June 30, 2008. Posted by Amy Niles.
“Gracias”, Omara Portoundo sang that as her opening song last night ( and a hint at the title of her new album due out in September). At 78, she has power, punch and style and the audience screaming “Long live Cuban Music” couldn’t have appreciated her more. Her words rang true to me as well- Gracias great city of Montreal- in any language. I heard performers in French and English and Hebrew and Spanish, and Italian and of course those who spoke no words at all but sang nonetheless. I wont pretend that I loved it all- the band that played for the Leo Ferre tribute blew my mind, but I still couldn’t get past the Ferre influence (gee, what was I expecting???). Yael Naim’s opening act was a bit to self aware for my tastes- he reminded me of a Jim Carrey with electronic sound equipment. But when you are at FIJM, you take it all in.
I am back in the US.
So, Gracias Montreal. I will see you next year. It will be both the 30th anniversary of WBGO and of FIJM. Come celebrate with us!
© 2008 WBGO
June 30, 2008. Posted by Becca Pulliam.
Daily at 5:30, the Parade de la Louisiane with Le Swing Tonique Jazz Band and Swing Connexion snakes through the crowd on the Place des Arts at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. Children go crazy! Adults too.
Click "read more" for additional pictures... Read more
© 2008 WBGO
June 29, 2008. Posted by Amy Niles.
That’s what people say when you first meet them here in Montreal. They don’t assume that you understand them, they welcome you in. And in the rare case that someone does not speak English, they are apologetic for it. As if the onus to communicate is on them, not on you.
Yesterday was filled with fresh smells and beautiful images at the Jean Talon Market. A place that is off most tourist’s radar screen, but a must see if you are trying to get the flavor of this city. The famous Quebec strawberries ( a clown walking around even offered us a sample!), we met the woman who owns the cows that make the milk for the cheese that she was hoping that we would sample. The person who grilled the sausages wanted to tell us about the process that was used to make them. Go with an appetite- every stall had not only a beautiful display of produce and wares, but also samples to taste- berries, and plums and nectarines. Even little cups of jams and juices. And each offering is a work of art- maybe a flower placed in the center of a basket of berries, or a sprig of parsley brightening up a mound of mushrooms. You taste with all of your senses at the Jean Talon Market. I came back with figs and berries for the most wonderful midnight snack as I prepared for another much anticipated night of music.
Coral Egan is a very popular local singer. Her two sold out nights are a testament to the love that this town has for its home grown talent. One of the interesting things that I have noticed about the Montreal artists is that they aren’t pigeonholed into one genre or instrument. Coral sings the blues, and standards, and rock. I could picture her singing in a smoky Canadian club, or an outdoor beach jam in Malibu. She plays her set barefoot, with her toned body swaying on the piano bench or enveloping her guitar. Her backup singer did her turn on all of the instruments too. And of course she slipped in and out of English and French. You may not like it all, but the sum of her parts made for one captivating evening.
It was an honor to be present watching Brad Mehldau and Hank Jones perform together. The sheer genious of the producers of this event to create such a magical evening has to be commended- and the audience owes them a debt of gratitude for the opporuntity to witness these artists together. Who led? Who’s style won out? I can’t say. It was pure harmony. I will let Becca and Michael talk about the jazz aspects, but for me- the fortunate listener, it was an evening that will stay with me for a long time.
This is why I come to Montreal. Gee- I have said that about so many things this trip!
© 2008 WBGO
June 29, 2008. Posted by Becca Pulliam.
Four hours of Brad Mehldau here on June 28, 2008, were magnificent! first with Larry Grenadier on bass and Jeff Ballard on drums, the other at two pianos with Hank Jones. A great trio stretch was "Samba e Amor" by Chico Buarque with a beautiful left hand piano solo, an untitled new piece, "We See" by Monk, and "Baby Plays Around" by Elvis Costello, an anthem of regret. All music, almost no talk, applause between pieces seemed never to end. There were two encores. That concert began at 6 and went past 8. Ninety minutes later, Brad came back with Hank Jones.
The pianists were born about fifty years apart. As a high school student, Brad had seen Hank at Bradley's club in New York, and been inspired. Tonight, they played together for the first time. After three pieces they switched pianos (Their benches went with them, in a clever piece of stagecraft). Even on the other's piano, they sounded like themselves -- Hank a little warmer, Brad a little brighter -- on "Anthropology," "There Is No Greater Love," "Lullaby of Birdland" and "The Very Thought of You."
I love Hank's underpinnings, like his two-handed paddle, and his concentration. By the way, he's turning 90 later this summer. Brad drums on notes, fast and precise. His hands mirror one another, effortlessly. Though he can throw an elbow (Jones is back straight, arms at sides), they were both as economical as dancers, and partnering each other tonight. I hope this concert was recorded.
Click here for Monk's "Work" performed by the Brad Mehldau Trio.
The Montreal audience and the staging are essentials in this package. Don't have a photo yet, working on a little audio sample, and in the meantime, here's something from the farmers' market that Amy & I went to yesterday. Think of New York's new venue, Le Poisson Rouge.
© 2008 WBGO
June 28, 2008. Posted by Michael Bourne.
Schwartz's for lunch with my Other Half, Michele, and my BFF, Amy. Montreal smoked meat is like pastrami, and it's best at Schwartz's, an old Jewish deli with large chunks of the meat in the window. Crowds wait in line all day to eat at the little tables. When you order a sandwich, you're asked "lean, medium, or fat?" I opt for medium, comes on rye with mustard and a giant pickle. I walked back down St Laurent and the Hill, the walk a payback to my body for ingesting so much meat ...
Eating, walking around, hanging with some of my favorite people in the world, especially all the loveable kids in the press room, is why I come every year. And the music ...
M. le Juge was back judging at 6 a sextet called The Odd Lot, playing free funk with a ferocious tenor player. I also heard a piano trio called Indigone Trio. Even though they were all reading charts, the interplay sounded (and felt) spontaneous, especially in the rhythmic effects of the drummer. Both of these groups I felt are in the running for the prizes, but I have 7 more groups yet to judge.
Brad Mehldau played a solo recital in the Jesus Room (salle de Gesu), mostly standards ("No Moon at All," "Secret Love," "Airegin," "God Only Knows") with flabbergasting chops. I appreciated how he de-constructed melodies, but every song turned into a display of rambling and rumbling, virtuosic but exhausting.
1st trip to Pizzadelic: chevre et noix (goat cheese, walnuts, black olives, tomatoes, mozzarella) and siciliana (various Italian meat) ...
© 2008 WBGO