Holly Cole has always been great. She has always been a throwback to the glory days of female jazz singers. With her vocal range diving deep within the depths of notes and rising to the surface – Cole has always ‘nailed it.’ Last night as part of the Montreal Jazz Festival, Holly nailed it once more.
Trust in Me, My Foolish Heart and even Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues were delivered by Holly in an aw shucks forceful type of way. Perhaps from the viewpoint of a woman (or person) approaching their ‘senior discount age’ – Cole knows she has nothing left to prove with an ego. At 55, it is time to allow the talent to talk exclusively. Who needs attitude? It is that time in one’s life to enjoy every moment. Holy Cole seemingly is in that mindset on stage.
Cole started the night out with two musicians forming a trio. A typical approach by Cole to inject some ‘real’ jazz into the crowd. Two minutes in and the audience were transported to the 20’s and 30’s and a time when Jazz was to America what Pop was during the 1980s. Cole on vocals, David Piltch on bass and Aaron Davies on piano. A menage a trois with no limits. A menage a trois open to voyeurism with an eager audience at their feet.
Down Down Down, My Baby Just Cares for Me and a cool rendition of I Can See Clearly Now had the mostly middle age to senior crowd caught in the headlights. When cars pass you by daily on the street with Rap, Hip Hop and Rock n Roll scaring you awake with loudness, a Holly Cole concert is a welcome shock to the system. In this day and age, music with harmony, soul and meaningful lyrics are more of an oddity. Classic Jazz is wondrous once the ears settle in.
John Johnson and David DiRenzo arrived on the scene ( horns and drums ) and the trio evolved into a comfortable shoe. Cole walked within the sound of the band and among her friends with a certain lightness. That weightlessness carried Cole through the second half. In song, she was all business. Hitting every note with ease. Between songs the banter was small but cozy enough to allow the gap between audience and performer to close. In other words, with about six tunes left, Cole had the punters at her mercy.
With a new album under her belt (2018’s Holly) and a what appears to be a permanent reunion with her initial trio, Cole’s career seems vital once more. At a time when most people start thinking of retirement, Cole appears to be ready to roll.
Concerts – or music in general, are very subjective. Each experience a foray into a vast personal journey. One man’s junk is definitively another person’s treasure.
The city of Montreal heard and witnessed a lot of music this past year and this listener – for obvious reasons, could not attend each one.
(What’s that? Pardon me but you will have to speak up … )
Here now is a list of the Top Ten Concertsvisited by Rick Keene Music Scene in 2016.
Agree, disagree or ignore it completely. The choice is yours as is your taste in tunes !
10. George Thorogood
‘Lonesome’ George was not very lonesome as a packed crowd partied at Metropolis. Drinking alone was not in the mix as Thorogood displayed his three chord Blues / Rock to several generations of people in need of a haircut and a real job.
9.Hall and Oates
Not to be confused with the former St.Louis hockey players, this duo returned from the 80’s with their unique style of Philly Soul and R&B. One of the most commercially successful units of all time were backed by a groove – friendly band whose tightness brought familiarity to The Bell Center. Their kiss is on this list …
8. The Wainright Sisters.
Martha Wainright and Lucy Wainright Roche shared the stage as part of The Montreal International Jazz Festival. The pair also share a father, folk songs and a very witty sense of humor. The latter two on full display as the duo featured the new album ‘ Songs From the Dark’ at Theatre du Nouveau Monde. Combining clever onstage banter with ‘terrifying’ children’s tunes, the show(s) was a throwback to Vaudevillian days. Martha, complete with cast, a fitting straight ‘man’ for Lucy’s self depreciating wit and a target for Martha’s own sharp tongue. A pleasurable evening all around.
7. James Taylor
How often can you hear a pin drop within the confines of a filled Bell Center? That was the respect which reverberated the evening ‘the legend’ stopped by. Amid constant shouts of ‘ We Love You James’, Mr. Taylor delivered the hits and a foundation for three generations of songwriters ( if not more). His own vocals – holding their own for an icon in his seventies. His band? No words to describe perfection …
6. Lisa Simone / Melody Gardot
The Jazz Festival brought together a wonderful pair of performers for two shows under one roof. Opening act Lisa Simone ( daughter of legendary Nina Simone) tossing all genes aside and enforcing her brand of Simone to the world. Her powerful vocals above Gospel-infused R&B; infectious, profound and refreshingly delinquent.
Gardot – the seemingly reluctant ‘ star ‘ ( who could rival Adele if she chose to), sang jaw dropping renditions of classics and her own tastes in genres. The Blues, Country and everything in between under the stars at Place des Arts. Magnificent evening of pure sounds from a lady who almost left us way before 2016. Blessed are we.
5. Rocky Dawuni / Toots and The Maytals
Montreal was hot for Reggae this past year. A puppy (Rocky, nominated for a Reggae Album of the year Grammy) and the old dog ( Toots) revved up the grooves and had everyone dancing up a storm on two separate evenings. Toots – on his first tour since being hit by a bottle and suffering serious health issues in 2013, no worse for wear as his legendary Reggae / Ska embraced The Corona Theater. His daughter Lina, opening the show (a la Lisa Simone) and continuing as the prime back-up singer for the ol’ man. Toots has been at this game for fifty years. By all accounts – fifty more to come …
Rocky Dawuni, Ambassador for Ghana – a rising star in the global Reggae community. His album ‘ Branches of the Same Tree ‘ was displayed in full at Le Petit Campus. It was hot on the dance floor and hot on stage as Rocky delivered a high energy show filled with positive messages of hope. The next time Rocky swings by – check him out. Youth will reappear in your soul …
4. Dawn – Tyler Watson
Local girl Dawn -Tyler Watson along with her backing band ‘The Ben Racine Band’, tore a strip off the Jazz Festival crowd at L’Astral. Sometimes the cylinders fire not just together – but reach other worldly heights. Dawn and the band, reproducing songs from her album ‘JawBreaker’ – rocked, funked and syllabified everyone into the sweet spot of music. Providing one of the most tender moments witnessed on a Montreal stage, Dawn Tyler Watson has finally arrived as the star everyone thought she’d be.
3. Steve Hackett
The former lead guitarist of Genesis brought his new album ‘Wolflight’ to Montreal in the Spring. Die-hard Genesis fans got their fill of classics yet it was the material from Wolflight which stole the show. Hackett’s guitar work soaring and searing through the clouds and into the stratosphere. His vocals – years below their actual age and a backing band filled with headliners anywhere else. A true legendary writer and player. Steve Hackett …
2. Don Henley
On the heels of his partner-in-crime’s ( Glen Frey) death. Henley’s performance at the Bell Center was an emotional affair. The Eagles’ tunes and his solo work emerged as fresh as the day they were written. Led by Henley’s distinctive vocals, roots – y guitar playing and an A list band, there were not many in attendance who at one point, did not have tears on their cheeks. Henley, no matter the man in the middle of many a controversy – is one heck of a musician and writer. Almost all The Eagles appeared to be wrapped into one solid entertainer.
1. The Anderson – Ponty Band
Jon Anderson of Yes fame and Jean – Luc Ponty ( Frank Zappa, Elton John, etc) made a deal years ago to record an album together. Well, they finally got around to it and the disc was displayed at Theatre St. Denis. Ponty, the man credited with introducing electric violin to Jazz music and Rock – a perfect ‘sounding board’ for Anderson’s impish vocals. Yes songs, Ponty tunes or gems from the new album; The Anderson – Ponty Band was brilliant. Musicianship and cohesiveness unseen or unheard of in these parts for years. The crowd in disbelief. Stunned upon leaving a show which provided several solos (including an 11 minute drum solo) and virtuosity above anything human. A concert for the ages by the aged.
Thanks for all your support the past five years. See you in 2017 !