June 28, 2008. Posted by Amy Niles.
What is the one word that comes to mind when I think of Montreal? It’s love. True confessions: the first time I came here, it was to flee tortured love. But now, every time I am here, I find new love. Love for this eclectic city, love of music, love of food, love for life.
My day started yesterday over café au lait with two women who are charged by profession with promoting Montreal- Emmanuelle and Julie from Tourisme Montreal. They are actually paid to wax poetic about what makes Montreal so special. They let me in on a few hidden treasures and turned me loose to the streets.
We have pastrami and corned beef in New York, but Montreal has the smoked meat of Schwartz’s. But I was in the mood for a steak. Again, not something that I can’t get in New York, but Schwartz’s serves it with a twist- when was the last time that you were served a pickle, cole slaw, French fries and a hot dog with yours? And the experience started with a piece of grilled liver. Maybe not the best I’ve ever had (and I passed on the liver and hot dog!), but they do something right if the line halfway down the block is any indication of popularity. And it was before noon!
New York and Montreal share many features- unfortunately humidity is one of them. But that didn’t stop me from walking on St Laurent and peeking into smart looking furniture shops- hmm, maybe it is time for a pied a terre in Montreal!
I can’t come to Montreal without my ritual beauty stop. I swear I get a better facial here than anywhere else in the world (and trust me when I say that I have tried my share!).. My haunt is Lise Watier’s institut on Laurier. She is Montreal’s beloved grande dame of cosmetics. You can’t go to a makeup counter anywhere in this city without seeing her products.
Emmanuelle and Julie were insistent that I try Bilboquet for gelato and sorbet. So, glowing skin and more walking past lovely houses surrounded by lush shade gardens brought me to St Bernard and this popular place. I can get lemon sorbet anywhere, but I had to try the apricot and pear. Perfect. And even on a Friday afternoon- packed.
Now I was craving what I came here for- the music. And this is where the love really came in. I picked just one event for today- and while my choice was not mainstream jazz, it reflected one of the special opportunities this festival affords- to hear artists who may not be on my radar screen. Yael Naim was exactly that. But I definitely was in the minority because I seemed to be the only person who was new to her. I am a fan. This women, her talented band and her music are infectious. How many times have I gone to a concert and commanded the artist to “show me”? Yael made the audience a player and said thank you to them. You may recognize one of her songs from the Apple Airbook commercials and undoubtedly many people in the audience knew her from that. They left knowing her spirit. And certainly her love of all she does.
Check her out:
© 2008 WBGO
June 28, 2008. Posted by Amy Niles.
When a 14 year old says clap and a sold out room of people of every age does so willingly, something is happening. Her name is Nikki Yanofsky and while her audience could have easily been attending a performance of Wicked, they chose to come to the Montreal Jazz Festival. And this kid is choosing to sing jazz. She sings her lungs out. Maybe not her heart, cause quite frankly at 14, she doesn’t have the right to sing the blues, but the audience didn’t care one bit. She reminded me of reading Julie Andrews writing about her life as a 12 year old phenom in England- she could hit every note, but she had years to go before she learned how to sing. I am prepared to wait.
And then I listened to an audience full of people singing happy birthday to Hank Jones who is about to turn 90 this month. Michael Bourne was with me and he has already eloquently described the Jones and Jones experience. Hank Jones and Oliver Jones treated me to an evening that I may never get to witness again. And Nikki Yanofsky gave me a clue to what I have to look forward to in the future.
But the shining star of the evening was our divine Dee Dee Bridgewater. Gutsy. Beautful. After her show, watching the line of people waiting to meet her as she signed autographs at Archambault ( the hidden gem of a media store in the Place des Artes), personified the meaning of adoring fans. Dee Dee glowed. They loved her French, her English, her spirit.
I went to three different concerts. A night of jazz in many forms. And I loved every minute of it.
© 2008 WBGO
June 27, 2008. Posted by Michael Bourne.
Day One Thursday June 26th
As if I needed more adrenalin, my plane to Montreal was cancelled. I was bumped to a plane that got me in at 5:30, rush hour with a long drive to the jazzfest, but (since I deserve some extra breaks this year after missing last year with the heart attack) I got to the Hyatt Regency on the Place des Arts just in time to hand off my bags to a porter and meet Marie-Pierre Blais, the very sweet and very efficient wrangler of judges for the General Motors band competition and Galaxie composition competition. It`s my 4th time judging. We only sit through the first 30 minutes, then we`re hustled away, and they arranged our chairs right in front of the bandstand -- so the band plays while seeing judges scribbling on clipboards, and then we walk out en masse. First band was a straightahead quintet from Toronto fronted by drummer Daniel Barnes, playing pretty much generic 50`s-60`s -- but then they got into a good 7/4 Herbie-ish Blue Note groove. First mainstage concert was the first of four duets concerts in the Invitation series of Hank Jones, joined by Montreal`s own piano master Oliver Jones. They played standards and blues, melodically swinging and counterpointing each other so easily that often one could not tell who was playing what. Highlight was a lovely Àmazing Grace, and they spotlighted two tunes of Oscar Peterson. This year`s jazzfest is dedicated to Oscar, who was born in Montreal. An enormous photo of Oscar hangs from the facade of the big hall on the Place des Arts. Hank knew Oscar since Oscar came on the scene in the 40`s. Oliver knew Oscar even before then, when they were both coming up in Montreal. I can never remember whose sister was a piano teacher for both of them. I`ll ask Oliver when he comes on the broadcast next week -- Wed-Fri, 2nd-4th -- FIJM on WBGO ...
© 2008 WBGO