• FIJM -- to the last

    July 6, 2010. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    Tempus fugit -- almost two weeks in Montreal, a blur of mostly wonderful music -- and I missed so much!

    It's a testament to the quantity and quality of Festival International de Jazz de Montreal that so much is happening, often at the same time,  that one cannot get to it all.

    Here's some of what was great (according to cats I know with great ears) that I missed:

    Ahmad Jamal (said to be one of the best concerts of this year's jazzfest)

    Ahmad Jamal, photo courtesy of FIJM
    Ahmad Jamal, photo courtesy of FIJM

    Sonny Rollins (’nuff said)

    Sonny Rollins
    Sonny Rollins

    Manhattan Transfer getting the FIJM Ella Fitzgerald Award

    Paolo Fresu and Manu Katche Invitation concerts at the Gesu

    El Cigala, flamenco singer (said to have a voice soulfully deep)

    Lorraine Desmarais,  playing a solo gig at a church  (and always a favorite of mine)

    I was not game for the encounter concert of Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, and John Zorn.  I missed a very rare instance of a Montreal audience reacting like a Berlin audience.  Booing.  I've never heard an angry boo in 18 years of FIJM concerts.    I don't really know what they were playing, but someone shouted that they were not playing music, and John Zorn cursed the shouter.  Many walked out and demanded money back.  Others stayed and (I was told) enjoyed.

    You can see and hear much of what's been happening at the jazz fest on the website montrealjazzfestival.com ...

    New and especially wonderful this year is the mediateque on the third floor of the festival building, a permanent archive of the festival's history.  They have more than three thousand CDs of festival favorites and discoveries through the years, more than twenty thousand photos, also jazz books and (I didn't realize there were) hundreds of jazz magazines from around the world.  What's most wonderful is the video archive of concerts, specials, and interviews from and about the festival from the beginning.  On any of the video screens, one can flashback to artists alphabetically listed, starting with BB King from the jazzfest's first year.  Miles Davis performances.  Oscar Peterson performances, including his last with lifelong friend Oliver Jones.  Altogether, they have more than 360 concerts from the last 30-plus years, and I'll be able to see and hear so many of the concerts I've missed and enjoy again so many triumphs.

    I'm sorry that I missed the (so it was said to be) wacky vaudeville of Emir Kusticura and the No Smoking Orchestra on the big TD Bank stage last night.

    I could not miss (at the same time last night) the festival's Concert de Cloture, the official festival farewell, opening with winners of this year's TD Grand Jazz Award.  I was a judge again this year, and (from the eight Canadian groups who competed) we voted as winners the Parc-X Trio, three young fellows from the Parc-X neighborhood of Montreal.   They'd come by for an interview on our WBGO broadcast just before they played for the contest on the CBC Stage.   What delighted me especially was that they played as one, often shifting tempos or dynamics quickly, as if thinking together.  They won $5K from TD Bank, 50 hours of studio time, an album deal with Effendi Records, gigs at next year's jazzfests in Rimouski, Quebec, and Zacatecas, Mexico, a concert next year at FIJM, and, on the fest's finale, these young cats were awed to be opening for Dave Brubeck.

    dave brubeck and alain simard
    Dave Brubeck and Alain Simard, photo courtesy of FIJM

    He's played the festival often through the years, mostly with the Quartet, but also performing with the resurrected Octet, orchestral works, and a mass.  Honoring Dave in his 90th year, festival president Alain Simard presented him FIJM's Miles Davis Award -- the trumpeter sculpted in bronze from a Miles self-portrait painting.  "It's heavy," said Dave at the press conference.  "And so was Miles," he laughed.  Charming as always, Dave talked about his friendship with Miles and what keeps him active.  "I get these phone calls," he said, and soon he's composing.  He's especially pleased with the orchestral piece he and son Chris created in the last year, inspired by Ansel Adams photos of America -- performed last spring at Lincoln Center with the orchestra from Temple.  He's dealing with two painful fingers, one with a bone spur at the tip that he numbs with NuSkin, the other with an awkward bend that he straightens with a brace -- but nothing stops Dave playing.  "I walk out on the stage and I get that adrenalin," he said, as he showed on the concert, right away jumping into a medley of his great friend Duke's songs.  "Over The Rainbow" was a highlight, with Bobby Militello stealing the show (as he often does) playing flute as if a bird flying cartwheels through the rainbow's colors.  "I've been asked to play some of the tunes from the Time Out albums," he said and he played "Three To Get Ready."  After an inexorably climactic "Take Five," the Quartet came back for an encore.  Walking on the arm of a stagehand, Dave came back to the mic and said, as he's always felt when playing Montreal, "You're an audience that makes me want to play."  And he played, with that look of joy always on the face of Dave Brubeck at the piano, "Show Me The Way To Go Home."

    I'm going home tomorrow -- after a blast of Mardi Gras tonight, complete with ten floats from New Orleans rolling along Ste Cat , and a finale with NOLA master Allen Toussaint.

    -- Michael Bourne

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