July 7, 2015. Posted by Michael Bourne.
© 2015 WBGO
July 6, 2015. Posted by Michael Bourne.
No better ending for the jazzfest musically than with the godfather of Montreal jazz, pianist Oliver Jones. We talked in the festival videoteque as he was being filmed for a documentary, talked on the floor above the festival museum. That's where a virtual shrine is the very piano Oliver and Oscar Peterson learned to play on, the piano of Daisy, Oscar's sister and the teacher of them both.
I've talked with Oliver through all the 23 years I've come to Montreal. I didn't know until today that he'd left Montreal and lived in Puerto Rico from the mid-60's until 1980. Oliver was playing there a regular (but not musically happy) gig with a pop band. When he came back, Charlie Biddle was opening his jazzclub, and soon Oliver was playing the music he was meant to play. FIJM was just getting started then, and soon Oliver was a regular presence at the jazzfest. He played for a superstar singer in Quebec, Janet Reno, on one of the first shows I attended at the jazzfest. "That was one of my favorite gigs," he said. Another favorite gig of his and everyone's happened when Oliver played with Oscar, his greatest friend and mentor. Though they'd known each other for decades, they'd never played together in a concert. Oscar never completely recovered from a stroke, but if you didn't see his crippled hand on the video screen you'd never have known. Oscar's performance with Oliver was heroic. And swinging.
I was there for Oliver and Oscar, and the concert is still available on a DVD, but I reminded Oliver of my favorite of his many concerts at the festival. His farewell concert in the latter 90's. His retirement didn't last, but everyone attending that "farewell" evening was filled with love of the music and love for the musician. I still get weepy remembering Oliver, after playing a lovely solo recital, walking to the front of the stage and thanking everyone for his career playing music for us all. And then he said "What would you like to hear?" And he played requests.
In recent years, Oliver's festival concerts have been events, often with others from the continuum of Montreal jazz piano that's followed him and Oscar. This year he joined Pianos Cameleons at the theatre where he played his "farewell," Monument National. Jon Roney and Matt Herskowitz have been playing for years four-hands classical and jazz concerts, often becoming six-hands concerts with the likes of Julie LaMontagne. And tonight they were eight-hands with Oliver Jones.
"Cheek To Cheek" was the only solo and only standard, Oliver's welcome to an evening of fingers to fingers. Roney and Herskowitz both have fantastic chops, all the more fantastic when playing two pianos back and forth through familiar classics of Chopin and Rachmaninoff -- classics we can't always remember the etude or concerto numbers of, but classics we've known by heart most of our lives. Jon and Matt and Julie and Oliver switched off from piece to piece, usually two at a time, but eventually all four shifting seats and keys.
One treat was one of Oliver's own. He remembered that when he and Oscar studied with Daisy, she complained that they'd never play piano exercises correctly. They'd jazz up the exercises. Oliver composed "Snuggles" around those very exercises, played eight-hands with the Chameleons. Schumann's "Traumerei" was another highlight. Climactically, they all ran around the keys playing Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a la Turk" -- but for the encore, Jon and Matt and Julie pulled all the piano stools around Oliver alone as he played what he's been playing as a concert finale for years, a jazz classic he's turned into the virtual anthem of Montreal jazz, Oscar Peterson's "Hymn to Freedom."
Festival International de JAZZ de Montreal officially ended on the Big TD stage in the street. Harmonica whiz Guy Belanger hosted a gathering of Montreal's best blues bands in a tribute to B.B. King.
You can hear interviews and music and much more from the festival on "The Checkout" hosted by the indefatigable Simon Renter.
And see what was happening on the festival's own video retro:
I can never thank enough all the folks at the festival, especially my dear friend Vincent Lefebvre, international media wrangler for the Herculean press corps. They all have been beyond generous to me for all these years I've come to the festival. They have made Montreal for me a home.
FIJM returns June 26th-July 5th, 2016, and I hope so will I ... MB
© 2015 WBGO
July 5, 2015. Posted by Michael Bourne.
Two million fest-goers again this year, even with the rain. Festival International de JAZZ de Montreal presented a wrap-up early this year. International journalists mostly split on or before Monday -- when the festival usually looks back for the media. More than 400 accredited journalists and more than 150 other media types attended this year's 36th annual Montreal Jazz Festival, and the execs wanted to look back even before they're done on Sunday. Jacques-Andre Dupont, the festival's new CEO, presented some of the singers from this year's 10th annual festival blues camp. Six teenagers, young women, a couple of them wanting to appear sultry, mostly sang sweetly "Trouble In Mind" and "Proud Mary."
Laurent Saulnier, VP of programming, and Andre Menard, artistic director, talked about favorite artists this year, especially surprises. Andre said that he'd never before heard (and was delighted by) one of the elders, Johnny O'Neal. Andre also encapsulated the central belief behind 36 years of the jazzfest: that, bigger, better, whatever the changes, whatever the growth, FIJM continues to be "a music festival programmed by music fans for music fans."
I opted tonight for one show.
For The Record is a troupe that creates extraordinary shows that celebrate movies in what seem like fevered dreams of songs and scenes. They presented last year a show that shuffled memorable moments and pop songs from the soundtracks of Quentin Tarantino movies. They've presented this year a similar and often as violent pastiche of Baz Luhrmann movies. With a rocking band, highlighted by a violinist in lingerie, four women and five men re-create the doomed lovers and others from Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet, The Great Gatsby, and Strictly Ballroom. While the latter is not as tragic, the other three are violently romantic, with scenes counterpointed by a variety of pop songs. "Nature Boy." "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." "Let's Misbehave." Madonna's "Material Girl" and "Like a Virgin." Tarantino's movies have many more iconic scenes -- I remember feeling all of us anticipating Marsellus going medieval -- but we know what comes from Shakespeare's play and from Fitzgerald's novel, and the singers/dancers/actors were quite visceral and sexy.
© 2015 WBGO