July 17, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.
FIJM 2014's opening night Concert D'Ouverture featured the OSM (Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal) playing Gershwin classics in the city’s still-new Symphony Hall.
The OSM opened with Gershwin’s "Cuban Overture," which was not quite as lively as it ought to be played. They maybe could've used more Cuban drummers. They have oodles of Cuban musicians living in very international Montreal.
Classical pianist Alain Lefevre played some charming Previn-esque originals in a trio with two of the jazz scene's masters, bassist Michel Donato and drummer Paul Brochu.
"Rhapsody In Blue" climaxed the first half, with Lefevre playing more jazzfully than classically, across the bar lines and feeling improvisatory -- although the linchpin of the orchestra was a clarinet soloist whose name I never knew.
Lefevre certainly knew, and as the orchestra was cheered, Lefevre walked through all the horns to shake the clarinetist's hands.
© 2014 WBGO
July 16, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.
FIJM's first jazz day begins at 11 a.m. with La Petite Ecole du Jazz, an annual “little school” of jazz for kids set up in the middle of Montreal's enormous Complexe Desjardins mall.
And all through the day, noon-midnight, shows happen outdoors: school bands, street bands, gypsy bands, blues bands, and plenty of singers.
What was once an artery of traffic alongside Place des Arts is now the avenue-long Deambulatoire, the walkway of Place des Spectacles — where something is always happening.
Mountebanks (jugglers, tumblers, stilt-walkers, and other colorful clowns) perform. Periodic fountains burst up from the street for kids to wetly dance around and in. And all the while, countless thousands of folks eat and drink, meander and listen.
I’m amused especially when a NOLA-style brass band, the Swing Torque Jazz Band, plays trad classics at one end of the street, while at the other end is a group that’s been playing the festival for most of FIJM’s 35 years: Streetnix.
Streetnix plays everything -- from Mingus (“II BS”) and the Average White Band (“Pick Up The Pieces”) to pop songs (“La Vie en Rose”). And then they march down the walkway into an Ives-ian showdown with the Moldy Figs.
When the two groups meet in the middle of the Deambulatoire, full-tilt New Orleans brassiness ensues as the crowd sings along and dances.
© 2014 WBGO
July 15, 2014. Posted by Carmen Balentine.
WBGO and the Gateway Center invite you to its FREE concert series occurring once a month during lunch time. Come celebrate summer and WBGO's 35th Anniversary with saxophonist and bandleader Lakecia Benjamin on Wednesday, August 6 at 2 Gateway Center Plaza, Newark, NJ at 12pm.
Charismatic and dynamic, Lakecia Benjamin has played with Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, The Roots and Macy Gray. Her music is immersed in the vintage sounds of James Brown, Maceo Parker, Sly and the Family Stone and the Meters as well as classic jazz.
A streetwise New York City native born and raised in Washington Heights, Lakecia Benjamin has become one of the most highly sought-after players in soul and funk music. She first picked up the saxophone at Fiorello LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts, after which she joined the renowned jazz program at New York's New School University. By that time she was already playing with renowned jazz figures like Clark Terry and Reggie Workman, which led to gigs and tours with a wide array of artists such as Rashied Ali, the David Murray Big Band, Vanessa Rubin and James "Blood" Ulmer. With her deep jazz roots, she was soon in demand as an arranger and horn section leader, landing stints with acclaimed artists.
Benjamin has also had the honor of performing at the White House at President Obama’s inaugural ball. She’s performed on four continents and her extensive recording credits include saxophone and arrangements for Santigold, Maurice Brown, the Clark Terry Big Band, Krystle Warren and Talib Kweli, among others. Benjamin's unique new contribution to the future of soul and funk is sure to win you over
Come and enliven your day with WBGO & 2 Gateway as celebrate 35 years, the beautiful summer and great music. Bring your lunch, friends, family and connect with WBGO, your jazz source for a festive afternoon. All are welcome.
© 2014 WBGO
July 15, 2014. Posted by Michael Bourne.
“So what music are you most looking forward to hearing?” someone wondered when I first walked into the press room of the Maison du Festival.
“I don’t know,” I said, truly. “Whoever is playing...”
I come to the Montreal Jazz Festival every year -- but not so much for the jazz. I come for the festival, and for all the wonderful people who make the festival happen. The programmers. The press corps. They’re truly for me... loved ones.
And the music IS always good, and even great – a bon festival indeed.
FIJM, le Festival International de JAZZ de Montreal, is the biggest (sez Guinness) and the best (sez me) jazz festival in the world. Here's FIJM 2014 by the numbers:
35 jazzfests for Montreal, 22 jazzfests for moi… 12 days of music, more than 800 concerts, enjoyed by 2 million festgoers on 11 free outdoor stages, 14 ticketed indoor stages, and a boat…
400 accredited media, including me and producer Simon Rentner from WBGO, from 20 countries, including 5 live radio broadcasters - three from France, and KJazz and XM/Sirius from the U.S..
All the music happens within walking distance in and around Montreal's Place des Arts. And, for me, this year better than ever, I actually enjoyed walking all the distance.
Montreal literally translates "Royal Mountain" -- and for someone knee-challenged like me, Montreal is agonizingly-hilled. Just the hill only a block UP from the Hyatt hotel to the Maison du Festival is gruntful.
Which is why I got in better shape for this year's FIJM. No carbs or sugar for 40 days, my own personal Jazz Lent. I lost about 25 pounds, and, as if training for a Jazz Olympics, I walked aplenty.
Plus, all the walking up (and down) worked off all the carbs and sugar I enjoyed so much during the jazzfest.
Especially all the pizzas at one or the other Pizzedelic, always with a Quebecois biere rousse.
© 2014 WBGO
June 19, 2014. Posted by Carmen Balentine.
WBGO and 2 Gateway Center invite you to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of WBGO 88.3 FM at the monthly free concert series featuring The Claire Daly Quartet on Wednesday, July 2 at 12pm.
Baritone saxophonist and composer Claire Daly has established herself as one of the most compelling and creative voices on the baritone saxophone. She is a a six time winner of the Down Beat Critics' Poll "Talent Deserving Wider Recognition" and winner of the 2005 Jazz Journalists Association's "Baritione Saxophonist of the Year".
As a very (very) young girl, playing saxophone for 3 months, Daly heard a big band concert at the Westchester County Center. The saxophone section stood up for a soli, and Claire was on her chair screaming. She says "...when I was a kid, I was drawn to music. I chose it because it spoke to me. I felt that it was a calling early on." And when you listen to her, you'll be glad she answered the call.
Her recording Baritone Monk has been described as a "marvelous tribute to Monk's music. His music is notoriously difficult, though you wouldn't know it from this recording. Daly's superb quartet combines a mastery of Monk's less-recorded repertoire with the casual joy of a jam session. Her pianist avoids Monkish cliches, displaying his own unique style to great effect and her bass player plays with a profound sense of melody, swing, and harmonic imagination. Daly's breadth of styles, enormous tone, and distinctive phrasing place her among the very best of contemporary baritone players."
Bring your food, family and friends for an afternoon of wonderful music.
© 2014 WBGO