TEN DAYS (more like DAZE) at the MONTREAL JAZZ FESTIVAL
July 9, 2012. Posted by Michael Bourne.
They named the press room after me.
Salle de Presse Michael Bourne ...
My relationship with the Montreal Jazz Festival very early on became much more personal than professional. Festival folks, especially in the press corps, became loved ones. And loving ones. "Oncle Michel" some of them call me.
I am so heartfully happy that this year, to celebrate my 20th year at the jazzfest, artistic director (et mon ami) Andre Menard presented me with a "life pass," a lifetime invitation to the festival and an all-access pass to the venues around Place des Arts.
Katie Malloch, long-time voice of jazz for CBC Radio, someone I've enjoyed knowing since my first years in Montreal, also was honored. Six others have been presented a life pass over the last decade, and I'm proud to join the great pianist Oliver Jones on the life list.
If that were not enough, during a party for the international media, I was flabbergasted when Andre Menard also announced that, during this year's jazzfest, the press room on the second floor of the Maison du Festival, was to be called the Michael Bourne Salle de Presse. I am deeply grateful to everyone at the festival for so many years of so many memories as a member of the family.
I missed one festival, 2007, after a heart attack. They sent me my press pass as a get-well -- ironically, red. On the night before a triple by-pass, I scribbled on a page of a notebook the names of people, places, and things that have made my life worth living. In amongst memories of my loved ones is "Montreal" ...
* * * * *
According to my excellent nephew, the festival's international press wrangler, Vincent Lefebvre, 400 total press came to FIJM this year, more than half from outside Quebec. Media came from fifteen countries, including a Finnish documentary crew and a Japanese radio crew.
WBGO broadcast July 1-4 from a make-shift cubicle in the Maison du Festival's videotheque, operated techno-virtuosically by Jazz 88's David Tallacksen. Next cubicle to us was Sirius-XM's Mark Ruffin, an always friendly neighbor. We borrowed cups of interviews from each other.
More than forty artists came by in our 4-day show -- all resounding on this blog. Ron Carter, being honored with the festival's Miles Davis Award, was funnier than any of us ever have heard him -- and on the festival poster that all the artists autograph he printed his name backwards and upside down. D'Harmo, four young masters of the harmonica, including a double-decker two feet long, played live -- and singing live was Dawn Tyler Watson with guitarist Paul Deslauriers. Most fun was talking with vibraphonist Peter Appleyard, honored with the festival's Oscar Peterson Award, especially as he whimsically remembered Benny Goodman being mad at him for being gone for a night...with Ava Gardner.
Full circle for me was Larry Coryell, playing guitar in a Miles Davis tribute band. "Hey, Mike! Nice room!" he laughed as I walked into the Salle MB. Larry played at the Jazz Yatra festival I MC'd in (what was then called) Bombay, my first trip outside America. Larry was the first musician who ever played live on the radio with me -- back on WFIU in Bloomington, Indiana. While being honored for 20 years at the jazzfest in Montreal, I was also celebrating 40 years as a jazz jock. Not surprisingly, having also turned 65, the words "tempus fugit" nowadays pop up too damned often.
Speaking of time flying, a somewhat painful moment of lost memory happened at Archambault, the record store in Place des Arts. During the festival every year, I ritualistically buy some chansons, CD's of great French songs and singers. Jacques Brel. Charles Aznavour. Charles Trenet. This year I wanted greatest hits of Maurice Chevalier. I'd just watched Gigi before the trip, and I especially enjoyed him singing "I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore."
"Who?" said the clerk.
"How do you spell it?" he asked.
I spelled out Chevalier.
"I can't see anything (on the computer)."
He called over another clerk. She looked at the screen.
"What does she do?" she asked.
I looked at the computer screen.
"Maryse Chevalier," he'd typed.
"Maurice," I said, and they both shrugged.
"Most popular French entertainer of the 20th Century," I said, and they looked dumbfounded.
He typed in the proper name. He looked in the CD bins.
I bought instead Yves Montand singing the original French "Autumn Leaves" and other lyrics of Jacques Prevert -- but I walked out, imagining wearing a tilted straw hat, singing "Mimi" ...
Speaking of musical history ...
Blue interactive kiosks around Place des Arts play videos from festival history. When you push buttons, up pop interviews and performances of Miles Davis, Pat Metheny, Tony Bennett, and other festival icons.
Bell sponsored a festival museum in the Maison du Festival: posters, photos, videos, and artifacts. Guitars autographed by festival superstars: B.B. King, Pat Metheny, Mark Knopfler, Buddy Guy, et plectral al. A Dee Dee Bridgewater red dress. A Diana Krall white blouse. Dave Brubeck's glasses. Ella Fitzgerald's wig.
Most wonderful is the upright piano of Daisy Peterson, older sister and piano teacher of Oscar Peterson. One wonders if it can still be played. One wonders if it can still feel Oscar's fingers. Oliver Jones also learned on that piano, and on the WBGO broadcast from the jazzfest Oliver remembered when he was a kid, when he didn't want to play ball, when he lingered on the Peterson porch and listened to Oscar practicing.
To celebrate the festival's tenth anniversary in 1989, FIJM created the Oscar Peterson Award to honor a Canadian musician's lifetime in jazz. Oscar himself was the first to be honored. Oliver Jones was the second. Though they'd been life-long friends, they never played piano duets until Oscar's last concert at the festival in 2004. When he came back after his stroke, Oscar played first at his hometown's festival in 1995. I was there, a concert of almost evangelical heart-lifting. I was there again for the duets, and you can see the old friends playing the climactic "Hymn to Freedom" now on YouTube. I remember that the concert was being recorded for TV, and from a camera above the keyboard one could see that Oscar could not play much with his paralyzed left hand -- but with his right hand he was playing more notes more spectacularly than any two pianists.
I'll also never forget Oliver's "farewell" concerts at the 1999 jazzfest, especially the last of the concerts. After an enchanting solo recital, Oliver thanked everyone for his musical life and said "What would you like to hear?" He played requests for what felt like all night. He's played quite often at the festival ever since his "retirement." This year, at the Theatre Maissonneuve, Oliver's trio played all originals, including his upbeat tribute to his neighborhood growing up, "Fulford Street Romp." He played as a grand finale his grand friend Oscar's "Hymn to Freedom."
Oliver Jones opened the concert presenting this year's Prix Oscar Peterson to vibraphonist Peter Appleyard. Born in the UK, Appleyard came up as a dance band drummer. He settled in Toronto more than 60 years ago and became such a fixture of Canada's musical life that he was presented the country's highest civilian honor, the OOC. Peter Appleyard is an Officer of the Order of Canada -- and a classic swinger.
Not a multi-malleteer like so many younger vibes players, Appleyard (84 this year) plays vibes with two mallets -- and with energetically virtuosic cheerfulness. "Tangerine," he played, and other jazz favorites. "Sweet Georgia Brown" was the blow-the-roof-off finale. Appleyard, after a vibes solo, jumped to the piano and played a lightning-fast two-finger piano solo. And then, remembering that he started at the drums, he played a solo at the drums, plus a duet with drummer Terry Clarke.
I'm only sorry Peter and Oliver didn't play together. Imagine what 165 years of swinging sounds like.
Another icon of Canadian jazz, pianist, composer, and big bandleader Vic Vogel, played an Afro-Cuban blast at the festival's own jazz joint, L'Astral. He played mostly Dizzy's masterworks -- "I Waited for You," "Tin Tin Deo," "Manteca" with the drummer playing lead, a Tunisian finale -- with a helluva sax section soloing and a bone-rattling trombone section playing with Kentonian brassiness.
Speaking of the trombone ... one of the unpredictable but quite regular delights of the Montreal jazz festival happens when meandering Place des Arts. Suddenly, you'll hear music from one of the free outdoor stages -- and you'll be transfixed. For me, this year, I heard (from the big Rio Tinto Alcan stage) a trombone playing the verse of "Over The Rainbow." Dark. Pure. When an orchestra swelled in for the chorus, the trombonist played on, dreamily as if young Dorothy -- but actually, when I came around to the front of the stage and could see the trombonist, a boy. I was staggered that someone who looked (maybe) 18 played with so much heart and soul -- and chops! I never knew his name, never even noted what must've been a school band, but I heard from this kid's trombone a future of jazz.
© 2012 WBGO
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