|One of the smaller outdoor stages at the Montreal Festival
Photo credit: Victor Diaz Lamich/ FIJM
The Saturday of the Canada Day weekend had a wonderfully relaxed feel. Having stayed out of the centre, I headed to the Festival site in the early afternoon. A vast Caribbean parade (unconnected with the jazz festival but symptomatic of a city that tends to have a good time) was livening things up, complete with a mixed-race steel pan band on the back of a truck knocking out Abba’s Dancing Queen. And everywhere this peaceable milling, contented holidaying crowd. The city is a magnet for people who want to stroll, to sample and to enjoy the music which is mostly there for free. I then headed for three of the ticketed concerts…
|MISC Photo credit Denis Alix / FIJM|
Misc is the re-named Trio Jérôme Beaulieu which has been in existence since 2012, and is a band well-supported by the main broadcaster CBC. The trio is in the line of EST and Neil Cowley, a strong rock feel interspersed with moments of Mehldau-ish introspection. Pianist Beaulieu himself is a thoughtful and interesting player, but the trio’s bassist was not having a great night last night. He seemed quite nervy, his head flicking back and forth from looking at the pianist to the drummer and round again, and this inattention seemed to be affecting the consistency of both time and pitch. This group must enjoy better and more unified days when the pressure is off, and it has a more stable and focussed core.
|Rufus Waunwright. Photo credit Denis Alix / FIJM|
The Montreal premiere of a concert performance of Rufus Wainwright‘s opera Prima Donna was a big event this week. It was featured prominently on the TV evening news roughly on a par with Germany’s European Championships football win. The opera set was the first half, a set of Rufus Wainwright songs with full orchestra was the second set, of which I heard part. I found the opera set hard to follow, even having pored over the synopsis. There were stylish back-projected images, but for me they weren’t helping to elucidate the plot-line, and I wasn’t getting enough of the French words to follow what was going on. I think I was in a minority: the Montreal audience was hugely appreciative and once the second half got going, the familiarity of songs like My phone’s on vibrate for you created an instant and palpable bond to an artist who is the local hero par excellence.
|Cyrille Aimee and her band|
This site has carried two interviews with French-born, Brooklyn-resident singer Cyrille Aimee,(links below), but this was my first live encounter. It was a feel-good and upbeat show, with the two-guitar plus bass set up of the manouche guitar bands, but a repertoire of songs which stretches way beyond it. She has exuberant fun with Monk’s Well You Needn’t and Mike Ferro’s seventies lyrics, she turns up the speed and energy on a song like Three Little Words , but is also happy to veer off in the directions of Piaf, songs in excellent Spanish from the Dominican Republic (where her mother hails from) and even a solo spot with a looping machine preceded by some brilliant faux-innocent banter with the audience. Aimee also has a young adaptable top-flight band without a weak link. This is a good-time jazz show with an infectious zing about it, It would be an ideal evening to entertain the kind of people who frown at you and tell you they don’t like jazz.