I just got back from the Montreal Jazz Festival. It was their 32nd fest. It was my 11th. I spent ten dizzying days gorging myself on jazz. With so much going on, I decided to cover bands that had a performance connection to both Montreal and Miami.
In order to accommodate the festival, a section of downtown Montreal was roped off. Eight stages were erected, where musicians from around the world performed free concerts. From noon to 11 P.M., the performers occupied at least half the stages. Huge enthusiastic crowds were in attendance.
Ben l’Oncle Soul, a band from France, opened the festival with this first of many free concerts. “Big Ben” appeared on stage wearing a straw hat, red trousers and a red bow tie. I thought a clown outfit was more appropriate for a comedy show but I learned not to judge too hastily. His soul renditions were good and his act quite entertaining. He would have no trouble filling a concert hall. He may include Miami in future tours. Vive la France!
There were many paid events that took place also. One that had a Montreal / Miami connection was by Chick Corea and Return to Forever-4. It took place at Montreal’s prime concert hall called Place des Arts. Two years ago, I caught the 25-year reunion of Return to Forever in this same hall. At that concert, original RTF band members guitarist Al DeMeola, bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White joined pianist Corea. Corea’s concerts always have something new or different. This year, violinist Jean Luc Ponte replaced DeMeola. I also saw Chick last year at the Arsht Center in Miami where he was joined by guitarist John McLaughlin. I believe I’ve become a Chick Corea groupie. Shall I call myself a “Chick Head?”
If you are a lover of the big bass, check this out. At the start of this recent Corea / RTF-4 concert, bassist Stanley Clarke was presented with a Miles Davis Award for his outstanding musicianship. It’s no wonder. You had to see Clarke’s chops. Then a couple nights later, I saw bassist Dave Holland and his quintet. Holland was the second bass guitar ‘God’ I saw that week. His quick stepping bass lines knocked me out.
And as if that was not enough, I enjoyed another good bassist, Montreal’s Eric Lagace. He played with iconic Montreal pianist Oliver Jones in a concert dedicated to Oliver’s fallen friend and fellow Montrealer, the late Oscar Peterson. Drummer Jim Doxas rounded out this trio. I caught Jones and his trio last year at the Broward Center in Ft. Lauderdale. So, in a way, this show was a reprise. It too had a two-city connection.
Another rising star with a Montreal / Miami connection is local chanteuse Nicky Yanofsky. I got tickets to see her perform in Montreal’s Salle Wilfred-Pelletier Concert Hall. She also sang several months ago in Miami at the Adrienne Arsht Center in a program called The Three Divas. Although she is only seventeen years old, her jazz interpretations are very sophisticated. This young lady can sing anything in any style. That’s what brought me, and the throngs of fans, back to see her.
Unfortunately, I failed to get tickets to see Grammy winning pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba. He has performed in the festival since 1979 when he played with Emiliano Salvador. Rubalcaba has participated in the festival as ‘artist in residence’ since 2002. He played with bassist Charlie Haden at Theatre Maisoneuve in 1989, 2001 and 2005. He also gigged with a variety of artists at the fest in between these dates. This year, he played at Place des Arts in a duet with accordionist Richard Galliano.
Rubalcaba is no stranger to South Florida. He performed here several times becoming a favorite among Miami jazz listeners. This Cuban born artist did a solo piano performance recently (March, 2011) at the EBS Auditorium in Homestead. At that concert, he included original improvisations as well as tributes to Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis.
My thanks to Montreal for a great show. This fest was a feast!
Click on link to see video of Gonzalo Rubalcaba. http://youtu.be/ErEvGzqrpw8