June 27, 2010. Posted by David Tallacksen.
© 2010 WBGO
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.
© 2010 WBGO