July 9, 2013. Posted by Michael Bourne.
A photograph of Dave Brubeck looked over us from atop Montreal's Place des Arts. FIJM 2013 was dedicated to him. He'd played concerts most of the festival's 34 years. "He was a great friend," said artistic director Andre Menard. "He was the one artist invited to play every year."
Wherever he played in the world, he smiled and he laughed, but nowhere more than in Montreal. "It's a jazz audience," Dave said to me at the 2009 jazzfest. "Right there, you're a step ahead of most audiences. Here, you better realize that you've got a lot of sharp minds out there."
On this year's final festival evening, The Brubeck Brothers, bassist Chris and drummer Dan, played a tribute to their father at Theatre Duceppe. Chuck Lamb played piano. Mike DeMicco played guitar. "Bossa Nova USA" and "Kathy's Waltz" were charming for starters. "You're probably here because you like melodies," said Chris as a welcome.
Chris told stories about his dad, especially about how some of Dave's classics came about. "Blues for Newport" was composed impromptu ("in three minutes") at Newport when Dave was told the Quartet was being recorded. Chris, Slam-like, scatted along with his electric bass.
Chris observed that nobody knows where Chuck Lamb will go when he's featured solo. Chuck played in and around the song "Someday My Prince Will Come" (on the Brubeck album "Dave Digs Disney") as a prelude to "Strange Meadowlark," the Brubeck classic that first turned me on to jazz.
Chris remembered when he and Dan were kids, when their father came home from a long-night gig and their mother said not to wake him. "We were in our room playing all these Disney records," said Chris, "and he must have heard all those songs through the wall. We figure all those songs got into his dreams."
Dave composed an exotic groover called "The Jazzanians" inspired by his son Darius. Darius plays piano and, when he lived for years in South Africa, he gathered a band with musicians of all races.
"My One Bad Habit," a beautiful ballad recorded by Carmen McRae, was inspired by Ella Fitzgerald. His father was hanging with Ella one night after a gig, said Chris.
"She was in a funk. He asked what was wrong. She said 'Dave, my one bad habit is falling in love.'"
Chris played Ella's lament from the deepest heart of his trombone. Iola Brubeck, mother of the Brothers, wrote the lyric to "My One Bad Habit" and inspired "In Your Own Sweet Way," played by everyone... sweetly.
Three of Montreal's best -- bassist Adrian Vedady, saxophonist Chet Doxas, and pianist Lorraine Desmarais -- joined the Brothers for several highlights, especially one of Brubeck's least-known but most exquisite songs, also for his wife of more than 70 years, "For Iola."
"Take Five" was the inevitable climax with DeMicco's guitar standing in for Paul Desmond and everyone soloing, including an expected spectacular drum solo from Dan Brubeck.
Chris Brubeck repeated the legend of his father's most famous classic, about Dave walking along a street in Istanbul, hearing street musicians playing a wild rhythm, and from that rhythm composing "Blue Rondo a la Turk."
"It's one of the most fantastic, self-propelling songs ever written," said Chris, getting to play both his bass and his trombone with everyone together at the last. Chuck and Lorraine switched back and forth between piano and an electronic keyboard. Lorraine played a solo so rollicking, she was pulled up to her feet by the rhythm.
"We were playing at the Hollywood Bowl," said Chris after the show. They were all talking. Nobody was listening." Unlike the audience of FIJM. What he said from the stage to them echoed his father's feeling for playing at the festival. "You're a great audience," said Chris to the sharp (and happy) minds of Montreal.
© 2013 WBGO
July 8, 2013. Posted by Michael Bourne.
Cinquieme Salle is a lovely concert hall in Montreal's Place des Arts. I'd never been there since a renovation installed the loveliness. I was late when French pianist Thomas Enhco was playing the "Fifth."
I was limping, and the usher pointed me to a door near the entrance. He pushed a large button with a disabled icon, and a door mechanically opened.
Behind the door was a chair on a small balcony, high above the highest row of seats. I could see and hear everything curiously intimately from high above. I felt like Zeus looking down.
I asked and was welcomed back to the Olympic aerie for a piano recital of Oliver Jones, long-time godfather of Montreal jazz and one of the sweetest cats anywhere.
When he was a kid, growing up in the black neighborhood called Little Burgundy, instead of playing ball, he'd listen to Oscar Peterson practicing at the piano. Oscar's teacher, his sister Daisy, became Oliver's teacher, and Daisy's piano is now an artifact in the FIJM museum.
Oscar became one of the biggest international jazz stars. Oliver stayed and played closer to home. When the festival in 1989 established the Oscar Peterson Award to honor a Canadian jazz musician, Oscar himself was the first to be honored, and Oliver was the second.
No other concert could have better celebrated the jazzfest's 25th anniversary than the duet concert of Oscar and Oliver in 2004.
I was there that night, and in 2000 I was there when Oliver played his retirement "farewell" concert, an evening of piano solos. After a charming recital, he thanked everyone for his career. And played about a dozen requests.
Oliver's retirement did not last long, and he's played concerts most of the last dozen years. Usually he's played with his trio, but this year at the Cinquieme he was alone at the piano.
"It Could Happen To You," played in and around the melody, was the first of so many favorite tunes he's been playing his entire life at the piano.
An inevitable highlight was a medley of Duke Ellington classics. An inevitable climax was the heart-lifting spirit of Oscar's "Hymn to Freedom."
"Next year I'll be 80," said Oliver Jones, not retiring anymore. "I hope I can play for you again."
I hope Zeus can be there to enjoy him again.
© 2013 WBGO
July 7, 2013. Posted by Tim Wilkins.
Record producer Tommy LiPuma talks with WBGO's Michael Bourne about receiving the Bruce Lundvall Award at this year's Festival International du Jazz de Montreal, and his five-decade career, during which he has worked with dozens of vocalists and instrumentalists, including Barbra Streisand, George Benson and Diana Krall. Enjoy!
© 2013 WBGO