• Cassandra Wilson at Montreal Jazz Festival

    June 29, 2010. Posted by David Tallacksen.

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  • FIJM cont`d

    June 29, 2010. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    Festival International de Jazz de Montreal is a kaleidoscope.  Twist this way.  Twist that way.  Colorful everywhere.   And something is always happening.   I meant to blog much more often, but there`s rarely a moment when something is not happening.

    Herman Leonard, the great jazz photographer, was honored with the festival`s Bruce Lundvall Award, first presented last year to celebrate someone who`s not a musician but who`s contributed greatly to jazz.  Bruce himself was the first to be honored, and Bruce himself nominated and talked about Leonard`s work at the fest`s press conference.  Leonard could not come this year, but on a video Leonard talked about how excited he was shooting all around the festival last year.  I remember seeing him from time to time shooting, and he said on the video that being at the jazzfest was one of the great musical times of his life.  Some of his most famous photos were displayed at the press event, including the iconic black-and-white photo of Dexter Gordon with his tenor and the smoke from a cigarette whirling into the darkness.  Smoke was a signature element in many of Leonard`s jazz photos, and I realized something obvious: that jazz is the art of the moment and a photograph is literally a moment.  No two solos of Dexter alike.  No two beautiful clouds of smoke alike.

    Manhattan Transfer was honored with the Ella Fitzgerald Award for jazz singers.  I`ve heard them so often in Montreal, and I talked with Tim Hauser and Janis Siegel for the "Singers Unlimited" broadcast Sunday on WBGO, but I didn`t get to this year`s show.  When they were singing, I was being a judge for the TD Bank prize.  Eights groups from across Canada compete for money, studio time, a record deal, and a featured gig at the jazzfest.  Parc-X Trio, a young trio from the Parc-X neighborhood of Montreal, performed last year and were not winners, but we enjoyed them so much the judges requested that they compete again this year.  And they were sensational, swinging through what I called motifs with variations, shifting tempo and dynamics on a dime as one. I`ve never before gotten to meet the musicians during the contest, but several of the groups this year have come on our WBGO broadcast from Montreal, including Parc-X Trio.  It always feels weird to me that our wonderful wrangler, Genevieve Venne, sits the judges in a row up front and the musicians have to be aware of the judges scribbling on our clipboards.  Then, about half-way through the gig, we split en masse. We`re not allowed to hear more than the first 30 minutes of a performance, and I`ve assured the young musicians that we`re not really walking out on them.

    I always ask the festival programmers -- Caroline Johnson, Johanne Bougie, and Laurent Saulnier -- who`s really cool that they want me to hear.    I have them circle and initial gigs on the festival grid, and I was especially happy they circled Franco- Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf playing at the fest`s jazz joint L`Astral.    He plays a four-valve trumpet and plays back and forth between two mics, one with an echo device -- although I think some of his extraordinary bendings of notes he plays with his chops.  He opened with a long solo that sounded like a call to prayer, then the quintet kicked in, usually playing through bop-ishly  Middle Eastern grooves.  He said at the last that he wanted to play some propre jazz and burst hard-bopishly, sounding like Fats Navarro at the oasis.

    There`s oodles more happening in Montreal.  Have a listen to our broadcast Monday-Wednesday 2-6:30 from the contemporary art museum in Place des Arts.

    --Michael Bourne

  • Daniel Mille, Accordionist from France

    June 29, 2010. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Daniel Mille with Alfio Origlio, Jerome Regard, Julien Alour and Andy Barron, at Gesu - Centre de Creativite, June 27, 2010
    Daniel Mille with Alfio Origlio, Jerome Regard, Julien Alour and Andy Barron, at Gesu - Centre de Creativite, June 27, 2010

    Some of the most flowing, breathing music of the festival has come from this quintet led by Daniel Mille, who  sings in harmony over his accordion. Inside his quintet, he finds trios of accordion, bass and trumpet, or piano, bass and drums, or a duo of piano with drums alone. Yet these shifts of focus are subtle. Michael Bourne interviews the artist with Hugo Leclerc translating from French to English, and David Tallacksen's photos of the performance are on our flickr site.

  • Talking with Ben Sidran

    June 28, 2010. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    The singer / pianist / ironist came by the Museum of Contemporary Art, site of the WBGO broadcast booth, to talk with Michael Bourne during Singers Unlimited. In the evening Ben sang and played Bob Dylan Ben's way, at Dylan Different at Club Soda. That's also his latest album with son Leo Sidran on drums.

    Besides Dylan, Ben has a Mose Allison heart with a helping of Horace Silver -  bop blues and lyrics. And he always has a good story and a unique take on things. Try his autobiography Ben Sidran: A Life in Music.

    Sorry I cut off his right hand in this photo; it's important to his keyboard playing!

    Click and listen to the conversation.

  • Sonny Rollins Concert

    June 28, 2010. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Sonny Rollins & Russell Malone, photo by David Tallacksen
    Sonny Rollins & Russell Malone, photo by David Tallacksen

    A huge roar in the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, the biggest venue of the Montreal Festival, greeted Sonny Rollins. He entered in a flowing red silk shirt, a SHOCK of grey hair, the iconic profile, dark sunglasses, the saxophone and then the sound. The first piece was as simple as four bars, repeated, yet the more he played them, the more I wanted more. And he was generous.

    He holds a note a long time, intense and penetrating, then tumbles down the ravine through a syncopated strung-out cadence you feel but can't hold onto to punch the bottom note, spin it. Love those low notes. Everything spins -- the tone, melodies, everything and as the concert progressed, it seemed to spin more. From The Very Thought of You through a calypso (not St Thomas) .. as that applause for that ended, a lady cried out "We love you Sonny!" he stepped to the mic and said "Love you back!"  .. an Italian folksong in 3, They Say That Falling in Love Is Wonderful. . . He paced a bit, pumped his fist, sung two choruses of a blues about a no-good woman (has anyone seen Sonny Rollins sing before?) and it was over. I looked up toward the five white stairway-to-heaven boxes plastered to each dark sidewall of this home to the Montreal Symphony and saw people cheering for more. There was a bow but not an encore. It was complete, a concert to remember.

    At the beginning of the show, Rollins received the 2010 Miles Davis Award from Montreal's Andre Menard. I'm for a Sonny Rollins Award! And right away.