec." Oliver played piano 20 years ago when she sang a festival jazz concert I'll always remember.

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    Looking elegant, earthy, and ageless, Ginette sang "My Man," the very Fanny Brice classic Barbra sang in Funny Girl — and I was thinking: "Barbra who?"

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    Climactically, out came a teenager, Daniel Clarke Bouchard. A piano prodigy, as if the second coming of Oscar Peterson, the kid showed plenty of Oscar's flabbergasting dexterity with finger-flying boogie woogie and something classical-ish in a duet with Oliver.

    As always for a finale, Oliver heartfully played Peterson's "Hymn To Freedom," and for an encore, the trio played "What a Wonderful World."

    What a wonderful concert…

    Photo by Frederic Menard-Aubin
    Photo by Frederic Menard-Aubin
  • Bourne's Montreal: Pink Martini Dreams

    July 22, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Pink Martini is a frequent pleasure for me at the Montreal jazzfest. What they play is an elegant confection of pop songs and what used to be called “light classics,” chosen from across time and from around the world.

    I caught up with Pink Martini after their Sunday matinee performance at FIJM this year. Listen to our conversation here:

    Dressed in a scarlet gown for the concert with (what looked like, or sparkled like) a tiara, Forbes sang with her usual bounty of charms and chops.  And in umpteen languages, including Farsi.

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

    "Amado Mio," sung by Rita Hayworth in the movie Gilda, is almost always the opener.   "Aquarela do Brasil," with the audience dancing, is almost always the finale. And in betwixt, they played a … "variety" does not fully encompass it.   More like a variegated cornucopia.

    Like one very obscure song they discovered from a very obscure movie, a torch song originally sung by sex kitten Mamie van Doren in a - not kidding - German western.  Or a song they adapted from a theme by French modern classical composer Francis Poulenc.

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

    These days, Pink Martini are joined by the Von Trapps, three girls and a boy, all 20-something, all cute, and all grandchildren – not kidding - of the youngest of the singing Von Trapp siblings who inspired Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music.

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    This generation of Von Trapps sing "Edelweiss" and "The Lonely Goatherd,” both from the musical inspired by their great-grandparents - the captain and the nun who fell in love and escaped the Nazis with their passel of kids - on Pink Martini’s newest album, Dream a Little Dream.

    Thomas Lauderdale played piano deftly and conducted the mini-orchestra, amused the audience in French and invited the audience to come on stage and dance.

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