WBGO Blog
  • Bourne's Montreal: Prizes For Charles Lloyd, Holly Cole

    June 30, 2013. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    Charles Lloyd was honored with the jazzfest's annual Miles Davis Award, a very heavy statue of Miles playing.

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    And right away Charles started telling stories... about knowing Miles and playing with Miles, about growing up in Memphis and playing gigs as a kid, with piano legend Phineas Newborn Jr, with hometown blues masters like Bobby Bland and Roscoe Gordon.

    Each of the stories whirled into another, delightfully. "You tell stories like you play," said the jazzfest's artistic director, Andre Menard.

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    Photo by Denis Alix

    Charles Lloyd is one of this year's Invitees, playing three concerts with three groups: one with a quartet, another with the trio Sangam, and duets with guitarist Bill Frisell and pianist Jason Moran.

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    Photo by Denis Alix

    Holly Cole was honored with the festival's annual tribute to a singer: the Ella Fitzgerald Award. She's performed at the Jazzfest 25 times through the years, and I've attended plenty of her concerts, each with a different feeling, all with her great style and, whatever she sings, serious jazziness.

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    Photo by Denis Alix

    I remember especially an encore from a show in the 90's, a heart-breaking "Tennessee Waltz." I also enjoyed her last gig at FIJM, when the band was bluesier and her singing was earthier, a show feeling like a 50's movie, with Holly like Jane Russell as the chanteuse of a swank-ish joint in Macao.

    This year she sang three shows at the Theatre Nouveau Monde. "J'aime Montreal!" she beamed when handed the mounted microphone that's Ella's award. "I love the spirit of this city so much!"

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    She mostly sang songs from her newest album, Night, a record typically eclectically surprising. A doo-wop-ish (but hipper) "I Only Have Eyes for You." A brisk whirligig of "Charade." A dramatic "You Only Live Twice."

    She learned Jacques Brel's "Ne Me Quitte Pas" ("If You Go Away") from her father, and he was there for her triumph. She swung "Ain't That a Kick in the Head," complete with a litany of other sensations of love: a poke in the eye, a stick in the spokes.

    So much of her signature is the unexpected twist of her arrangements, and her band played through all the twists with gusto. Several highlights featured guitarist (and electric mandolinist) Kevin Breitt, especially a funky "Waters of March."

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    Joined at the climax by a gospel choir, The Praise and Worship Crew, she revisited one of her first hits, "I Can See Clearly Now." And most joyous was an encore of "Whistling Past The Graveyard."

    All the while each of her cats romped through ecstatic solos -- the electrifying Kevin Breitt, monster bassist George Koller, drummer Davide DiRenzo, saxophonist Johnny Johnson, and, with a final mini-rhapsody, her long-time pianist Aaron Davis -- Holly Cole smiled her heart out.

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix
  • Bourne's Montreal: Day One With Pink Martini

    June 29, 2013. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    "Is this your first time?"

    She's a greeter, at the entrance below reception at the Hyatt Regency. She's one of the countless kids who work every summer at FIJM, the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal. Checking badges at the security posts. Checking bags for contraband beers. Grilling the hot dogs. Cleaning up the Herculean mess every night. Always cheerful. And so many of them not yet born when I first came here.

    "No," I said. "It's my TWENTY-first time."

    Photo by Victor Diaz Lamich
    Photo by Victor Diaz Lamich

    FIJM is bigger than it was in 1992. Gargantuan. And that much more wonderful.

    Place des Arts now includes (somehow architecturally squeezed into where kids played and the jazzfest used to have little bistros) a grand and beautiful symphony hall.

    And the avenue alongside Place des Arts is now the year-round Quartier des Spectacles -- where the likes of Stevie Wonder and (this year) Feist can perform free for a hundred thousand folks dancing in the street. Even if it rains.

    Photo by Victor Diaz Lamich
    Photo by Victor Diaz Lamich

    What was already evident, even when I first came, was how important the jazz festival is to the city's economy and (now world-wide) cultural identity as the City of Festivals.

    I can't think of any artists more ideal to open this (or any year's) festival than Pink Martini, artists as musically diverse as Montreal is ethnically diverse.

    I lost count of how many languages China Forbes was singing in, at least eight, and there's now a percussionist singing in Japanese. They played musical classics from everywhere. An orchestrally rhapsodic "Malaguena" for starters. "Quizas, Quizas, Quizas."

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    Photo by Victor Diaz Lamich

    "Never on Sunday" in Greek. A romping dervish of a song in (I think) Arabic but reminding me of pop songs I once heard from the streets of Istanbul. A feature for the trombonist singing "She Was Too Good To Me" so tenderly, like Chet Baker. "Hey, Eugene" and other Pink Martini favorites.

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    Photo by Victor Diaz Lamich

    Thomas Lauderdale, the virtuoso pianist and ringmaster of Pink Martini, welcomed the audience to come up and dance. And they came. A tall mannequin in killer shoes, showing off her curves. A suburban matron in sensible shoes, clutching her purse but otherwise bopping with abandon. Dozens of folks stumbling in the dark to get on the stage. Couples. Kids. All happy.

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    Photo by Victor Diaz Lamich

    As one of the encores, China sang a lovely chanson song she's recorded with the chanteur, Georges Moustaki, and the audience sweetly sang along. And with the final encore, a full-tilt carnival of "Brazil," everyone all around and above in the W-P was standing, clapping, dancing.

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    Photo by Victor Diaz Lamich

  • Singer Cecile McLorin Salvant With Michael Bourne

    June 24, 2013. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Singer Cecile McLorin Salvant talks with WBGO's Michael Bourne about her new Mack Avenue CD, WomanChild, and experiences as a performer in France and the United States. McLorin Salvant performs at a CD release party on Tuesday, June 25 at the 54 Below nightclub in New York as part of the club's WBGO jazz series. Enjoy!

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