Montreal International Jazz Festival

RENE GOIFFON

Today's show unfolds in two parts. First Joe Lovano shares his appreciation of fellow tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, whom he first learned about his while growing up in Cleveland, OH. (Lovano expressed his appreciation many years later with an original blues, "Big Ben.") 

 


Valerie Gay Bessette

BIGYUKI, born Masayuki Hirano in Japan, looks up to the stars. His modern synth-jazz suggests a cosmic aesthetic. And he has aligned himself with other luminous artists, from Meshell Ndegeocello to A Tribe Called Quest. Hirano says he tries to make his music “as accessible as possible,” with the intention of attaining a measure of stardom for himself.


Benoit Rousseau

Maison Symphonique is like Dr Who's TARDIS. Bigger on the inside.

I remember when the upper right corner of Place Des Arts was a mostly empty and small plateau. There were stairs up from the street. There were amusements for kids. And then they built a large concert hall in that corner.

Blond wood everywhere, wooden seats, wooden slats in the walls, an enormous array of silver-grey organ pipes above the stage. And with acoustics perfect for singers.

John Abbott

Monument-National is about a block from Place des Arts on Boulevard Saint-Laurent. When I first came to Montreal, the corner of the block was virtually red-lighted. Sexy lingerie shops. Sexy porn shops. And actual sex for sale.

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones
Valeriegay Bessette for FIJM

The Montreal Jazz Festival every year presents awards named for some of the greatest artists who've played at the festival. All of the awards were created to celebrate an artist's life's work.

I couldn't see all of the awards shows this year. Some of the shows were happening at the same time. George Thorogood, honored with the BB King Award for a blues artist, was playing down the hall from Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, honored with the Miles Davis Award for an international musician whose work and influence the jazzfest acknowledges as "regenerating the jazz idiom."

The Gesu
David Tallacksen for WBGO

"Gesu" is an Italian name for Jesus. "Le Gesu" is the name of the Jesuit church near Place des Arts in the heart of Montreal.

"The Jesus?" I wondered.

Marc-Andre shrugged and laughed. "The whole name is Le Gesu--Centre de creativite."

He's been a festival friend for years. Now he's the major domo of the arts center at the church -- which includes a theatre down below that seats 240 or so fest-goers -- which includes me throughout Festival International de JAZZ de Montreal.

Stevie Wonder performs at Montreal Jazz Festival 2009.
YouTube

BRULANT !!

"Chaud" is the everyday French word for "hot" -- but "brulant" is le mot juste: the perfect word. Translates (according to Babylon) as "burning, scorching." Also "scalding, roasting."

Every day that I've been in Montreal this time, someone I know or strangers at the festival gasps something about the heat. "Is it always this hot when you come here?" a sweating fellow in an elevator wondered.

George Thorogood
Victor Diaz Lamich for FIJM

"I first played in Montreal in 1978," said George Thorogood from the stage at the Montreal Jazz Festival. 

Dee Dee Bridgewater
Victor Diaz Lamich for FIJM

"I'm trying to define what it means to be a woman in her 60's," said Dee Dee Bridgewater, catching her breath, leaning back on a stool, and laughing. In the middle of the stage. In the middle of the show.

Not that she was done.

Dee Dee was quickly up and dancing, singing another of the soul classics she's revisited on her newest album, "Memphis...Yes, I'm Ready."

Ulli Gruber

Dave Holland keeps it moving. After being active in music for well over half a century, the English bass legend is arguably busier and more open-minded than ever — collaborating with musical masters from India and Tunisia as well as the United States.

 


Victor Diaz Lamich for FIJM

Toujours ici -- I am always here.
At the jazzfest in Montreal.  26 years.
And it's not as if I've come back year after year.   A plane to Montreal feels no different to me than a train to Newark.
I'm always at WBGO.  It's where I live every day.
I'm always in Montreal.  It's the same life.

This trip, right away, I've been hearing Charles Aznavour singing.  All of the songs about time.  Especially his song "Je n'ai pas vu le temps passer." "I have not seen the time go by."

Sandrine Lee

One of the legends of this music, drummer Jack DeJohnette, recently formed a new superband called Hudson, with John Scofield (guitar), John Medeski (keys), and Larry Grenadier (bass). The band's self-titled new album is mostly indebted to the music from the Woodstock rock revolution of the 1960s. But in this Checkout podcast, we get into the deeper cuts, where DeJohnette summons his Native American ancestors with "Great Spirit Peace Chant" and another original composition he calls "Song For World Forgiveness."


Benoit Rousseau

“I think this was a vintage year,” said Andre Menard, one of the founders of Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, and a friend of mine for 25 years.

Allison Au performs at FIJM
Valerie Gay-Bessette for FIJM

I quit buying Cuban cigars in Montreal 20 years ago. U.S. Customs back then was just inside the airport entrance — and, before 9/11, security was not much more than a look at one’s passport. I’d brought back Cuban cigars before without an agent objecting, but one morning in the '90s an agent…objected. When he asked matter-of-factly if I’d bought any, I openly said “Yes.  Two.” 

“You have two choices,” he said with a shrug. “You can throw them in this trash can,” he said with a smile.  “Or you can go out on the sidewalk and smoke them now.”

Victor Diaz Lamish for FIJM

Especially at the finale of a great concert, an audience can become what I call The Beast. Insatiable.  Ravenous. Wanting more. And more. And more.

Artists often have an encore plotted, often playing the greatest of the greatest hits. But sometimes encores can become anti-climactic.

Rubber duckies whirled through the air. One red. One yellow. One green.

And then she sat the green one on her head. And the yellow one on a little boy's head.

He didn't know what to do with the duck, but he was happy. So was his brother. So was his mother.

The Montreal International Jazz Festival proclaims to be the largest jazz festival in the world, headlined by some of music's biggest names. But the event also takes pride in spotlighting local talent — like Québécois trumpeter Jacques Kuba Séguin, featured in this Checkout podcast.


UZEB Play FIJM
Victor Diaz Lamich for FIJM

25 years ago, I first came to Festival International de JAZZ de Montreal.

25 years ago, the jazz/rock trio UZEB played the first Grande Evenement.


Water sprinklers in streed
David Tallacksen

"Je reviendrai a Montreal"  is a popular song of Montreal-born artist/icon Robert Charlebois. 

"I will return to Montreal," he sang, and I have said (have sung) the same every year as I've headed back after Festival International de JAZZ de Montreal.   Except ...

I don't ever leave.  Not really.  Not in my head.  Not in my heart.  After 25 years, being in Montreal for me is like being with friends you have not seen in years, or like going home to be with your family.  They're a constant,  a presence in your life.  You're always home.

Carla Bley, the wily and iconoclastic American composer, has a natural aversion to hearing other people interpret her music. But she didn't seem to have that problem with Riverside, a band jointly led by trumpeter Dave Douglas and multi-reedist Chet Doxas. In fact, she'll be joining Riverside, on piano, for a pair of upcoming Canadian concerts — in Quebec City on July 5 and at the Montreal Jazz Festival on July 6.

Her receptivity to Riverside's album The New National Anthem, which celebrates her work, may have something to do with the cajoling of her life partner, Steve Swallow, who plays electric bass in the band. But it could also be a reflection of the sincerity and sense of play brought to the table by Douglas and Doxas, who joined me in conversation for this episode of The Checkout.


Francois Bisi

The Festival International de Jazz de Montreal kicks off with a major debut featuring one of its local artists. Rising star and Montrealer Malika Tirolien, formerly from the French Caribbean, is the frontwoman for Michael League's new project Bokanté, which is attracting a lot of buzz as of late. In this Checkout podcast, Tirolien talks about Strange Circles, the band's recording debut, and how League discovered her while he was on tour with his primary band Snarky Puppy.


I've lost count of all the times I've enjoyed concerts of Tony Bennett, but he's always best in Montreal: he's often said he appreciates how greatly the festival treats artists. 

And not only the artistry of Tony Bennett the singer - also the artistry of Anthony Benedetto, the painter. Spectra, producers of the Montreal jazzfest, presented last year a gallery showing of Tony's paintings. They also offer in, the festival's artshop, lithographs of Tony's portrait of Louis Armstrong. 

Record producer Tommy LiPuma talks with WBGO's Michael Bourne about receiving the Bruce Lundvall Award at this year's Festival International du Jazz de Montreal, and his five-decade career, during which he has worked with dozens of vocalists and instrumentalists, including Barbra Streisand, George Benson and Diana Krall.