• Bourne's Montreal Day One: Pizza, Beer and James Taylor

    June 30, 2012. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    The 33rd Festival International de JAZZ de Montreal is my 20th as a journalist and/or broadcaster. I first came almost accidentally in 1992. I've come back ever since, always amazed and amused that the jazzfest is bigger and better every summer. I still can't parle français much more than schoolboy French, but jazz is the universal language.


    I am always ritualistic, and in Montreal one of my favorite rituals is Pizzedelic. Once settled in, I was joined by Vincent Lefebvre, wrangler of the international press, at my favorite of the four pizza joints named (though not really a chain) Pizzedelic. They each have a unique personality and somewhat different menu. Brightest (and breeziest) is the pizza resto on rue Notre Dame across from the basilica. Pizzas are square with a matzo-like crust and a grand variety of toppings.


    2012 Pizza #1: trois fromages, three cheeses: mozzarella, parmesan, feta. It's actually quatre fromages, but I don't like the blue cheese. I added black olives, pepperoni, and spicy saucisse Calabrese. And a red beer, La Belle Gueulle rousse.

    Tomorrow night is the festival's official opening, but James Taylor played an early concert at the big hall, Salle Wilfred-Pelletier of the Place des Arts. Just before the concert, he'd been presented with the Festival Spirit Award, and he walked on-stage with the metal sculpture, a self-portrait of Miles Davis.

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    He thanked the festival (in way better French than mine) and played charmingly more than two hours, interrupted only by an intermission. "I don't know why," he said at the break. "We're just going to stand behind the curtain for 20 minutes."

    That he was having a good time radiated from the stage, even when singing songs ("Fire and Rain," "The Secret of Life," et al) that he's performed countlessly. When someone in the balcony shouted for one of his hits, he held up a chalkboard with his set list and pointed to that title. I'd been looking forward to "Sweet Baby James." "That was written for my nephew," he said. "He was named after me. He's a big thing now."

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    Another highlight was his song inspired by a man found long after he'd been lost in ice, "God Have Mercy on the Frozen Man." And he let the band play, no wonder. "This is an excellent band," Taylor said as he introduced the stellar ensemble, including saxist Lou Marini, trumpeter Walt Fowler, keyboardist Larry Goldings, and drummer Steve Gadd.

    He'd gotten a standing O after "Fire and Rain," and the audience was up and dancing for "Your Smiling Face," dancing and singing along with "How Sweet It Is." Taylor's encore was that much more joyful with everyone chubbing and checkering "The Twist."

    Photo by Denis Alix

    Having someone having as much fun as James Taylor was was an ideal overture to another great jazzfest in Montreal.

  • Simon Rentner's Guide to Jazz from Montreal

    June 29, 2012. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Add new comment | Filed under: FIJM 2012

    Montreal hosts the world's largest jazz festival, which inaugurates its 33rd year today - the ten-day event features more than a thousand concerts and attracts two million visitors to the city many consider to be Canada's cultural capital.

    WBGO has been part of the festival for many years - host Michael Bourne has been there every year for two decades, and was recently profiled by both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Daily News for his superb coverage of the fest. Bourne is there again this year, and will broadcast a special edition of "Singers Unlimited" live from Montreal this Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

    Montreal has a robust jazz culture all year long, with many musicians who deserve to be better known beyond the banks of the Saint Lawrence river. WBGO producer Simon Rentner turns a spotlight on some of the city's best performers, as part of his regular contributions to NPRMusic.org's series of "Take Five" audio features.

    Click here to read and hear Rentner's guide to some of Montreal's local jazz legends. Enjoy!

    Montreal jazz group "L'Orkestre des Pas Perdus"
    Montreal jazz group "L'Orkestre des Pas Perdus"
  • The Len Dobbin Jazz Collection at Montreal Jazz Festival

    June 28, 2012. Posted by David Tallacksen.

    Dear Readers!

    Beginning with Singers Unlimited from 10am-2pm this Sunday, July 1, Michael Bourne will broadcast live from the Montreal International Jazz Festival. The WBGO team will set up in the Mediatech (or Médiathèque if you're feeling French). Last year we were given a guided tour of one fascinating section of this fabulous jazz library. Take a look

    A vôtre festival, Becca Pulliam

    Picture 4

    Please click here for Serge Lafortune and a short tour of the Len Dobbin archive, to open officially this fall

    In Head Archivist Serge Lafortune’s words, or paraphrasing them, You have to come to Montreal to live the Festival. You have to come the Médiathèque to re-live the festival. (Think discothèque, but with media, not dance music.) Here is some of what he told me.

    SL: We wanted to preserve the memory of the jazz festival, and this memory was recorded through all the TV production we did over the years, all the pictures, over 200,000 pictures we took of artists, of the site, of the different venues, of everything. . . . We have 400 shows over thirty years plus people with cameras going onsite to shoot almost everything – speeches, cocktails, people working at the jazz festival, people in the streets, eating, drinking, having fun, kids playing in the musical park and everything. . . . all sorts of material. Interviews! Almost 1,000 interviews with jazz musicians. . . .

    Mediatheque welcome screen .. your portal to endless hours of viewing and listening
    Mediatheque welcome screen .. your portal to endless hours of viewing and listening

    . . . artists that come here, they ask for things, backstage they want this and that. All these documents, you may have access to those documents. So one day you’ll be able to have everything on the show – players list, their names, the contract, maybe how much money they had. Because the Festival is a non-profit organization, so this organization, you can have access to the documents. Over the years, those documents will be available to people.

    Read more