Montreal International Jazz Festival 2014 – Recap Part Two.

It is the people of Montreal that make the Jazz Festival so good.

‘If you build it – they will come …’

Musicians from Zaire to Atlanta, each and every one of them, during the Jazz Festival or in the cold winter months, exude the same sentiment.

“Montreal has the best crowds …”

Maybe it is the winters which make us appreciate everything. Perhaps it is the lack of a Stanley Cup for twenty years. Does poutine have a magic elixir built in? Whatever it is – the people in Montreal love music.



The Quotes


“My two sons are playing with us on stage tonight – I think I am more terrified than they are …” Ed Robertson – The Barenaked Ladies

” Instead of saying they are amazing, people should say – I really enjoyed that band. I strongly suggest them. That way – you are not forcing your opinion on someone and letting them decide for themselves.” Susie Arioli

“You guys ( journalists) are very important for us. It is also very important to be true what you write. There is no point saying a show is good when it is not. How else can we decide who to bring to Montreal for the Jazz Festival?” Andre Menard – co-Founder of The Jazz Festival

” I had a Red Bull once. I thought I was going to die. I will never touch that stuff again!” Brian Ritchie – Violent Femmes


The Pics


Andre Menard
Andre Menard


Susie Arioli
Susie Arioli


Ed Robertson - Baenaked Ladies
Ed Robertson – Barenaked Ladies


Brian Ritchie
Brian Ritchie


The Shows


Gogh Van Go


Seventeen years is a very long time.

Think of it. In that time span – a person learns to crawl, walk, run and drive. A lot of growing up takes place, not to mention growing pains.

That is exactly what the band Gogh Van Go must be going through following their show at the Jazz Festival. Club Soda was not even close to half capacity yet one thing must be made clear – it was not the fault of Gogh Van Go.

Sorta …

2505301Aside from their success in the 90’s and the fans which remember them from the 90’s – there were approx. 90 people to see them in only their second gig in 17 years.

Following a monumental return in December 2013, it appeared the time was right for Van Go. Um … not yet.

Sandra Luciantonio still has an incredible voice. Thrilling those in attendance with the power of a younger woman. In songs such as ‘ The Bed Where We Lie’ and ‘Sugar’ – Sandra’s passion for her craft shines through.

Her partner on and off stage – Dan Tierney, shares the passion and his love is demonstrated in the band’s (arguably) biggest hit; ‘Say You Will’. The duo’s original backing band, Yves Desrosiers (guitar), Jean Masicotte ( Keyboards), John Souranis (bass) and JohnMcColgan (drums) – all performed as a tight knit unit. They performed with familiarity.

Here lies the problem.

A band and songwriting team from the 90’s, sings and plays their instruments like they were in the 1990’s. As stated earlier, through no fault of their own and based on pure absenteeism, a gap existed at Club Soda. A gap which can be repaired the more Gogh Van Go propels itself into 2014.


The talent is there, the songwriting is there ( two new songs – ‘Sugar’ and ‘ Mama Needs a New Dress), the back-line of  today’s alt-Pop is not there. All the songs performed would be awe inspiring moments if they were intertwined with a catalog which lay witness to a band evolving over they years. A ‘ look-back-at-the-beginning’ kinda thing. Preferably in black and white with Kennedy’s assassination headlines looming in the background.

This type of nostalgia plays well. The nostalgia which Gogh Van Go is performing does not. They are not old, they are not acting like people trying to make a buck. By all appearances and sounds – Gogh Van Go is a working viable group who have lost their way. A producer who is current would do wonders with Sandra and Daniel.

In other words –  the ‘Tunnel of Trees’ cannot be seen for the forensic remains of the dated forest. Somehow – Gogh Van Go will figure it out. Somehow – Club Soda will fill out.

‘Too good To’ not to …


Elvis Costello


Mr. Costello …

Mr. Diana Krall.

Mr. Everything  …

Elvis_Costello © dALIX-FIJM-001


Elvis was in town on his current solo tour. A tour which left those in attendance guessing. Elvis not even allowing a reporter the luxury of knowing any songs which he was to play at the Jazz Festival during the press conference.

It was a forgone conclusion that at least “Alison’ would be played. Which it was. ‘Veronica” perhaps? It was …

Elvis over the years has become a parody in many ways. A parody of his punk years with The Attractions, a reasonable facsimile with tunes such as ‘Everyday I Write the Book’ and his incarnation into the world of Burt Bacharach. Costello is a chameleon who appears to evolve and work at top speed.

His concert as part of The Jazz Festival appeared rushed. The songs were played well yet it was difficult to not rid oneself of the feeling Mr. Costello had better places to be ( by Diana Krall’s side – for one).

Elvis_Costello © dALIX-FIJM-004

Thank the music Gods Elvis has an acute sense of humor. A British sense of humor. Mocking himself numerous times – none more poignant than introducing one of his hits;  ‘Everyday I Write the Book’.

” Because I like you …” Said Costello. ” I will play this song for you. I hate it. I wrote it it ten minutes and sadly – it became a hit. Now – I must play it all the time …”

That tune was rushed through. Others such as ‘Either Side of the Same Town’ and ‘ Watching the Detectives’ (both Elvis and the Attractions songs) – moderately so. As if Costello has turned the corner on the past. Nice but …what’s next?

Elvis did shine through on the covers he chose …

Nat King Cole’s ‘Walkin’ my Baby Back Home’; sung wistfully and soulfully by Costello. Singing and strumming his one man band into a place dear to him. The same could be said for his rendition of Robert Wyatt’s ‘Shipbuilding’. A nerve hit deep inside Costello. Moments when the show ‘slowed’ to a musical pace.

Elvis - 'Home'
Elvis – ‘Home’

Costello is a storyteller. His tales and observations heightened during tunes such as ‘ Ascension Day’, ‘Ghost Train’ and ‘The Last Year of my Youth.’ No matter the rhythm of an Elvis Tune – there is something melancholy about Costello. Telling tales of his Grandfather’s excursion into America – side-splitting yet with a hint of sadness for another time. A pure reconnaissance of music from all genres.

The show displayed Elvis’ courage, depth and genius. His social conscience on display on ‘ Jimmie Standing in the Rain /  Brother Can You Spare a Dime?’ His guitar playing on display all night.  ‘ Come the Meantime ( a collaboration with The Roots), a display of keeping with the times.

Costello’s show was not perfect. A much more enjoyable experience would have had Costello with a backing band. Then again – with Elvis; who really knows?

A genius keeps them guessing …




Up Next … Burning Spear/ Sly and Robbie and Ginger Baker




Woodkid Press Conference
Woodkid Press Conference















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.



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.


Violent Femmes


John Roney





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?


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.


‘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.



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.




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.


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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What’s Happening on Rick Keene Music Scene?

What are you doing this week?

Mending the piece of  fence where the cattle escaped through? Cooking up a pot of grits to feed the outlaws who are coming to town to soak up the Jazz Festival?

Whatever it is – fear not …

Visit Rick Keene Music Scene all week to hear some great interviews along with some great tunes. The Jazz festival is starting on Thursday – so for the following ten days; a bevy of show reviews coming your way.

Thanks for listening!









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Holly Cole; The ‘Night’ Started Young …

It is no coincidence Holly Cole‘s new CD is titled ‘ Night’


‘I am a night owl, I stay up very, very late every night …” Says Cole. ” I find it very quiet. I mean the only phone calls I get are from drunk friends. It is very mysterious and for a creative person – it is ideal. It is open at night – meaning there are no distractions. You have peace and quiet.”

Holly Cole’s latest musical effort and her first in five years, is definitely an evening affair.

b153bf1cbec0e6d_fileIt is an album which turned into a nocturnal theme after a few recording sessions and it also discovers Cole back to where she started. It’s a reunion of sorts. Cole has re-united with her two initial partners in crime. A duo, along with Holly – which made up the Holly Cole Trio.  One of the most talented threesomes in Canadian music history …

“My favorite song on the album is ‘Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues‘ ” Admits the 49 year old singer from Nova Scotia. ” One of the reasons I love the song is because it is done as my original trio with Aaron Davies and David Pilch. It really takes me back to the raw trio and that is where my real heart lies. It really is minimal and I am a real minimalist.”

All of the songs on the album ‘Night’ are covers except for one. ‘You’ve got a Secret’ is an original composition and it fits in well with the ‘accidental’ theme of the album. As Cole and her mates were recording, Holly realized the songs she had chosen, all had either the words or ideas of a nighttime flavor. An underlying message of what goes on once the sun disappears. She then chose the remainder of the covers based on that …

” I knew we would do songs in increments. Four at a time or something. Then I realized that most of the songs were about night, written at night or had night in the lyrics. It’s all about the ‘night’ feeling. Some of the songs  have a loose connection but they ended up being arranged with that night feeling. The song that I wrote is about night so I think the feel is very mysterious.”


Holly believes her ‘late night’ habits were introduced to her at a young age. She profoundly recalls an incident that took place when she was a three year old in Halifax. She woke up in the middle of the night with a terrible cough – waking both of her parents up. According to Cole,  she sounded like Tom Waits and nobody wants their little girl to sound like him – a fan or not …

‘It was around four o’clock in the morning …” She remembers. ” My Father wrapped me into a blanket and took me for a late night stroll. My whole neighborhood was blank – not a soul there. I saw it all for the first time through completely different eyes.”

She goes on …

“It was a clear night with clean Halifax air and fog. I was sitting on my Dad’s shoulders and everything was basking him – the street lights, the moonlight … and all I could hear were his footsteps. It made me fall in love completely with the night. I sincerely believe it had a big influence on me becoming a night owl. When I got home, I felt better and I remember laying in bed thinking that I have a secret. Something which was mine and only mine. It really inspired me and I believe it opened up creative juices within me …”

Those creative juices have served Cole very well.

She released her first albumHolly+Cole+bw+mix+2a in 1990; ‘ Girl Talk’. It was recorded and released as the Holly Cole Trio. Since that time  – Cole has done everything from Christmas albums to an entire disc devoted to Tom Waits songs.

‘Night’ is Holly’s (including ‘best of’ and compilations) 16th album and it has been a long way since she sent a cassette to the founder of the Montreal International Jazz Festival – Andre Menard.

‘I did not have an album, a manager – nothing …” Says Holly. ” I sent him some songs I had done and he loved them. His influence put me on a stage and I was thrilled to play there. It was 1987 and Menard loved me from the beginning. He has been so great to me …”

Holly will be performing at this upcoming Montreal Jazz festival for three nights. June 27th, 28th and 29th at Theatre du Nouveau Monde.

She will be with her quintet as well as something that is a first for her. A full Gospel choir will be involved. It  is an idea that came to her. A thought that delivered the answer; why not …? After all – an artist must continue to grow or risk becoming stagnant …


” This is the first time with a Gospel choir. We have worked with a choir before but not a Gospel one. I like to keep things fresh. They are a twenty – five piece choir called the ‘Praise and Worship Crew.’ They will be with us all three nights and they are from Montreal. I am looking forward to that as well as Kevin Breault joining us for the final two shows. He is a fantastic guitar player.”

Holly’s upcoming appearances at the Montreal Jazz Festival will be her 25th.  The city is her favorite and she simply adores not only playing – taking in as many acts as she can during the Festival. In fact – she always comes to the Festival if  she is not performing elsewhere.  Sometimes she is recognized – sometimes she is not.

” The thing about Montreal … (and I have been all over the world), is that it is able to combine the best of North America and Europe. Somehow – the city is able to not have the worst of those cultures. I really mean it when I say that. It’s the greatest Jazz Festival in the world and Montreal is fantastic!”

Cole’s ‘Night’ is  produced by Holly Cole and Greg Cohen. It includes cover songs from Tom Waits (“Walk Away”), Gordon Lightfoot (“If You Could Read My Mind”), Mort Shuman (“Viva Las Vegas”), Captain Beefheart (“Love Lies”) and a James Bond theme by John Barry (“You Only Live Twice“).

Holly Cole will be touring in support of her new record  in Canada, Germany, Japan and the U.S.

It is no coincidence that all of the shows will take place at ‘Night’ …


Related articles

Jill Barber – ‘In Amour’

Jill Barber, according to Jill Barber,  took a big chance recording an album in French. Judging by the response in Canada so far – that chance appears to be being paying off.


The album is aptly titled “Chansons’. Released in January and inspired by Barber’s performance of a French  song at the 2009 Festival International de Jazz in Montreal, it is a wonderful surprise to Jill.

“I wasn’t very confident singing in French and a friend of mine offered to translate my song into the language. I performed it and I was overwhelmed by the response. It was kind of a revelatory moment in my life. Then I realized that I wanted to get my French back from my childhood and sing more of the beautiful language which is the language of love.”

Barber’s ‘French’ childhood was French class in  Port Credit, Ontario – her birthplace. Following stints in the East Coast of Canada and France – Barber now makes her home in Vancouver, B.C. With her fifth album completed and  vastly becoming ‘Canada’s sweetheart’, her hometown Province proudly lays claim to the beautiful singer.

“It’s been really interesting to see how my English fans seem to embrace the album even though they don’t speak French. I think the songs and the music bring out the same emotions regardless of language. So far, the album has been released all over Canada and will be released in France and Europe in the near future.”


Barber has not sung many of the new songs live and is looking forward to her show in Montreal on the 2nd of May. It will be the ‘real’ test  because a lot of Francophones and bilingual people will be in attendance. Because of this – Jill will be performing more French songs during her Montreal show than the ensuing gigs in Toronto and Calgary. The set list will include favorites from her repertoire so a performance consisting of  ‘French only’ on Thursday appears nil and void.

“I spent time in the South of France, even enrolling in a French immersion school. I am going back there in about ten days. My first French song was an Edith Piaf song. Sitting in a café in Paris made me fall in love with the tune and language. Piaf’s songs are filled with something which cannot be described. When choosing the songs for the album, I did not choose a song just because it was French, the songs had to hit me in a certain way. If it did, then I decided to record it. I would say the entire process, the  song selection, the recording, the producing took about a year. I am very proud of the result.”

Barber started writing songs when she was 14 and released he first CD when she was 16. She did not think of writing songs in French at that time, although her first single from the album ‘Mischievous Moon’ was released in both French and English (“Dis-Moi/Tell Me”). Her previous four discs focused instead on her folk – ish / coffee – house repertoire. ‘Chansons’ is not only Barber’s first album in another language, it is also her first album of covers.

A songwriter first, Jill believes if a song comes from the heart, it does not matter the language.


” I am writing songs for my new album now. So far – no French ones have come up but I may start writing in French. Obviously it would be better if I lived in Quebec and was surrounded by the language. I have commitments in Vancouver at the moment so i can’t just pick up and leave. I will be inspired over in France and hopefully one day, I will get to spend more time in Montreal.”

Jill Barber is performing Thursday night at The Metropolis. Showtime is at 8pm.

Concert and ticket info here