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 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