July 1, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
Lunch on the terrasse, plateau of the Place des Arts where they have boutiques, games for kids, sponsor outlets, and eats. I was joined by one of my loved ones in Montreal, Catherine Simard, daughter of Alain Simard, president and co-founder of the jazzfest. Catherine endeared herself to me years ago when she was my virtual minder during the 25th anniversary jazzfest. We were supposed to catch a boat from the Old Town out to an anniversary concert on an island in the St Lawrence where the festival actually began almost 30 years ago. When we got to the dock, the boat was pulling out. I'll never forget Catherine -- in flip-flops! -- running along the dock shouting to the boat. Which actually stopped and came back...for me. Since then she's worked in most of the departments of Spectra, the arts company that produces the jazzfest and so much more. This year she's responsible for marketing, and the sponsor logos hanging ariound the Place are her work. I said years ago that she's not the "heir apparent" because she's Alain's daughter. I believe Catherine will be a boss some day because of her smarts, her charms, and her willingness to do whatever the work is -- whether she's running an enormous jazzfest or running in flip-flops ...
Public Enemy was playing Metropolis. I know nothing about them, except that they're among the first doing hip-hop. I have never heard them, and was not going to their press conference, but Marie-Eve Boisvert, boss of the salle de presse (and another of my loved ones), said "You should go. They're interesting." I recognized Flavor Flav from posters in the subways for his TV "reality" show, and he was as amusingly goofy as he looks. Chuck D, the other singer, was indeed interesting. He talked about politics, racism, and other seriousness that they've sung about, and he was also insightful about the music business, always speaking with a remarkable forthrightness and yet also with a very quick wit. "Our press conferences are more entertaining than most hip-hop shows," he said, and I believed him. I'm sorry I couldn't go to their show. I was booked to various of the other 39 musical events happening today from midi to minuit.
I was especially aware today of how many people come every day, countless thousands of people, all ages, all colors, all cultures, all having a good time. I saw babies dancing in the street, also little old ladies dancing in the street. I'd see whole families dressed in the saris or scarves or hats of wherever they came from. Montreal often seems even more international than New York, especially in the musicians and everyone listening to them at FIJM.
© 2008 WBGO
July 1, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
I typically steer clear of superlatives when I write about musicians. My opinion is no less valid than any listener's opinion. That's one reason why I would never consider myself a critic. Just an advocate, really. Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let me tell you that Roy Haynes is the greatest living jazz drummer. There. I said it. And I'm not just basing this on his accumulated career - you know, the 50+ years of playing with every major innovator since the late 1940s. Truth be told, Roy Haynes is eternally youthful, and he's still a badass. In July 1987, when Roy was a cool 62 years old (retirement age for the lucky few), he brought his quartet to Riverside Park in New York. WBGO recorded it for posterity, including this lovely jam on "All Blues." Donald Harrison is the saxophonist, Dave Kikoski played piano, Ed Howard is the bassist.
And the leader...Roy...(tap tap tap)...Haynes...
Click here to listen.
© 2008 WBGO
July 1, 2008. Posted by WBGO.
A musical polymath with abundant improvising skills, pianist and composer Uri Caine convened his versatile jazz trio to kick off a weeklong residency at the Village Vanguard, with a concert broadcast live on air by WBGO and live online at NPR Music.
The trio, featuring bassist Drew Gress and drummer Ben Perowsky, played a free-flowing set of mostly Caine's originals, including the premieres of several new tunes. They moved as a unit; when one member ventured from the scripted chord changes, the others immediately followed, launching a new direction for the song at hand. Often the band ushered one number into the next without interruption, collectively improvising the segues.
At the piano, Caine seized many opportunities to launch dense chord clusters or loose, harmonically edgy runs down the keyboard. At times delicate and at others far from it, he also injected humor into the proceedings with a handful of gleefully distorted musical quotations. The trio ended the way their 2003 album (recorded on the very same Village Vanguard stage) begins, with a rollicking take on Wayne Shorter's "Nefertiti" that showed off their advanced hard-bop credentials as well as their post-bop creativity.
Always contextualizing older musical forms in new settings, Caine's work consistently refuses category. Within his extensive discography, he has recorded albums dedicated to solo piano performances, Tin Pan Alley, Jewish traditions and progressive electro-acoustic grooves with his Bedrock band. Caine's inventive jazz rearrangements of Bach, Beethoven, Mahler, Mozart and Wagner have garnered performance opportunities with leading orchestras, commissions from classical groups and heaps of critical praise. In 2007, NPR's Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead lauded the disc Uri Caine Ensemble Plays Mozart: "In the end, his reworkings confirm the power of Mozart's melodies, both irresistable and indestructible. ... a miracle of tone, somehow respectful and overly familiar at the same time."
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Uri Caine came of musical age playing piano with hard bop greats like drummer "Philly Joe" Jones, bassist Jymie Merritt and saxophonist Hank Mobley. As a composition student at the University of Pennsylvania, he developed a love of the Western classical tradition while studying with two of its foremost modern innovators, composers George Crumb and George Rochberg. When he moved two hours north to New York, he soon fell into groups with fellow progressive jazz-informed musicians such as Dave Douglas, John Zorn and Don Byron. Since 1993, he has released nearly 20 albums as a leader alone.
In his trio, Caine practices yet another musical style he's always loved: modern, acoustic, straight-ahead jazz. But like the rest of his music, his piano trio reinterprets the status quo for the format. Like Caine, both Gress and Perowsky are as open-minded as they are virtuosic, using both Caine's originals and familiar standards as springboards for spontaneous, surprising forays into adventurous improvising. The trio's engagement refreshes their infrequent but long-standing association; appropriately, their only album together as a trio was recorded live at the Village Vanguard in 2003.
© 2008 WBGO
June 30, 2008. Posted by Michael Bourne.
Day Four Sunday June 29th
Amy's favorite for brunch, Cafe Cherrier, with Amy, Becca, and Michele. I don't have to walk a dozen blocks to my own favorite for brunch, Eggspectation, now that they've opened another creperie on the corner of Place des Arts.
Almost to the minute at 6, thunder rumbled, and rain fell just as the quintet of guitarist Reno de Stefano started playing. I hate umbrellas but I needed to be under to write notes for the judging, but I didn't have much to write. Most of the groups in the competition are younger players, but all the cats in DeStefano's quintet are jazz vets, or, as I noted, "grown-ups." They've been around. They know how to play tunes on the changes hiply. They swing. They can't win the prize.
Avi Granite 6 is a definite contender. Even as they walked out, I could see the "thing" was about to happen. Granite plays guitar with a front line of alto, tenor, and trombone. They played out but tunefully right from the jump, and the groove from the bass and drums was always propulsive. Each of the players was a solid soloist. Granite himself played guitar as if playing beyond the strings, as if playing the very electricity of the amp. They often looked quite serious yet were often whimsical, especially the trombonist. Avi Granite 6 is the group to beat.
Woody Allen played to the multi-thousands of the big hall, Salle Wilfrid Pelletier. I wondered if so many came because they expected him to be funny. Except for saying hello and saying they'd be playing music from New Orleans, he was there to play clarinet. When he first played, he was squeaky, he articulated notes somewhat awkwardly, and some in the audience tittered, thinking maybe he was being funny. He was not. Woody Allen is a tremendously adequate clarinetist, but he plays with considerable spirit, as do they all in what was called Woody Allen and His New Orleans Jazz Band. They played and sometimes sang (everyone but Woody) blues and songs from the 20's. When they whipped up the second line, Woody's clarinet sounded best and truly soared above the romping and stomping. Woody thanked everyone, said this was his first time ever in Montreal. "Playing this music for you was a treat for us," he said. And at the finale, the multi-thousands stood and roared for more. "I don't think they expected a reaction like this," said Michele. Woody and the guys came back out, nodding thanks, and Eddy Davis, banjoist and the actual leader of the band, nodded his head toward the bandstand. So they played not only more, but a lot more, including an ecstatic "Saint Louis Blues."
We were in a room overlooking the big GM stage on the Place and, even in the rain, the crowd was dancing to a reggae/funk show called Jamaica to Toronto. Michele lives in Portland, so she's used to the rain. We walked through the "spitting" to the Club Soda, but as we passed one of the tents for SIMM, the festival's free Salon des Instruments de Musique de Montreal, 50 or 60 folks were thundering on hand drums. Steve's Music Store in Montreal was conducting a drum-along. Everyone who came in, including us, was handed an African hand drum and welcomed to join in the rhythmic rumble. Invigorated from the drumming, we came to Club Soda for one of the midnight shows. This was where, two years ago, as I wrote in the piece I posted on the WBGO blog last week, I realized how much jazz is re-defined at the Montreal jazzfest. You can hear the full-tilt New Orleans trad of Woody Allen and then hear the electro-klezmer-hip-hip of the group Socalled. I'm not kidding: klezmer rap. I was the oldest in the house, but, as always in Montreal, I was game ...
© 2008 WBGO