Montreal International Jazz Festival 2014 – Recap Part One.

In the words of Ed Robertson of The Barenaked Ladies; ‘That’s Jazz!”

The front-man of Canada’s funnest band, mocking the Festival’s choice of The Barenaked Ladies as an act at Le Festival International de Jazz de Montreal.

No doubt, over the years – the Festival has swayed from Jazz.

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For purists – something which angers them. For music fans – pure bliss.

Over the years, Jazz has been incorporated into many genres. It has been mixed and matched, tossed about, commercialized, non- commercialized and sold-out via television commercials like every other genre.

To have music such as Pop, Rock, New Age, Indie, Blues and any other label invented by record companies to sell discs – morph into the clubs and venues at The Montreal Jazz Festival; as natural as Frank Sinatra singing ‘My Way’.

As long as Jazz remains prominent, with men such as Oliver Jones taking center stage, really – ‘it’s all fun and games until someone loses an Ipamena’.

Jazz Festival Fun Facts

 

In 2004, The Guiness Book of World Records listed the Jazz festival as the biggest in the world! Who better to know than Guinness drinkers …

In thirty-five years, 500 young musicians have learned through the Camp de Blues and have had the opportunity to perform their new skills live on stage. That means Michael Buble was four years old when the Camp de Blues started.

3000 (approx.) musicians perform in the festival every year (3500 if you include every busker and street performer).

Twenty-six countries are represented.

Fifty-two free ‘ big act’ shows have been put on between the years 1986 – 2008

11 700 000 Tourists have visited the festival in thirty years.

45 600 000 visitors in thirty years.

400 Journalists accredited every year.

8 000 000 Internet visitors

42 100 Tweets and Facebook mentions

1020 Employees at the Festival.

 

The Shows

 

This edition of the Festival was magical. Some of the biggest names in music graced the stages – both indoor and out.

Diana Krall, Elvis Costello, Diana Ross, Michael Buble, Aretha Franklin, B.B King, Tony Bennett and Ginger Baker to name few.

Other ‘not-so-famous-acts’ also performed …

That is the beauty of the Festival – music is everywhere and everywhere there is music.

From the non – Jazz ‘Jazzy’  Barenaked Ladies and Violent Femmes to John Roney heading the nightly Jazz jams at the Hyatt Regency; the Festival is – for ten days, musical heaven.

 

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Stay tuned for my reviews on Go Van Gogh, Ginger Baker, Elvis Costello, Diana Krall, Barenaked Ladies, Scarlett Jane, Violent Femmes, Jill Barber and Burning Spears / Sly and Robbie.

Plus much more …

 

Cody Chestnutt

 

Who is Cody Chestnutt?

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Easy. Put Marvin GayeBarry WhiteLionel Ritchie and practically every other R and B singer from the 1970’s into a blender, add some influence by The Roots and – TA DA! A Cody Chestnutt shake.

Shake? The audience at Club Soda did just that!

If anything, the man who just flew in from L.A – was a ball of energy. Mind you – that energy did dissipate once in a blue while in songs such as ‘Up in the Tree House‘. A tune Cody introduced comically as ‘going from the tree house to the crack house’.

_MG_9979The song; a Monkee-ish / Mamas and Papas / Turtles melody depicting a sentimental side to the energetic Chestnutt. A dreamy trip into the psyche of psychedelia. It was a welcome break to a concert which to that point was deliciously repetitive.

Rock, Funk, Hip Hop and Blues. Singular, accumulative or blended by genre one at a time – Chestnutt and his tight – loose band of gypsies enticed smiles from the get-go. Easy to see why The Roots chose his song ‘The Seed’ to do on their album; Phrenology,

‘That’s Still Mama’  channeled Gaye to a rhythmic ‘T’. Complete with horns and Geoffrey Gaines’ demonic bass holding Chestnutt to the ground level, Cody showcased his voice. A query to fans as Chestnutt cannot be stereotyped into a genre. At times the tune bordered on ‘Shaft’ and could well be the soundtrack to a 70’s cop show. Nothing wrong with that. No thing wrong with Joel Johnson’guitar licks either.

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‘Under the Spell of the Handout’placed the keyboards in full throttle as Cody and his mates sped along with drummer Stephen Fryson keeping the pedal to the metal at a fanatic pace.

‘Love is More Than a Wedding Day‘ gave everyone a reason to smile. A summer song which the audience participated in by singing the chorus ‘ I Believe in Love’ or more to the point ” I Believe’.

That is the beauty of a Chestnutt show. Non threatening. A huge love-in. A simple reminder of why music was invented in the first place. More times than not; the audience joining in whether by Chestnutt’s demand or on their choice..

‘Gunpowder on the Letter’ a throwback to the Blues blending into Rock n Roll. A song suited for a Little Richard – Jerry Lee Lewis album. ‘Thank You‘ – perhaps exactly that. Another copy of the songs of days gone by. Sung elegantly and heartfelt by Cody and his backing vocals.

The steal of the show was Alvin Giles on keyboards. Tinkering softly or providing a piano- based rhythm a la boogie woogie on the R and B gems: the show void without him.

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In short – Chestnutt followed up a very successful appearance at the PoP Montreal Festival last year with a return to Montreal at this year’s Jazz Festival. A fact not foreign to Cody himself as he said the word ‘Montreal’ or some variation thereof at least thirty times.

Yes Cody – Montreal realizes and appreciates your ability to decipher the city where you are playing. Montreal thanks you for coming and bringing the ‘real’ music ‘back’ with you.

Until next time …

 

Daniel Lanois / Emmylou Harris

 

The evening started strangely …

Daniel Lanois, the famed producer of most notably U2 fame – arrived on stage dressed as a beachcomber. That – in itself; not strange at all.

 

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What followed was a little unsettling for most at Place des Arts.

Film makers smiled yet aside from their collective orgasmic sighs – the venue was, as a whole; unnerved. The first ten minutes of a film (Adam Vollick) played out on a screen directly behind the musical set-up. The entire ‘montage’ could have been better spent on the couch watching the boob tube.  Vollick (Lanois?) delivered the same nothingness. Complete with an assumed high speed chase through trees and the lens of a camera, followed by scenes from films such as Hitchcock’s Vertigo – the audience clapped politely before berating the moment to confidants sitting arms-lengths away.

Truffaut and Hitchcock would have departed once the music began.

Began it did.

Lanois along with bass player Jim Wilson and drummer Brian Blade – commenced what the punters paid for. A set which delivered ‘that haunting U2 sound’. A sound which gave Lanois the freedom to give concerts with trees as opening acts. It was easy for a first time Lanois concert-goer to decipher the U2-Lanois connection.

The song ‘Fire’ started a slow burning blaze which concluded with the legendary Emmylou Harris on stage setting the night on fire.

Lanois is obsessed with slide guitar. Playing pedal steel or on his feet with a pick, Daniel appears to be in a state of learning his craft. Creating his craft. The opening song along with the follow-up Marie-Claire; both improvisational and ( as noted earlier) – haunting. The concentration on Lanois’ face brought glimpses into the man’s vision. Searching into a world he has yet to discover.

Brian Blade, ‘the stickman’ behind the grooves;  as crisp and professional as a drummer for Lanois should be. Lanois mentioned he was going to jam with his mates and Blade reconstructed the ghosts of Rich, Blakey and Krupa. Sometimes with speed, occasionally with finesse yet mostly with the perfect time. Enthusiasm sustained.

Jim Wilson – Blade’s running-mate and Lanois’ sometime vocal partner; carried off both duties with ample flair. Not over bearing (even as the pair joined Harris in a menage-a-vocal with the tune ‘ Calling my Children Home’), just right in his ability to jump in and back as the songs dictated. Wilson – a longtime collaborator with Lanois was at ease. A bass player with the know how to blend.

Up and comer ( some say the next Emmylou), Trixie Whitley joined Lanois for the songs; Nomad and Last Time. The latter allowing her true vocals to shine as whatever nerves appeared at first – were quickly submerged below the applause line. Rarely do singers have the ability to unearth the scales and deliver from the ‘belly’. Whitley proved she has the chops and with Lanois on her side as one of the top music producers in the business, Whitley is well on her way. The young lady also plays drums. Sitting alongside Blade – beat by beat matching the urgency and softness  required. A rising talent. An ash emerging from the Fire.

The legend arrived …

Emmylou Harris – politely; is seasoned.

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One of the true songstresses of our time who fought and stood brave at a time when music was ruled by men with less than flattering glances at women. There is Bonnie RaittWanda Jackson and Harris. Each one paving the way for the Molly Thomassons, the Joan Jetts and The Heart Sisters – Anne and Nancy Wilson. Lanois was wise to produce a collaboration with Emmylou in 1995.  That album; ‘Wrecking Ball’ – on full display last night.

Harris has not lost the angel in her voice. Words surrounded the most hardened souls in attendance with innocence, bravery and experience.

Songs such as May This Be Love ( Hendrix),  Orphan Girl ( Gillian Welch) and ‘Sweet Old World’ among the chosen songs. Calling My Children Home almost ended the session. The Maker did.

Sadly the concert with Emmylou at the helm was not three hours longer.  Lanois, Wilson, Harris and Blade hit stride during the final song. A comfortably falls into every concert with every artist ( save Tiny Tim?) A groove is reached and last night – that groove was obtained during The Maker. Even Lanois’ sullen guitar smiled. Reaching notes unheard during the preceding tunes.

Following a praise bestowed for Kings – the band resurfaced and continued the continuity. ‘Sometimes’ along  with Neil Young’s Wrecking Ball – lit the final match in a fire which began two and a half hours earlier. Like a distant light burning on a shore far away – this concert was a beacon for ships travelling to Montreal for the Jazz Festival.

Lanois et al made it easy. They made it clear.

The 2014 Edition of the Montreal International Jazz Festival is officially underway.

In Lanois’ words; Jazz-like …

 

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