Rick Keene Music Scene; Jazz Festival Review – Dr. Lonnie Smith; Doin’ Only What He Can Do

The word legendary. Tossed around like a flea – bit peanut monkey sometimes.

In the case of Dr. Lonnie Smith – it is he who is tossing the primate around …

Commencing his career in the late fifties alongside George Benson – Smith used his knowledge as a multi-instrumentalist and student of Jazz, Blues, Gospel and R&B to rise to the top of the Jazz world as master of the Hammond B3 organ.

Dr. Lonnie Smith has been the most sought after player in the Jazz world for over four decades and at Le Gesu as part of The Jazz festival, the good doctor and his trio showed why.

Jonathan Kreisberg and Jonathan Blake are both powerhouses in their own right. Trading unique craftsmanship with each other with Smith holding back to let them shine. If not for Smith’s ‘ jolt you from the seats’ playing – Kresiberg and Blake almost legendary themselves. Blake especially on the drums, combining fierceness and finesse – power and purring to go with a genius’ work.

Some Jazz leaders are perfectionists by birth. Not allowing others to breathe within a song as their visions are superior to others in their own advanced minds. Dr. Lonnie Smith is a genius as he paints with his ‘paint box’ in front of him yet he allows his trio to paint with him. He is the teacher yet his lessons are by participation and not by dissociation. Guiding – yes. Ruling with a steel hand – indefinably no.

What some have done for their instruments ( Hendrix on guitar) in the public eye – Smith has done for the Hammond B3 organ in not only the Jazz world, the music world period.

They don’t give the NEC Jazz Award to just anyone after all.

Visit Dr. Lonnie Smith here !

 

 

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Rick Keene Music Scene; Jazz Festival Review – Beth Hart’s Dynamite Show Steals the Jazz Festival

There are so many female vocalists on the planet. Great ones, good ones, average ones and yes – bad ones.

Beth Hart is in a class all by herself.

Think of the soul of Joss Stone. The power and rawness of Janis Joplin. The sweetness and velour of Adele. The danger of Amy Winehouse. Add the above together and Beth Hart is the sum of all their parts.

At Theatre Maisonneuve as part of The Jazz Festival – Hart displayed emotion and honesty. She wears her life on her sleeve and tells the tales between songs. It has not been an easy life for Hart and self admitting (on stage last night) – she takes medication to ‘make her less crazy’. That part of her personality is what propels the talent.Her demons shine through via pain, love and anger. Her vocals are the vehicle as she rides away from her very own highway to Hell.

Love Gangster, Your Heart Is as Black as Night ( Melody Gardot), Chocolate Jesus ( Tom Waits), Good as It Gets and I’ll Take Care of You. Just a few of the tunes which Hart uses as her very own ‘Morgan Freeman’. Narration through art and poignant lyrics which make hairs stand on end through Hart’s effortless singing and the band’s tight stops and starts. At one moment – a casual fan can hate Hart for her brash ‘barroom’ chat and ‘honky tonk woman’ appearance. In less than a second later – the same fans fall in love as Hart’s tenderness arises like the sun from the eastern shore.

Drummer Bill Ransom, Bassist Bob Marinelli and guitarist Jon Nichols back Hart with so much perception. A compliment to Hart’s sometimes ‘all over the place’ chatter and forgetfulness (the set-list).

Marinelli appears like a young Sam Elliot. Stoically keeping both time and Hart on track within the battery of himself and Ransom. Nichols supplies the chords and screeching solos when called upon. Amy Winehouse had The Dap Kings to make her shine. Beth Hart has her band to make her the star. That’s their job and they do it more than well.

Following an eighteen song set with odes to her Mom in a very powerful Mama This One’s for You and an effervescent Leave the Light On – emotions circulating the theater were on high alert. Hart won everyone over with her simple recipe. Truth through song and truth through words. If anyone in attendance did not want to bring Hart home to take care of her, they were not human …

Visit Beth Hart here !

Rick Keene Music Scene; Jazz Festival Review – Ranee Lee Delivers A Performance For The Ages Despite Sadness

Ranee Lee has endured some tough gigs in her time yet nothing like the one last night at L’Astral.

 

Earlier in the day – Lee’s husband Richard Ring ( Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., Ed Thigpen, Ray Brown, Michel LeGrand, Oliver Jones ) passed away following a battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Ring was not only her husband but her longtime guitar player and mentor. Emotions were high yet as they say; the show must go on. Richard would have wanted it that way …

Ranee ( a member of the Order of Canada, a Juno Award winner, an actress and teacher) took the stage with true professionalism. From the very start – a song was in her heart and the love for the material on her sequined sleeves.

The Dark Divas was the theme as Ranee both educated and displayed the talents of all the legendary African-American women who inspired Ranee as a young woman. Billy, Sarah, Dinah, Pearl and Ella to name a few. A who is who of American female musical history portrayed through a concept written and conceived by Ranee herself.

Andre Menard ( the co-founder of the Montreal Jazz Festival) introduced Lee and gave the audience a heads up on the morning’s events (perhaps for when Lee was not able to carry out a great performance or maybe not continue at all). If that was the case – Ranee disappointed any of those in attendance who thought the grief would be too much. In Ranee’s mind and soul, seated right beside her, was her husband.

Theatrically, joyfully and triumphantly – Lee hypnotized the crowd with vocal depth, power and control. Lee was no longer a Grandmother. She was that young woman from Brooklyn with stars in her eyes. The young woman raised by a musical single Mom who taught Ranee piano under the stairs. The young woman who Richard Ring believed in so much.

As the night weaved through classic after classic. As the night steered through the magical musicianship of Ranee’s band, everyone kept waiting for the moment or the song which would cause Lee to break. That one memory shared between two people which would evoke emotions too strong to stop the sadness from coming. It never came in the form of an outburst. Inside – who knows yet Lee did not show she was struggling. Joy and her obvious love for both the tunes and her late husband was all that came across. In the end the crowd stood. The punters well aware of what they saw from an artist so pure and so strong.

On such a sad day – music and the togetherness brought on by the Dark Divas’ songbook turned a ‘normal’ performance into brilliance. A not-so-normal day into a historical Jazz Festival moment.

With Richard Ring high above on guitar …

 

 

Rick Keene Music Scene – Montreal Jazz Festival Review; Jann Arden Keeps Them Laughing

Variety shows once ruled television …

 

Music, comedy and drama – all inclusive in an hour long Sunday night program. A Jann Arden concert is a one woman variation on the above formula as all the aforementioned elements shine within.

From the get – go, Arden is a joker in a self depreciating kinda way. Whether it is her ‘poor choice of pants’, her broken top (fixed quickly by a nearby clamp) or her ‘shot’ at Shania Twain – Arden uses humor as quick as any Canadian can. Oh – and she can sing with the best of them also.

Where No One Knows Me, Wishing That,  At Seventeen, I Would Die For You , Not Your Little Girl .

Just a few of the starters served up between the comedic antidotes. Reminders that a long time ago (it seems), before the TV appearances on the Rick Mercer Report and all the humor Arden is associated with – there was ( and is) a truly talented songwriter. 

 

You Don’t Know Me, Anyone Who Had a Heart (Burt Bacharach cover), To Sir With Love, Could I Be Your Girl and  Little Bird – signified the sounds and vocals that are immediately Arden.

Like Murray, like Celine and like Sarah – Arden has a distinct style and persona in her voice and presence. Like all the above, a certain melancholia takes the reins and pushes the audience into a happy sadness.  A certain comfort in the sounds of Canada. In the sounds of refection.

If one song defines the image of Arden – Insensitive would be a non sensitive choice.

The punters on their feet with so much adoration in their hearts for Arden and the song Insensitve – a group hug was minutes away as the defining moment became just that. Add a backing band filled with so much integrity – it was difficult to not bask in the pure joy of music. Of Arden’s music.

If there was any danger of a show-gone-bad, it was Arden’s temporary explanation of her drinking problem. Something she says has stopped. Up to that point – a roll was upheld and gaining strength. Arden holding the recipe for success. In this day and age, sad stories are aplenty. Arden took what was an escape for the punters and dropped more reality into their problems. Connecting with some yet disconnecting from most who were out to have as good time.

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Rick Keene Music Scene – Montreal Jazz Festival Review; Cecile McLorin Salvant – The Voice of An Angel

A voice is an instrument.

Aside from Lisa Fischer ( Twenty Feet to Stardom, Rolling Stones back-up singer) – vocalists like Cecile MClorin Salvant come around as often as Haley’s comet.

With the same ease as most walk, Salvant traverses the scales, intonations and vocal range as elegantly as a debutante at a coming of age party. Salvant does so with as much effort as flicking a fly away from the dinner plate.

FogEverything I’ve Got Belongs to YouSpoonful and Stepsister’s Lament were just some of the main courses Salvant’s band served to the audience (and Salvant) with precision, texture and a lot of breathing room for Salvant to play. 

Tunes such as Spoonful – familiar yet somehow as fresh as the cool wind blowing in from the St. Lawrence river. Cecile, reaching to depths known only to her as the mask of Howlin’ Wolf’s classic song is removed and tossed aside to display the inner beauty of Salvant.

 

It could be a spoonful of coffee
It could be a spoonful of tea
But one little spoon of your precious love
Is good enough for me

 

Wives and LoversSi J’étais Blanche (Bobby Falk / Leo Lelièvre / Henri Varna), Omie WiseNever Will I Marry and The Ballad of the Shape of Things – a concert whose content made up for all the Divas in the world making millions through auto tune. Salvant enjoying the experience as if no one was in the room …

Darkies Never Dream and Sam Jones’ Blues stood apart with their opposite moods and lyrics. The former – as whimsical as a stroll through the park with cotton candy blowing in your face while the latter; a testament to all those with dreams dancing in their souls. Both songs somewhat biographical in a third person sense from Salvant. A storyteller conveying  fiction into a non fiction audience.

If Cecile Mclorin Salvant’s voice is an instrument – the world’s problems will be fixed with no labor or service charges added on.

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Rick Keene Music Scene – Montreal Jazz Festival Review; Charlotte Gainsbourg / Aliocha

An acoustic guitar and a great voice – sometimes is not enough.

Aliocha Schneider was BORN TO BE AN ARTIST …

All of his siblings are actors and so is he. Like most artisans – the craft can cast shadows on many different walls. Writing and performing songs – an extension of creative output for the twenty – four year old Montrealer.

Vocally – Aliocha, is unique. A gift has been bestowed upon him and in a world filled with ‘voices’ – Aliocha’s distinct delivery and tone immediately gain notice from the virgin punter. The original tunes come from the heart. Raw pain emerges and transports the messages into waiting wounds.

 Volodia Schneider (Aliocha’s  brother) on percussion, guitarist Christian Sean and bassist Tom Tartarin lend expert (albeit simplistic) accompaniment to Aliocha’s catalog. A stack of songs which require some peaks and arcs. Like most young artists today  – Aliocha’s sound contains melancholic undertones. The set-list ingredients are similar and contain nothing to lift and drop the audience. No roller coaster at this amusement park except for the ‘surprise’ visit by Charlotte Cardin in a ‘return the favor’ moment from last year’s festival when Cardin invited Aliocha on stage with her.   

Artists have something they want to say. To deliver their pain or profound wisdom to the masses. Aliocha does just that yet being an actor – he must learn to implement the same techniques as Alfred Hitchcock did if he wishes to achieve musical success.

Suspense, intrigue, drama and comedy. A show / career is a story – not one scene.

Charlotte Gainsbourg

Much like Carla Bruni – Gainsbourg is an actress turned singer and songwriter. Unlike Bruni, Charlotte creates unique songs and sounds. Combined with a beautiful voice and ( in this day and age) a flamboyant stage – Charlotte’s spectacle seemed appealing. Seemed …

Much like her opening act, song after song became one long song. If not for the stoppages – where one tune stopped and the other commenced; a conundrum took place for the uninitiated. Unless you are the most acute fan. Unless you are Charlotte Gainsbourg (or her band).

Combining Synth Pop and Rave like beats is unique and interesting. Melodic ballads are included with finesse and power. Art for art’s sake on display and perhaps Charlotte is to her audience what Buddy Guy is to the Blues. Given the nature of her success and providing tunes for TV shows and films – Gainsbourg’s music is not meant to be enjoyed live.

Gainsbourg is a talent on keys,  in vocals and songwriting. Her ability to grasp audiences with her ‘under the top’ style is refreshing when ‘Divas’ are overtly front and center as front-women. Charlotte and her band convey music for what is is. No drama from a woman known for her dramatic roles. An enjoyable experience if film studies with musical scores are of interest.

 

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Rick Keene Music Scene – Montreal Jazz Festival Preview; The Best of The Blues

Having the blues is a good thing …

 

The only type of music that collects down-to-earth people. The only real genre within music that connects all walks of life to it’s fan base. Arguably – the cornerstone of all music.

 

Beginning June 28th on the Hyundai / CBC/Radio-Canada Stage (Parterre symphonique, corner Clark and De Montigny) – The Blues will be alive everynight.

Check out these ‘Can’t Miss Shows !

June 28 / Endrick & The Sandwiches — Singer, guitarist and harmonica player Endrick and his triple-decker Sandwiches dig deeply into the joys of delta blues and boogie-woogie, with the occasional foray into ’60s Brit rock.

June 30 / Justin Saladino Band — Nominated this year as Best New Artist at the Maple Blues Awards in Toronto, Justin Saladino has everything it takes to be one of the greats: precision and melody.

July 1 / Mike Goudreau Band —the American guitarist returns to Canada, his father’s native land, with songs from Alternate Takes – Vol 1, an anthology of unreleased tracks recorded throughout his career.

July 3 / Rob Lutes Band — For over 20 years, Rob Lutes and his group have whipped out a workingman’s rock-blues worthy of Springsteen. A Festival regular, Lutes brings us an exclusive preview of Walk in the Dark, his 7th album due in September.

July 4 / Dwane Dixon — A true ambassador for the genuine blues-rock of the ’60s and ’70s, Dwane Dixon pours body and soul into the genre.

July 7 / Orb Mellon — Orb Mellon – nickname of dynamic Connecticut musician Mike Malone – describes his music as “the blues in all its primeval glory,” an epic fusion of acoustic and electric. An artist you can’t afford to miss!

 

Soirées blues Hyundai series, 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.

July 1 / Diunna Greenleaf Raised on gospel in her native Houston, Texas, this fiery blues diva boasts a complete mastery of the genre.

July 2 / They Call Me Rico — After two critically-acclaimed albums and a live record, one-man band Frédéric Pellerin, alias They Call Me Rico, returns stronger than ever this year with a 4th release, This Time.

July 3 / Lachy Doley Group — Hailed as the “Jimi Hendrix of the Hammond Organ”, the hyper Lachy Doley delivers an absolute psychedelic-rock knockout alongside renowned drummer Jackie Barnes and bassist Joel Burton.

July 5 / Christone Kingfish Ingram A blues guitarist right out of Mississippi, this artist remakes the standards of blues and rock, making them utterly his own and electrifying fans with his passion.

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