WBGO Blog
  • Being "Montreal"

    July 4, 2010. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    I've come to think of "Montreal" as an adjective.  FIJM presents music every year that evolves the spirit, the forms, the styles, the elements, the very character of jazz.  Darwinian evolution indeed, because only the fittest survive.  I've heard so often at FIJM artists endeavoring to play jazz in new and even epochal ways.  Not all do, but those that do always delight me best at the fest.


    Ibrihim Maalouf plays FIJM

    Ibrahim Maalouf, Lebanese 4-valve trumpeter, playing what I'd call Semitic BeBop, solos like calls to prayer, or burning straightahead like Fats Navarro at the bazaar.

    Daniel Mille, French accordionist, lyrical breath from the bellows, neo-musette gracefully swinging.

    Chano Dominguez, Spanish pianist with a great trio, plus a singer chanting from the depths of his soul and a dancer stomping like a whirlwind, flamenco meets Kind of Blue.

    Punk Bop, quartet of Ari Hoenig at the drums, often playing lead (and even the melody of "Moanin") with bassist Matt Penman, guitarist Gilad Hekselman, pianist Tigram Hamasyan, criss-crossing rhythms, an interplay of musical dynamics as much as melodies.  It's actually physically exciting hearing musicians playing with such a very real feeling of renewing and re-creating what jazz was and is and is becoming.

    Caravan Palace, a classic-style swing band (violin, clarinet, acoustic bass and guitar) with a beat-box, swinging that much harder, hip-hop Django, with an acrobatic (and sweetly sexy) singer, plus dancers goofily jitterbugging .

    vetex
    L'Orchestre International du Vetex, photo courtesy FIJM

    And then there's L'Orchestre International du Vetex, playing outdoors around the festival, playing as if Sousa down the rabbit hole: 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, a thundering tuba player, alto and baritone, an accordionist in a sparkling jacket and goggles, a drummer in a cocktail dress booming an almost relentless 4-beat on a bass drum wheeled in a surreal (Mercedes logo with a disembodied hand) pram, plus a bald (pink-headed from the sun) drummer crashing cymbals.  They dance, sometimes one by one, sometimes in a chorus, sometimes with the audience, sometimes just running around, solos from a melancholy saxist or a trumpeter blasting musical confetti,  a circus parade from Wonderland, actually from Belgium...and very Montreal.

    -- Michael Bourne

  • Miles of FIJM

    July 3, 2010. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    Maison du Festival (House of the Festival) is an old building that's been resurrected as the permanent festival headquarters.  It's right next to Place des Arts, and in all the big windows are photos of the musical superstars who`ve played FIJM: Oscar Peterson, Leonard Cohen, Jobim et al.    Up in the top right corner of the gallery is Miles Davis, the artist who exemplifies the Montreal Jazz Festival more than any other.  His singular artistry.  His iconic style.  His re-inventing of jazz through so many epochal changes.  I remember Andre Menard, artistic director of the jazzfest, telling me that  he`s rarely been so awestruck as that first meeting when Miles came to play Montreal in 1982.   Miles played the jazzfest four years in the 80`s, and even now, almost 20 years since his passing, his presence radiates around the jazzfest.  Especially this year.

    Miles Davis"We Want Miles," a multi-media retrospective of his life and his art, his reality and his legend, is showing  at Montreal`s Musée des Beaux Arts and is the most definitive (and awestriking) retrospective of a musician I`ve ever experienced.   Collaborating with the Cité de la Musique and first presented in Paris, MBA`s show tells the story -- really, there`ve been so many, stories -- of Miles chronologically from his youth around St Louis through his life around the world.  Photos.  Videos.   TV interviews.  Press articles.  DownBeat covers.  Album covers, including alternates.  Manuscripts and notes from recording sessions.  More photos.  More videos.  His colorful clothes.  His actual instruments, including the flugelhorn Miles played on Miles Ahead that looks like a mutant cornet.  (Wallace Roney contributed several trumpets to the exhibition.)  And, resounding throughout, his music.  Cubicles focus on the most important albums and changes in his music.  Kind of Blue, with Trane`s tenor from the session.   Miles Ahead, with a video of Miles and Gil Evans with the orchestra.  Most compelling for me was a video of Miles at the Isle of Wight, the band with the future stars from the band -- Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette -- but it`s mostly Miles, close-up, sweating, intensely splattering bursts of melody through the groove.  An earlier display features a video of Miles and French stars of the latter 40`s, when Miles recorded the soundtrack to Ascenseur pour l`Echafaud and was appreciated greatly by the French intelligentsia -- while up against ignorance and racism back home.  An ironic video of a Miles interview from the 70`s  encapsulates the absurdity of the media about Miles, that even someone insightful and (relative to most TV journalists back then) hip as Harry Reasoner just didn`t get it.  He keeps talking about drugs.  He keeps asking about gossip more than the artistry of Miles.  Miles answers with a most devastating twinkle in his eyes.  And then there`s Miles as a painter.  Anne Eschapasse from the Musée des Beaux Arts sees his paintings stylistically between the abstract and the figurative.  They`re colorful, cartoonish, and seem to prefigure the graphological Basquiat paintings included in the show.  Miles himself said that "a painting is music you can see, and music is a painting you can hear."   "We Want Miles" you can see and hear at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts through August 29th.

    -- Michael Bourne

  • Chano, Wallace, radio.vienna.string.quartet, Lorraine Desmarais wrap-up

    July 3, 2010. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Parting thoughts

    Oscar Peterson and Miles Davis as inspirations, a European connection, high production values, beautiful theaters -- this is the Montreal Jazz Festival. All came together on Monday night, June 27, at 8:00. The setting -- Theatre du Nouveau Monde -- is like a Broadway house in modern materials.

    Chano Dominguez
    Chano Dominguez

    The lead artist was Chano Dominguez, pianist from Spain, with his trio, a flamenco dancer and a keening singer. Twentieth century Spanish compositions led into Dominguez's "Flamenco Sketches," an homage to Miles's Kind of Blue through a new prism, with claps rather than snaps. Dominguez is on top of the beat and exciting; he raises off the bench. Joaquim Grillo is the brooding, twirling, black-booted dancer, unpredictable and a little violent as his heel smacks the floor. "Poinciana" was the second encore. An amazing concert! Read more