• Bourne's Montreal: Diana Krall And Me

    July 23, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    When Diana Krall first played the Montreal jazzfest 20 years ago, she was just getting started in her soon-to-be-skyrocketing career; she played a tribute to Nat Cole with Russell Malone on guitar, and Paul Keller on bass, in the bistro of the city's Comedy Museum, now long-closed.

    That gig was one of the swinging-est performances I've ever heard.  It's the concert I always remember first whenever I'm asked what have been my favorite musical moments through my  22 years at FIJM.

    Every few years since then, she's returned to Montreal — each gig at a bigger venue - and every time, I catch the show.

    This year, I got to reminisce with Diana during her Q&A with festival artistic director André Menard, which you can listen to here:

    Photo by Marie-Claire Denis
    Photo by Marie-Claire Denis

    When still a newcomer, Diana played a lovely concert at Theatre Maisonneuve. Tony Bennett was singing that evening at the biggest venue, Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier. Mid-way through his show, Tony called Diana onto the stage, sat her at the piano, held the microphone for her to sing, and in that moment virtually anointed Diana as a new keeper of the standards flame.

    I was there that evening, and I’ve been there whenever she's played FIJM, including a show at the city's uncomfortably enormous hockey rink, the Bell Centre - where, as a surprise, her then-new husband Elvis Costello joined her onstage at the show’s climax.

    Andre Menard, the festival's co-founder and always astute artistic director, suggested that Diana play a show solo for FIJM 2011, so she created a tribute to her beloved mom and dad.

    Photo by Denis Alix

    Along with showing home movies and early cartoons, she decorated the stage with personal artifacts, including her dad's crank-up Victrola, and played songs of the 20s and 30s, from her dad's sheet music collection, that she practised as a child.

    "I can still smell my dad's cigarette smoke," she said at the concert.   Soon thereafter, she evolved the show into what became a tour of the album Glad Rag Doll.

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    For this year's mid-fest “grand event” or grand evenement, Diana bookended her tour for an audience of more than 100,000, mostly standing in the streets all around Place des Arts, with a group that included guitarist Marc Ribot and Karriem Riggins, the former drummer of her musical mentor, bassist Ray Brown.

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    Along with some of her favorite pop songs -- "Temptation" by Tom Waits, "Heart of Gold" by Neil Young, and several by Bob Dylan — she sang a deeply emotional "Let's Face The Music and Dance."

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    Husband Elvis Costello came on for the encores, which was inexorable, but not a surprise — he also played a solo concert, earlier that evening, at Montreal’s Symphony Hall. Having not seen each other, as both had been on tour, and with their twins away on a fishing trip, they actually flirted.

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    Then they sang duets - climaxed by a faster-than-a-speeding-bullet breath-taker, Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues."

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix
  • Bourne's Montreal: Pink Martini Dreams

    July 22, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Pink Martini is a frequent pleasure for me at the Montreal jazzfest. What they play is an elegant confection of pop songs and what used to be called “light classics,” chosen from across time and from around the world.

    I caught up with Pink Martini after their Sunday matinee performance at FIJM this year. Listen to our conversation here:

    Dressed in a scarlet gown for the concert with (what looked like, or sparkled like) a tiara, Forbes sang with her usual bounty of charms and chops.  And in umpteen languages, including Farsi.

    Photo by Marie-Claire Denis
    Photo by Marie-Claire Denis

    "Amado Mio," sung by Rita Hayworth in the movie Gilda, is almost always the opener.   "Aquarela do Brasil," with the audience dancing, is almost always the finale. And in betwixt, they played a … "variety" does not fully encompass it.   More like a variegated cornucopia.

    Like one very obscure song they discovered from a very obscure movie, a torch song originally sung by sex kitten Mamie van Doren in a - not kidding - German western.  Or a song they adapted from a theme by French modern classical composer Francis Poulenc.

    Photo by Marie-Claire Denis
    Photo by Marie-Claire Denis

    These days, Pink Martini are joined by the Von Trapps, three girls and a boy, all 20-something, all cute, and all grandchildren – not kidding - of the youngest of the singing Von Trapp siblings who inspired Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music.


    This generation of Von Trapps sing "Edelweiss" and "The Lonely Goatherd,” both from the musical inspired by their great-grandparents - the captain and the nun who fell in love and escaped the Nazis with their passel of kids - on Pink Martini’s newest album, Dream a Little Dream.

    Thomas Lauderdale played piano deftly and conducted the mini-orchestra, amused the audience in French and invited the audience to come on stage and dance.

    Photo by Marie-Claire Denis
    Photo by Marie-Claire Denis
  • Bourne's Montreal: Ambrose And Tigran

    July 20, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    I've never actually been Upstairs. That's the nightclub where the best of jazz from New York plays in Montreal.  This year including one or two nights with the Heath Brothers, Fred Hersch, Sheila Jordan, Bob Mover, Ben Sidran, and Peter Bernstein.  Upstairs is officially part of the jazz festival, but is far from the jazz festival.


    When I'm in Montreal, I stay within walking-ish distance of the 40 or so gigs happening every day around Place des Arts -- and, as I've often observed, it's a testament of how great is a jazzfest that one will actually miss more great performances than one can get to.

    Some of the best concerts (for me) happen at the Gesu, the Jesuit church on a nearby block.  When not functioning as a church, it's also an active arts center, and in the intimate concert hall, Salle de Gesu  -- literally "Room of Jesus" -- some of the festival's best music is played.

    I missed - while judging the TD band contest - the 6 p.m. "Invitation" gigs of trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire - one with his quintet, one with guitarist Bill Frisell.

    Photo by Frederique Menard-Aubin
    Photo by Frederique Menard-Aubin

    Akinmusire and the pianist Tigran were this year's Invitees — invited to play several concerts with different (sometimes dream) groups.  And once in a while, the Invitees play together, like this year's mid-series duets of Ambrose and Tigran.

    Photo by Marie-Claire Denis
    Photo by Marie-Claire Denis

    What first compelled me about Ambrose several years ago with his quintet at the Gesu was that the very sound of his trumpet is so… different.  As if he's breathing some other oxygen through his trumpet.  As if he's fluttering notes like a butterfly's wings.

    I looked at my scribbles in the dark, and writ large was the word blissful.

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    What first compelled me about Tigran several years ago with a quartet called Punk Bop at the Gesu was his quickness on the keys, especially when playing sparklingly the higher keys.  Also, that he looks quite physically small but plays with gigantic passion.

    Together, Akinmusire and Tigran played mostly lyrical originals, but the highlights for me were when they were spotlighted solo on standards.  Ambrose playing "All The Things You Are."  Tigran playing "Someday My Prince Will Come."

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    It's the true delight of jazz that the best of jazz play songs we've heard a thousand times (sometimes literally, like these two songs) but have never heard before played so freshly, so unusually, so  beautifully.

    I was happily free of judging and able to enjoy Tigran's two other concerts, happily and luckily able to get tickets to his sold-out shows - one of duets with pianist Brad Mehldau, one with his "Shadow Theater" group.

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    Tigran showed his musical roots in Armenia with his group, especially with a singer and/or himself chanting Armenian folk songs.  Tigran and the singer also played electronics, generating pulses of rhythms and loops of melodies.

    Again, his piano sounded now gentle, now fierce — especially when his drummer blew the roof off the Gesu.

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix
  • Bourne's Montreal: Tarantino in Concert

    June 29, 2014. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    Andre Menard, co-founder and artistic director of the Montreal Jazz Festival, is welcoming everyone to "Tarantino In Concert," the first show of this year's jazzfest, and he's amused by the caveats.  "Please be advised there will be coarse language," he says.  "And gunshots," he laughs.  "Lots of gunshots."

    Up from the audience leaps a young woman screaming obscenities and threatening everyone with a .45 too big for her hand.  Those in the audience who know the movies of Quentin Tarantino, which is why most of us are there, recognize the moment: Amanda Plummer suddenly screaming and threatening the crowd at a roadside restaurant in the movie "Pulp Fiction."  She's ridiculous and even pitiful more than frightening.

    She's mostly annoying two patrons having a philosophical discourse.  They're hit men, played by Samuel L Jackson and John Travolta.  And soon, indeed, there will be lots of gunshots.

    "Tarantino In Concert" is a concept that seems somewhat obvious but no one ever thought of it before.  While there've been plenty of great screenplays and great screenwrights, Quentin Tarantino dialogue and scenes have been abundantly iconic.
    John Travolta bemused by burgers re-named at McDonald's in Paris, where they call a Big Mac a "Royalle with Cheese" …
    Christopher Walken remembering how a boy's heirloom watch was hidden away from prison guards — fundamentally hidden away …
    The Bride killing Bill …

    The Reservoir Dogs killing each other … "Tarantino In Concert" shuffles the most memorable moments from the movies together with pop songs from the soundtracks or that encompass a feeling of the moments.  Sometimes, maybe mostly, for laughs. "Jungle Boogie."  "Across 110th Street."  "Hooked on a Feeling."  "Stuck in the Middle with You." Robert DeNiro tells Bridget Fonda "not one more word," and she says one more word, and bang.  "Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time" sings the chorus. Ten studly dudes and even deadlier dames sings all the songs and play all the scenes — as Jackie Brown and Mr Pink and Django Unchained.   Not to forget Marcellus getting "medieval on your ass."

    (One footnote: Bruce Willis played the prizefighter who angers and then rescues Marcellus from that basement dungeon of "Pulp Fiction," and one of the players in this show is daughter Rumer Willis.)

    They're all terrific, as actors, as singers, and inexhaustible as the drummer relentlessly rocking.  "Tarantino In Concert" is choreographed all around the intimate Cinquieme Salle of Place des Arts and playing six nights at the Montreal Jazz Festival.  With lots of gunshots. -- Michael Bourne

    * All photos by Marie Claire Denis

  • Relive the Montreal Jazz Festival 2013 With WBGO

    September 5, 2013. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Montreal lives, breathes, and loves jazz every July, when millions of fans and hundreds of acts take over the city - and so does WBGO, especially Singers Unlimited and Blues Hour host Michael Bourne, who has attended the Festival International du Jazz de Montreal on our behalf every year for the past two decades.

    Bourne was in Montreal once again this year, along with Simon Rentner and David Tallacksen, to deliver previews, day-by-day reports and more than two dozen behind-the-scenes interviews with the festival's music makers and organizers.

    Miss something? You can relive WBGO's best moments in Montreal right here, and read some "bonus entries" to Bourne's Journal. And just as we did this year, WBGO Travel will take us to Montreal next year, and we hope fans and listeners will join us then as well. So enjoy the very best of FIJM 2013 - and FIJM 2014 - with WBGO!

    Saxophonist Charles Lloyd with Michael Bourne and Simon Rentner
    Saxophonist Charles Lloyd with Michael Bourne and Simon Rentner

    WBGO's FIJM 2013 Interviews

    Singer Hilary Kole

    Singer Holly Cole

    Bassist Chris Brubeck

    Saxophonist Charles Lloyd

    Pianist Jackie Terrasson

    Pianist Steve Kuhn and Bassist Steve Swallow

    Saxophonist Joel Miller

    Blues singer Martin Goyette

    Singer Elizabeth Shepherd

    Singer Kellylee Evans

    Guitarist Charlie Hunter and Drummer Scott Amendola

    Pianist Bill Charlap

    Bassist Dave Holland

    Drummer Jim Doxas

    Producer Tommy LiPuma

    Photo by David Tallacksen
    Martin Goyette and Michael Bourne, Photo by David Tallacksen

    Saxophonist Shirantha Beddage

    Pianist Martin Roussel

    FIJM's Vincent Lefebvre

    DownBeat's Frank Alkyer

    FIJM's Caroline Johnson

    Saxophonist Remi Bolduc

    Pianist Chassol

    Caravan Palace

    The Bad Plus

    Guitarist Nir Felder

    Bassist Alain Caron

    Rentner's FIJM 2013 Preview for NPR's A Blog Supreme

    Photo by Ulisse Lemerise B.
    Photo by Ulisse Lemerise B.

    Bourne's Montreal Journal

    Day One With Pink Martini

    Prizes for Charles Lloyd And Holly Cole

    Saxophones Galore And Organ Grooves

    Terrasson Catches Fire

    Crazy Cows On Canada Day

    Quartier Des Spectacles Street Scene

    Alain Caron & Steve Kuhn Trio At Gesú

    Moments With Lovett, Swallow and More

    Les Triplettes de Belleville Ride Again

    Les Grands Evenements & Champion

    Zeus Enjoys The Godfather

    Dedicated To Dave Brubeck

    The Climb Up Mount Royal

    Nous Reviendrons A Montreal

    Victor Diaz Lamich_Ambiance_8063
    Photo by Victor Diaz Lamich