• Montreal Jazz Festival in Photos: Oliver Jones

    July 3, 2011. Posted by David Tallacksen.

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  • Montreal concerts: GRUBB

    July 3, 2011. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Add new comment | Filed under: FIJM 2011
    © Frédérique Ménard-Aubin, courtesy FIJM
    GRUBB © Frédérique Ménard-Aubin, courtesy FIJM

    We live music, even if we sleep in slums.

    GRUBB is Gypsy Roma Urban Balkan Beats -- singing, dancing, hiphop accompanied by an onstage brass band. GRUBB is dizzying and ecstatic. It grabs you and shakes you. The performers bring up and face down cliché after cliché (the Montreal word, we would say stereotype) about gypsies -- that they (for them, WE) steal, smell, won't work. GRUBB produces official pronouncements of racism against Roma, repugnant quotes from the Nazis through today, and asks WHY are we stigmatized?

    GRUBB asks how it is that young women are forced into arranged marriages. Only three in the cast are women. The backdrop is a patchwork of bedsheets and tablecloths, rags hanging from the rafters. The sets are made of cardboard. The play is nonstop curtain to curtain, wall to wall action, message, confrontation, music. One hundred minutes goes by fast.

    GRUBB is  playing every night at 8 at this year's Montreal Festival. There is more of the story with a review from the Gazette here. A cut of music from the cast album is here:

    GRUBB is in Roma, an endangered language, with surtitles in English and French. Jazz has had to face down racism; in doing so, it moves the world. Presenting GRUBB at the Montreal Int'l Jazz Festival confronts a fundamental wrong. How can these fully alive young performers and the people behind them be denied?

    Caroline Johnson
    Caroline Johnson

    ADDENDUM: Caroline Johnson, the Festival's Director of Programming for ten years now (and photographed with a well-used grid of this year's performances), spoke with me about GRUBB, calling it "the best show I've worked on since I'm at the Festival." Here is our conversation about GRUBB, including the story of how it came to Montreal. I hope you'll listen!

    **This weekend on the Place des Arts, Roma is a subtext of another daily event. At 5pm, Roma Carnivale — 10 Montreal musicians playing in the Serbian tradition — faces off against Fanfare Severni with music from the Klezmer, Moldavian, Serbian, Bulgarian and Turkish traditions. For a slide show click here. Photos by WBGO's David Tallacksen.

  • Montreal Jazz Festival in Photos: Michel Donato

    July 3, 2011. Posted by David Tallacksen.

    Add new comment | Filed under: FIJM 2011

    Hear Michael Bourne's interview with bassist Michel Donato.

    Another great performance shot! By day, our photographer David Tallacksen engineers Michael Bourne's broadcasts from Montreal. The quartet of Donato, François Bourassa on piano, Frank Lozano on tenor, and Pierre Tanguay on piano played at 6pm last night (Sat) as part of the series Jazz D'Ici (Jazz from Here, i.e., Montreal) at the club L'Astral.

    Yes, Donato's bass sounds like wood, and I love the way he can walk his bass lines. In 1977 at a club called The Rising Sun in Montreal, Donato played with Bill Evans (1929-81, born in Plainfield, NJ). To the group, that means there's only one degree of separation between last night's group and Evans himself, whose music they played: Peri's Scope, Two Lonely People, Sno' Peas (by Phil Markowitz) which morphed into Days of Wine and Roses, Gloria's Step, and the theme Five. I like the way tenor man Lozano played the scoops and leaps of the melody on the encore, Very Early.

    FIJM photo
    FIJM photo

    On a Montreal Gazette blog, Peter Hadekel wrote, "But if this evening was a success, it was mostly due to Francois Bourassa, who filled Evans’s considerable shoes at the piano admirably. A tribute such as this one is a lot to ask of any pianist, but Bourassa did more than just master the voicings and chord patterns favoured by Evans. He  conjured up some of the heart and spirit that made the piano master so great, with a  solo on Gloria’s Step that was sheer brilliance."

    This quartet got me thinking. When I went to music school in the mid 80s, Evans was a major major influence (which I resisted). Ever the student, last night I noted how Evans worked in conventional song forms (32 bars), absorbed the distilled melodies of bebop but made his more flowing and lyrical. The words "ve-ry early" fit like a glove on the first four notes of the melody. The exploration is in the harmonies. Evans had a legendary touch that made the inner voices sing. This Canadian quartet is releasing a CD in late summer/early fall on the Effendi label so you can hear them and your inner voice can sing too.

    Just for fun, there is a YouTube video of BE playing his theme, Five, here.

    -- Becca Pulliam