WBGO Blog
  • Montreal Jazz Festival 2010 - all photos slide show

    June 27, 2010. Posted by David Tallacksen.

    Add new comment | Filed under: FIJM 2010
  • Montreal Jazzfest Day One

    June 27, 2010. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    I came a day early -- Quebec Day, the town mostly closed to celebrate.  So many of the Montrealers I know think of themselves as Quebecers, not necessarily Canadians.  Pizzedelic on St Denis was open -- trilogie des fromages (parmesan, mozzarella, feta) with green and black olives, pepperoni americain and saucisse Calabrese, on a whole wheat square -- with Borealle rousse (red beer) ...

    1st music 1st day: St Luc high school big band playing Herbie Hancock`s `Chameleon` below my window at the Hyatt.  I always want to overlook the Place des Arts.  Easier to get a room on the fest side, I`m told folks think it`s too noisy.  Even the day before, with only sound checks happening, about a thousand folks were hanging on the fest site.

    Where the concert pub Spectrum used to be (and last year was a hole) is now a fest boutique and the Pub Heineken.  Heard a rockabilly trio called the Hellbound Hepcats, locals all with grease-backed and pomped 50`s do`s.  Group`s acoustic bass player was thumping, plucking, strumming, slapping a beat so hard it`s a wonder his bass wasn`t splinters.

    Boz Scaggs and Brian Setzer opening night.  Andre Menard, the fest`s artistic director, wanted Boz for years but couldn`t get him.  I was expecting some of the jazzier standards he`s recorded recently, but he played his own standards, his own jazzy, bluesy, rocky (and quite nasally crooned) hits like `JoJo` for starters and a long `Loan Me a Dime` for an encore.  One of the local critics observed that Boz and Brian both have the initials BS -- Quebecois shorthand for Health and Welfare.  I observed that below the 49th Parallel BS means something else.

    `When we first wanted to present Brian Setzer as a Grande Evenement, we scared the police,`said Andre Menard.  Someone saw a picture of the Stray Cats and thought they`d draw a troublesome crowd.  Setzer`s big band drew over a hundred thousands folks to the new TD stage on the Place des Festivals, a main artery alongside Place des Arts that the city shut down for a year-round festsite.  I`d never heard any of Setzer`s many gigs in Montreal and really didn`t know what to expect.  The Brian Setzer Orchestra is a rockabilly trio with the 13 horns of a classic jazz band, rocking and swinging alike.

    `I love the sounds of music that come from the blues -- jazz, rock, country.  It all comes from the blues,` said Setzer at his press conference.  ` I never consciously thought about blending them.  It just comes out of my hands.`  Setzer`s guitar is ablaze on every song, flashing as much musical lightning as the triple rainbow of lights across  -- or the orange flames that leap above -- the TD stage.   Setzer talked about that musical intersection of styles and times when the big bands of the 40`s were ending and rock and roll of the 50`s was getting started.  That`s where his rockabilly swing comes from, and when he sang `Sexy and 17`,  kids jitterbugged on a platform in the middle of the crowd like the kids in turn-of-the-50`s  movies.  Most of his songs reminded me of jazz and rock classics, especially in Setzer`s arrangements of the horns.  He especially quoted Mancini classics, `Pink Panther`and `Peter Gunn.`  "Sleepwalk`was a highlight as Setzer extended  the eerie warble of Santo and Johnny from his tremolo bar into the whole orchestra.  `Flight of the Bumble Bee` was frighteningly fast, like a flamenco guitarist on acid,  amplified.  Eddie Cochran was his idol, and Setzer criss-crossed Cochran`s `Summertime Blues`with `Be-Bop-a-Lula.` `Rock This Town` was the inexorable climax, and Montreal was indeed rocking.

    I`ll be broadcasting live on WBGO from the contemporary art museum at the heart of Place des Arts, `Singers Unlimited` on Sunday the 27th 10AM-2PM and Monday-Wednesday the 28th-30th 2PM-6:30PM.  Tim Hauser and Janis Siegel of the Manhattan Transfer (winners of the festival`s Ella Fitzgerald Award)  join me on Sunday, and we`ll have other interviews and musical highlights from the festival past and present.  Josh Jackson of `The Checkout,`  David Tallacksen, and Becca Pulliam from Jazz 88 have joined me and will also have photos and stories from the blog.