Posted by: russdavis | August 15, 2016

Sunny Saturday in Newport!

Newport Jazz Festival LogoThe 62nd edition of “The Grandfather of All Jazz Festivals” in Newport, Rhode Island took place Friday through Sunday, 29-31 July 2016. Because of my schedule I was only able to attend Saturday’s events but all my efforts to get to Newport from New York City were rewarded with some brilliant performances and beautiful memories. The first day had brought cloudy skies that had delivered occasional torrential rain. Sunday was also a partly rainy day so I felt myself blessed to have such a perfect summer day in THE place on the planet for a jazz fan to be at this time of year. The incredible lineup of artists were more than capable of delivering what all festival-goers came for…jazz with great variety performed at the highest level.

Each day brought shows from 11 AM to 7 PM at the Fort Adams State Park with the added attraction of Friday night’s performances in town at the International Tennis Hall Of Fame by Chick Corea’s Trio with Christian McBride and Brian Blade and Gregory Porter. No rain was going to dampen the spirits of the festival attendees or the performers. Friday had brought shows featuring the likes of The Heath Brothers, the New Orleans band Galactic, saxophonists Donny McCaslin and Steve Coleman, the great vocalist Tierney Sutton, who hung out an extra day for an impromptu appearance with the band The Hot Sardines on Saturday, and one of the current sensations of modern jazz, Kamasi Washington who’d also perform a second time on Sunday.

Bad Plus: Ethan Iverson-Piano, Reid Anderson-Bass, Dave King-Drums

THE BAD PLUS doing their unique thing on stage!

There were many more filling the four stages in this beautiful setting on Sunday, the final day. Scheduled to perform were NEA Jazz Masters Kenny Barron and Charles Lloyd. There are always wonderful vocalists and on Sunday the lineup included Lizz Wright and Jose James. From the international side of things came Angelique Kidjo, Anat Cohen and Toshiko Akiyoshi. There were a number of representatives from the current generation of jazz stars including Robert Glasper, Christian Scott, Nels Cline and Ben Williams. And a feature of every Newport Jazz Festival is all-star bands, oftentimes put together for a one-off performance. This year the Sunday crowd was treated to a set by newly-named NEA Jazz Master Dave Holland alongside Chris Potter, Lionel Loueke and Eric Harland. You can’t go wrong by attending any one day of this 3-day event and I wasn’t happy about missing some of these shows but my Saturday would be filled with more than enough to fill my plate!

There is one thing I must warn you about should you decide to attend this festival…Newport is haunted! Sure, may run into one of the friends of The Great Gatsby from time to time but only if you’re touring the mansions on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. At Fort Adams State Park you only have to worry about running into the spirits of Miles Davis, Count Basie, Duke Ellington or Charlie Parker. Don’t worry, they won’t bother you, only serve to charge the atmosphere with great history and inspire each and every musician who plays here. I was invited by the festival to take the stages to introduce 5 of the artists/bands who’d perform on this grand, sunny Saturday and I have my own personal ghost to tend with.

Russ Intros Bad Plus & Frisell @Newport Jazz Festival (4-5 August 2012) 039

VOA & MOJA’s Russ Davis bringing on the bands @ the Newport Jazz Festival!

I have produced and presented Jazz America, the only full-time jazz program heard on the U.S. Government service The Voice of America, since 1999. The may who preceded me, Willis Conover, produced jazz on VOA for 40 years, and in the beginning of the Newport Jazz Festival, which began in 1954, the performances were broadcast around the world via shortwave on VOA. Willis was on stage introducing many of the artists in his deliberate, thoughtful, historical manner in that deep, slow, resonant voice that taught many around the world to not only love jazz but to speak English. I certainly feel his presence each time I stand in front of the Newport crowds to bring on another brilliant artist or group. I considered myself a jazz presenter but a long distance runner on this day as I landed in Newport in the morning, got my credentials and marching orders from Carolyn McClair, the brilliant woman who takes care of all things press related for the festival and never stops working, and began a non-stop trek from stage to stage to do my job and take in as much music as I possibly could. Can you say Nirvana?

My first stop was to the largest stage at the festival, The Fort Stage, facing the ocean and the beautiful bridge to Newport off in the distance. There I took in some of the set by the brilliant 19-piece ensemble Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society led by the award-winning Canadian-born composer, arranger and conductor Darcy James Argue and including a cast of brilliant musicians including his fellow Canadian, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen. Darcy had been working for years on the piece titled Real Enemies, which they performed on this day, and he was obviously extremely proud of it. It is not only brilliant music but a commentary on politics and society in general that incorporates recorded spoken word pieces by famous figures of the past. Darcy is one of those artists who has redefined what “big band jazz” is for this century.

Edmar Castenada & Gregorie Maret (Newport 16)

Edmar Castaneda & Gregoire Maret backstage at Newport 2016!

I hurried to the Quad Stage, the mid-sized stage set in the middle of the fort structures, to catch the last half of the performance by Venezuelan-born harpist Edmar Castaneda and his cast of international artists from places like Israel, Cuba, The USA and featuring the brilliant Swiss-born master of the harmonica, Gregorie Maret. I’d seen Edmar playing solo during this festival season at the Montreal Jazz Festival and he filled a huge hall with musical magic all by himself. This unique international blend was nothing short of astounding and a perfect example of how artists who play Newport go out of their way to present something extra special for the always, knowledgeable audience and with those aforementioned ghostly predecessors in mind. The rare blending of the harp and harmonica was especially appealing.

I remained at the Quad Stage as my first duty was to introduce the quartet led by two modern masters, guitarist John Scofield and saxophonist Joe Lovano. I’d run into Joe and his talented wife, vocalist Judi Silvano, earlier in the day and spoke with Joe about his new release Classic, which was recorded live at Newport in 2005 with a band that included legendary pianist Hank Jones. Judi, who has a new recording coming soon that features a two-guitar lineup, is also a painter. She created the cover for Joe’s newest work inspired by the sights surrounding Newport. Joe and John, old friends since their college days at Berklee in Boston, swung and grooved in their unique way to the delight of the audience.

Joe Lovano & John Scofield

Old school chums Joe Lovano & John Scofield getting together again to play Newport 2016!

I could only stay for a portion of their set as my next job called, to introduce another one-of-a-kind performance by that one-of-a-kind piano trio of Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson and Dave King, AKA The Bad Plus, on the Fort Stage. They chose to perform Ornette Coleman’s classic work Science Fiction with the help of a trio of horn players including saxophonist Tim Berne and Ron Miles on cornet. I spoke with Reid and Dave after the performance and they told me how this album had inspired them to begin to play jazz. They played an inspired set, without a doubt, and the portion of the audience who were able to take in and process this deep, free and intricate piece were maybe not dancing and screaming on the outside but instead exuberant on the inside.

I’d seen the Chick Corea Trio with Christian McBride and Brian Blade play a beautiful set of mostly jazz standards, including a couple of Chick’s classics, at the Montreal Jazz Festival a month before and caught up with Chick before this Newport performance to see what we’d hear on this day. He told me he didn’t remember what they’d played in Montreal and we’d all be surprised with what this set would bring. Talk about an artist with abundant of riches from which to choose! This group would once again thrill the crowd with every note as the yearlong celebration of Chick’s 75th birthday continued in Newport. He had just announced the reformation of his Electric Band and we should all stay tuned to discover what else this brilliant master has to offer. The band was brought on stage by an official of the Newport Jazz Festival Board to announce that Christian McBride had just been chosen as the new director of the festival. They could not have chosen a more able and appropriate man to follow in the footsteps of the great George Wein.

Stefon Harris & Russ MTL 12

Stefon Harris still looking like a kid and playing like a master at Newport 2016!

I had three more stops to make on my marathon journey of stage introductions with the next stop being back at the Quad Stage to bring on another wonderful fusion of various styles blended in a unique way just for the Newport audience, this time by New Orleans piano legend Henry Butler, New York trumpet master Steven Bernstein of Sex Mob fame and their Hot 9. This band had thrilled jazz followers with their modern take on music by the likes of Jelly Roll Morton and Fats Waller with the project Viper’s Drag. They started the set with a bit of that just to get the party started but followed with a 21st century treatment of Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite, which was inspired by Duke’s tour of middle eastern countries like Iran and Iraq in the 1960’s. This was a set that you could only hear if you were at the 2016 Newport Jazz Festival on this wonderful Saturday!

I made the short walk in the direction of the Newport Harbor to the Harbor Stage to introduce an uplifting performance by the brilliant Stefon Harris, one of the reigning kings of vibes in modern jazz. This ageless wonder always seems to be a kid with his youthful exuberance and ever-changing style. He may be in his 40’s now but he’s got two young boys, who cheered on their father from the front row. Stefon told me before the show that he’d be leading his new band of young bloods that perform under the name of Sonic Creed. He chose these young players to “kick his butt” but I know for certain that these young cats felt a boost from playing with him as well. It was another wonderful set of new material by Mr. Harris with a new project that will no doubt continue the development of his legend and an already marvelous career.

My final stop was back at the Quad Stage to bring on the man from Kingston, Jamaica, the brilliant pianist Monty Alexander once again leading his Harlem-Kingston Express band through a set that perfectly blends the traditions of jazz that Monty has embraced since coming to New York years ago, and the rhythm and spirit of the music of his native land where he is rightly considered a national treasure. If the music of Monty Alexander and friends don’t make you smile, bring a nod to your head and a tap to your foot then I suggest you have someone check your pulse. I saw no medical personnel in the audience and nothing but smiling, nodding and tapping going on so Monty’s mission was certainly accomplished with a grand display of what many these days call “World Jazz!”

I sadly made my way to transportation to leave the festival grounds and on to New York City, taking with me wonderful impressions of the great music and rare and wonderful atmosphere of this unique and magical place on this sunny, summer Saturday in Newport. The two other days of this year’s festival may have been marked by some inclement weather but I know that neither rain, nor whatever may come, will dampen the strong spirit of this marvelous event and the fans of this timeless music. See you next year!

Russ Davis

Russ Davis produces and presents the only jazz program – “Jazz America” – for the U.S. Government Service, Voice of America. He also programs and presents the online modern jazz channel MOJA Radio, a subscription service. You can hear a number of free programs, including the latest Jazz America show, by visiting www.mojaradio.com, MOJA Radio’s website.

Posted by: russdavis | July 9, 2016

The Ladies Take Over @ the 2016 Montreal Jazz Fest!

Montreal_logo_2011While the audience roared with delight, one of the members of the all-female band, the Latin Grammy-nominated Mariachi Flor de Toloache, raised her fist and shouted “GIRL POWER!” The entire audience, female and male, young and old, joined in the exultation with total approval. It was just another example of how the women of jazz are making their names like never before in the history of the music. During my last two days at the 37th Montreal Jazz Festival I made it a large part of my business to check out what they had to offer on the stages of the festival. The history of jazz is most certainly dominated by the names of famous, talented, important men. There are a number of important women vocalists and instrumentalists in the annals of jazz greats and may I just say that as the history continues to be written be ready for more of their names to join the great men. Some of them played this year in Montreal!

I’d already seen the dynamic pianist, composer and one of the great bandleaders in jazz today, Hiromi Uehara, performing to a packed house of screaming fans. I invite you to read my report on that show and add her name to the list of women I’ll focus on. My day began with a visit to one of the newest and most comfortable outdoor venues, the beautiful, wooded setting called the Montreal Casino. Under the band shell on this simply perfect summer afternoon, appeared the trio led by inventive Canadian pianist Marianne Trudel and her special guest, fellow Canadian and one of the premier trumpeters in jazz today, Ingrid Jensen. Ingrid had been featured earlier in the festival with her sister Christine, so the crowd was being treated to a real Canadian girl-fest.

Ingrid Jensen & Russ at Blue Note 2015Ms. Trudel put together a set filled with ever-changing dynamics, inventive and uplifting melody followed by adventurous passages of free jazz. The music was primarily taken from her latest release titled Life Begins Here, a musical investigation of mindfulness and living in the present moment. One might call this “chamber jazz” with the all-acoustic instrumentation and song structure, but it fits into a genre that I seem to be noticing more and more these days. There is a movement of acoustic jazz that sounds like it comes from electronica patterns and rhythms. Ingrid Jensen’s contribution fits perfectly with this style as she shifts from full sound to muted and changes rhythms with equal facility. The sun was setting on the row of tall trees in the background that seemed to be applauding as the wind caused their leaves to constantly rustle. Coupled with the magnificent music coming from the stage, it created a scene that made for a show that was difficult to see come to an end. I was off to take in my next set of music dominated by the ladies of the Montreal Jazz Festival 2016.

Another of the free, outdoor concerts at the festival featured the afore-mentioned, New York-based Mariachi Flor De Toloache, named for the Mexican flower used to create an aphrodisiac. The ladies created an intoxicating mix of traditional Mariachi with high-level jazz improvisation, beautiful vocalizing and even a little rock to craft an enticing Latin fusion. The group did not bring their full complement of musicians as they were lacking their percussionist, Jacquelene Acevedo, and more horns but the sound was full enough to thrill the audience, many of whom were probably greatly surprised at how much they enjoyed this style of music. I’m betting that some walked away thinking of the set by Mariachi Flor De Toloache as one of the major surprises of the festival. You can always count on that kind of surprise happening at least once at every Montreal Jazz Fest!

Cyrille AimeeIt’s always exciting to see a performance by an artist that is absolutely exploding. Such is the case with the dynamic and mesmerizing vocalist Cyrille Aimee, whose performance on Saturday, July 2nd at the Club L’Astral was nothing short of delightful! With her quartet of talented men Ms. Aimee captured the audience with one unique song after another. I try to avoid using the word unique in describing a musical performance but in the case of Cyrille Aimee it most certainly applies and to a major degree because of her interesting background. She was born in France to a French father and a Dominican mother. The story goes that she would sneak away to hang out with the musicians at the Django Reinhardt music festival and fell in love with gypsy jazz. There’s still much of that influence in her style along with occasional Latin tinges, pop and rock influence, scat singing that would make Ella Fitzgerald nod with approval, electronica and a heavy reliance on some of the most famous standards that she absolutely crafts to be her own.

From the moment Cyrille Aimee took the stage the crowd belonged to her. She sings like a veteran but is only 31 and has an inviting, girlish voice that is authentic and both powerful and gentle at the same time. Since setting up shop in Brooklyn, NY, her current base of operations, she’s acquired a singing and speaking style that belongs to only her. She seems to be moving at all times and also seems to be having the time of her life on stage. One can’t help but be caught up in the feeling of wanting to join in on the party she’s having! When the band took a break she employed the service of an electronic device that allowed her to loop tracks of her own voice and improvise with the loops. Cyrille Aimee is charming and enormously talented. She’s off to tour Europe for most of the next few months but will be back in North America from time to time. Check her schedule, catch her show and prepare to be a fan for life!

My final day at this year’s Montreal Jazz Festival began with a very entertaining duo show featuring NEA Jazz Master Kenny Barron and the versatile guitar sensation Lionel Loueke. Before the show at the Gesu Theatre, festival director Andre Menard presented Mr. Barron with the festivals “Miles Davis Award”. Kenny Barron’s contribution to jazz is an important one and any award he receives is most certainly deserved. The blending of his piano and the unique guitar style of Mr. Loueke in a set of mostly standards was remarkable and most enjoyable. Both gentlemen had been involved in multiple shows at the festival and this performance had the air of two old friends being very spontaneous and having fun. After this pleasant experience I was off to take in my last show featuring another of the great ladies of the 2016 Montreal Jazz Fest.

Stacey KentIf there ever was an artist that is truly international it is “citizen of the world” vocalist Stacey Kent. She was born and educated in the USA then moved to London, England to further her education. She married British saxophonist Jim Tomlinson and began her career by playing London clubs like the legendary Ronnie Scott’s and making her name in Europe. Here is a lady with a tremendously compelling voice who has been nominated for Grammy awards in her native United States, and received various awards for her contribution to the arts in both England and France. She addressed the crowd in the Montreal concert in both French and English and sang in various languages. Can you say “International?”

I actually first believed Ms. Kent was British until I heard her whole story, and after seeing her performance in the beautiful Theatre Maisonneuve I am even more confused, in a good way that is, as she presented a set of Brazilian flavored pieces taken from her latest release Tenderly. The concert was a dreamy visit to Brazil with timeless standards from the great American songbook turned into bossa nova magic. Her husband Jim Tomlinson was along for the fun and played Stan Getz to Stacey’s Astrid Gilberto to perfection. A gentle, tender, loving atmosphere was conjured in the hall and I kept thinking that in the crazy world we seem to be living in these days we could all use more moments like this one to soothe the nerves and calm the soul. I send a large and heartfelt thank you to Stacey Kent and her fellow musicians for giving me this great gift on my last day at the 2016 Montreal Jazz Festival.

There would be many more great ladies, such as Roberta Gambarini, Ranee Lee and Lauryn Hill, that would take to the stages at the festival, which ended this year on July 9th. There would also be any number of major shows featuring some of the greats of jazz representing the male of the species too such as the reunion of Larry Coryell’s Eleventh House featuring Randy Brecker, Marcus Miller, Roy Hargrove, Erik Truffaz, Vijay Iyer, Joey DeFrancesco, newly named NEA Jazz Master Dr. Lonnie Smith, Fred Hersch and dozens more. It’s always tough to choose what days to attend the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal as you know you’ll be missing some magical moments. I’ll take what I got this year and look forward to the 38th edition in 2017 as the men AND the WOMEN of jazz gather to thrill the crowds again in the beautiful, magical city!

Russ Davis

Russ Davis produces and presents the only jazz program – “Jazz America” – for the U.S. Government Service, Voice of America. He also programs and presents the online modern jazz channel MOJA Radio, a subscription service. You can hear a number of free programs, including the latest Jazz America show by visiting MOJA Radio’s website… http://www.mojaradio.com

Posted by: russdavis | July 3, 2016

Remembering 1941 @ The 2016 Montreal Jazz Fest!

Montreal_logo_2011In a slightly “out of left field” kind of way the year 1941 became an important one at the 37th Montreal Jazz Festival on day three, 1 July 2016 which also just happened to be Canada Day. During my daily walk up to the top of Mount Royal I ran into the Canada Day parade downtown. So a festive air was already established in a city abuzz with the national holiday as well as one of the world’s greatest jazz festivals. I set out to investigate this connection between these two years in two different centuries and here’s my report.

What was happening in 1941? Well, the United States had just been forced into involvement in the terrible 2nd World War and in the time of this horribly negative event there were some positive things to note. A baby boy was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts named Armando Anthony Corea. His Aunt Millie would pinch his cheeks and say something that sounded like “chicky, chicky, chicky!” He immediately became known as Chick. You may remember that this youngster went on to become an NEA Jazz Master and this June 12th turned 75 years old!

There was another birth in 1939 that was pretty important and it also involved jazz music. The term “Bebop” was being used to describe a new style that was now in full swing, bringing some creativity and positivity to a world in turmoil. A gentleman named Alfred Lion, who had founded a recording label he named Blue Note in 1939, was drafted into the army in 1941. He would leave for military service but he would not let the jazz community down as he kept Blue Note going and left it in the hands of his associates. In 2016 the world celebrates 75 years of great jazz releases that have thrilled fans for these many decades. Both Chick Corea’s 75th birthday and the celebration of Blue Note’s 75th anniversary became big events here in Montreal.

Chick Corea at 75I began the night with another visit to the beautiful, new home of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Maison Symphonique, which on this night would be the home of the Chick Corea Trio featuring two old friends and long time associates, Christian McBride on bass and Brian Blade on drums. This would be an all acoustic set with Chick on acoustic piano so with all the stylistic directions the trio could have gone in, considering the variety in Chick’s musical approach over the decades, this one would be limited to what could be achieved without electric instrumentation.

With the obviously immense talent on stage there was much that could be achieved, and in this case it became kind of a “Greatest Jazz Hits of the 20th Century!” Those hits included two of Chick’s classics as he began the show with “500 Miles High” and also included “Awakening” in the set list. We were treated to classics like Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady,” “Someday My Prince Will Come,” Bud Powell’s “Tempus Fugit,” two Thelonious Monk classics back to back and more standards. It all featured Chick’s always-masterful touch on the piano and his entertaining commentary between tunes. Plus, if you are a fan of extended acoustic bass and drum solos then with Mr. McBride and Mr. Blade you were treated to lots of that at it’s highest level. It was a great pleasure to join in the celebration of Chick Corea’s 75th birthday that features Chick and his various compatriots touring the world to give all of us a treasured gift!

Robert Glasper & Russ (MTL-'10)Compressed

Robert Glasper hanging with Russ Davis in Montreal!

I was again off to the Theatre Maisonneuve to take in a performance that had me guessing as to what I might hear. There are over 75 years of recorded work for the “Blue Note 75 Band” to choose from, so I wondered if they would play only songs from the massive recorded history of this legendary, and still very active, jazz record label. I entered the show already in progress and heard an hour by six of the current young stars of the Blue Note label…Robert Glasper, Lionel Loueke, Ambrose Akinmusire, Marcus Strickland, Derrick Hodge and Kendrick Scott.

What I heard was not a collection of updated oldies from the Blue Note catalog but instead the new sound of Blue Note in the form of the compositions from these six young gentlemen who are pushing jazz music and the legacy of Blue Note Records itself forward in a most creative way. There was no particular reliance on electronic music, though Mr. Glasper certainly used electric keys effectively and Lionel Loueke played his electric guitar though some devices that gave it an otherworldly sound from time to time. There was also not much reflection of what is happening in modern music, establishing rifts and repeating them with simple beats a al dance and hip hop. Instead what the gentlemen offered was a full sounding production of new, creative, sometimes free jazz with expert playing and an exhibition of compositional skill at a high level. Blue Note appears to be in good hands as it begins its next 75 years.

Charlie Hunter & Russ (MTL 13) 001I had one last stop on my way to the end of the night and this would be a visit to the friendly confines of one of my favorite and most intimate of venues, the converted church called the Gesu. The terraced seats leading down to the sunken stage give you the feeling of being face to face with the performers, not to mention up close and personal. It was the perfect setting to see a trio and in this case it was the latest Charlie Hunter Trio featuring Bobby Previte on drums and Alan Ferber on trombone with Charlie playing bass, rhythm and lead simultaneously on his 7-string guitar.

Much of the set was taken from the 2015 self-produced and released recording titled Let The Bells Ring On, a collection of Charlie Hunter compositions featuring Mr. Previte and trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, that did not receive wide distribution or promotion. I was lucky to pick up a copy in Archambault, one of the large Montreal record stores (yes, they do still exist and Montreal has some great ones) so I was ready for what I would hear. What I heard was the coolest of groove marked by Charlie’s one-of-a-kind guitar work, the masterful beats of the master drummer Bobby Previte and sometimes full sounding and sometimes muted trombone by Alan Ferber. The vibe was great, the groove relentless, the playing superb and a special feature was the marriage of Charlie’s guitar with the trombone as they played in unison and harmony with delightful results. A splendid time was had by all, and it was a fitting end to another marvelous day of music at the Montreal Jazz Fest!

Russ Davis

Russ Davis produces and presents the only jazz program – “Jazz America” – for the U.S. Government Service, Voice of America. He also programs and presents the online modern jazz channel MOJA Radio, a subscription service. You can hear a number of free programs, including the latest Jazz America show by visiting MOJA Radio’s website… http://www.mojaradio.com

Montreal_logo_2011According to the mythology I was taught as a young lad, angels had wings that allowed them to fly anywhere and their instrument of choice was the harp. It seems a couple of them flew into Quebec for the 37th edition of this grand Festival International de Jazz de Montreal and were accompanied by some of their fellow celestial musicians who created some heavenly sounds on my first day at the 2016 Montreal Jazz Fest. Let me explain.

On June 30th I arrived in Montreal to cover what I believe is my 11th festival in a row. Time does indeed fly when one is having fun, and it’s all a delightful blur at this point. After checking in and making my way to the city’s cultural center, the Place des Arts, where all the indoor and outdoor events for the festival happen, I was greeted by the sound of the dreamy blending of trumpet and harp coming from the largest of the many outdoor stages for free performances, The Scene TD, where the audience was being mesmerized by the Manchester, England based trumpeter Matthew Halsall & his Gondwana Orchestra, featuring the otherworldly harp work of Rachel Gladwin. This group of inventive improvisers blended horns, reeds and woodwinds, with keyboards and the harp for an inviting mix that just wouldn’t let me go. I imagined Alice Coltrane turning her ears to listen and nodding with deep approval. I was on my way to the next show and venue but the magic of this groups sound was most enticing. I will certainly investigate them some more in the future, to be sure.

Wynton & Russ 2011My next stop was the beautiful Maison Symphonique, the newest of the venues in the Place des Arts, where Wynton Marsalis and his legendary Jazz @ Lincoln Center Orchestra would hold court in front of a packed house. As I took my seat I noticed that the audience was decidedly on the “older” side, shall we say. I thought of the statement one hears quite often that jazz has seen its best days and that it may have become a museum piece if the music does not move forward in some way. There are many ways to look at that and knowing how, as even Wynton himself would explain from the stage, that the Orchestra was established to celebrate and carry on the tradition of Duke Ellington, one might think you’d be hearing a nostalgic performance. Well, yes, and no.

Wynton, who “leads” the band from the back row of the orchestra and shines a large light on each and every one of the members of his incredible group of players as they take their leads or offer their own compositions and/or arrangements to the set, most certainly loves the traditions he exhibits, but obviously loves the music far to much to let it be stale. He and the band most certainly played Ellington as well as Thelonious Monk and Chick Corea compositions but also new work from members of the orchestra and each piece was played with supreme virtuosity and emotion. Everything seemed fresh and new, as if it was music being played for the first time. No museum piece on exhibition in this show!

I was off to the next venue after hearing the first set by Wynton and company. That’s the joy and the problem with great festivals like Montreal…the embarrassment of riches that is the fully packed lineup of overlapping shows. I made my way to the Theatre Maisonneuve via the underground passageway that links most of the venues. You may know how wicked the winters are in this lovely city and there are miles of underground walkways to help on cold nights. This was a warm summer evening but it’s still a welcome and quick passageway from place to place. I settled in to hear the brilliant pianist from Japan, Hiromi Uehara, and her great trio featuring bassist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips. But first, the audience was to be treated to an opening set by another of the musical angels of the harp, the wonder that is the man from Bogota, Colombia, Edmar Castaneda.

220px-Edmar_Castañeda_at_Marcus_plus_2011Mr. Castaneda was born in Bogota and is the son of a Colombian harp player so he grew up with the perfect teacher. He soaked up the influence of this traditional instrument and the styles of Colombian, Venezuelan and other South American music as well as that of Africa. He moved to New York City in 1994 and began to make friends and musical associates in high places and made his name in the NYC scene, working with the likes of Wynton Marsalis, John Scofield, Joe Locke and many more. During his astounding set he seemed to be making more music than one person with two hands and a single instrument can produce. He played everything from music with those original influences to songs dedicated to Jaco Pastorius and Jesus of Nazareth, the latter displaying his deeply religious side, which came out in his music as well as his on stage comments. He understood his place as a lead-on act and put in his 45 minutes with great style. The standing ovation and roar of approval he received brought on an encore and a satisfied audience settled in for Hiromi and company.

Hiromi Uehara is a wonder of nature. This kind of talent doesn’t come along that often in history. There are a number of wonderfully talented keyboardists in jazz today but, in my humble opinion, none with talent, virtuosity, spirit, uniqueness and creativity greater than hers. Every fiber of her being is engaged when she plays be it during a gentle interlude that might lead to a rousing, roof-blowing passage. She is engaged with her instrument, her fellow musicians and the audience in equal measure. As the work of brain-mapping develops I would certainly like to witness what goes on inside this young woman’s mind while she creates. It might be like existing inside a tornado. She attacks the piano like a tiger, sometimes standing while she plays but always moving. She sounds like two or three players at once as she manipulates the left and right hands to play bass, chords and single notes at seemingly the same time in such a rapid pace. Luckily she has two veterans like Anthony Jackson and Simon Phillips who can keep up and enhance what she does. She certainly shows her appreciation for their support and talent each chance she gets and one knows how much they must appreciate working with such a rare, unique and enormous talent like Hiromi.

HiromiThe set is all her original material and the output has been prodigious over the years of her career that began when she was a teenager. She was in a way “discovered” in Tokyo by Chick Corea, who invited her to join him in a concert that became a kind of “coming out party” for Hiromi. She made her way to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, studied with Ahmad Jamal then struck out on her own as a solo recording artist in 2003. Her set included every form of jazz you might expect from a brilliant talent with such a deep and powerful mind as Hiromi possesses. At times you might hear a taste of the blues followed by a hint of pure swing, then jazz-rock-fusion that would make Chick Corea or Joe Zawinul applaud. There might be a modern, repeating pattern established and embellished with electric keys that would morph into some good, old Harlem stride style followed by nouveau-classical a la Beethoven…and all in one piece. After being treated to over an hour of this breathtaking music including a rousing encore the buzzing crowd made its way into the warm Montreal night. What a beginning to my four days at the 37th Festival International de Jazz de Montreal!

Russ Davis

<I>Russ Davis produces and presents the only jazz program – “Jazz America” – for the U.S. Government Service, Voice of America. He also programs and presents the online modern jazz channel MOJA Radio, a subscription service. You can hear a number of free programs, including the latest Jazz America show by visiting <A HREF=http://www.mojaradio.com>MOJA Radio’s website</a>.</I>

Detroit Jazz Fest Logo

Pat Metheny on stage at the 2015 Detroit Jazz Fest!

Pat Metheny on stage at the 2015 Detroit Jazz Fest!

It’s always hard to leave Detroit after the 4 days of this glorious event that runs each year over the Labor Day Holiday weekend, this year Friday through Monday, September 4th through the 7th. The music is great, the people are knowledgeable music fans, friendly, welcoming, proud of their city and in a festive mood. The festival occurs in the splendid downtown area with multiple venues all within short walking distance of one another and in a spectacular setting that includes the classically beautiful buildings of old Detroit juxtaposed with the modern, almost space age, look of the Renaissance Center and other new structures and the expansive Hart Plaza next to the Detroit River with Windsor, Ontario sparkling in the distance.

As for the music, I certainly won’t take the time and space to list all the performances that took place, you can go to the festival website at http://www.detroitjazzfest.com and get all the details, but the 36th edition of the festival billed as “The World’s Biggest Free Jazz Festival,” was once again nothing short of a non-stop jazz party. Under the direction of the festival’s artistic director Chris Collins, the lineup was varied in scope with an obvious focus on Detroit and its musical heritage, jazz history in general, the sound of the big band and large ensemble in jazz, an exhibition of artists from various generations and a special spotlight on the work of the 2015 “Artist In Residence,” Pat Metheny. The lineup may seem a bit short on the funky side of things as well as the more modern, electric, hip-hop flavored, techno-influenced jazz, but as more than one person said to me, “it’s great to come to a ‘REAL’ jazz festival.” That seems to be by design without a doubt.

Out of the almost 100 shows in the festival at least 10 were listed as part of what is called “The Homecoming Series” featuring performances by native Detroit musicians like Ron Carter, Kenny Garrett, James Carter, J.C. Heard and many more. In fact the first day, Friday, September 4th, featured Detroiters in the spotlight right from the beginning. A limited, 2-performance schedule kicked off the festivities as Chris Collins welcomed the Grammy-winning Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band joined by 4 master clarinetists, Anat Cohen, Paquito D’Rivera, Ken Peplowski and Eddie Daniels, and a trio of Detroit musicians, including piano legend Barry Harris, with a unique presentation in honor of Benny Goodman titled Benny’s Threads. The performance was complete with mannequins on stage dressed in 4 of Mr. Goodman’s actual suits and historical commentary by a gentleman who acquired those suits from the swing legend who just happened to be his former New York City neighbor. The next show on Friday featured the first of four performances by Pat Metheny and his trio of drummer Antonio Sanchez and bassist Scott Colley. The trio was joined on the last few tunes by Detroiter and current saxophone star Kenny Garrett. The set include everything from unique versions of Metheny’s “So May It Secretly Begin” to Garrett’s “Sing A Song Of Song” each given a new twist. The first day’s lineup was short but sweet and the Detroit Jazz Festival was off and running with a bang!

The toughest part of attending an event like the Detroit Jazz Festival is seeing the shows you want to see but knowing that you’ll be missing some performances that you’d also like to hear. On day 2, Saturday, September 5th, after the performances in the early afternoon featuring mostly local youth, high school and college big bands, the lineup included shows by Paquito D’Rivera, Maria Schneider Orchestra, Kenny Garrett, Brian Blade, Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, Stanley Jordan, Manuel Valera, James “Blood” Ulmer, Rene Marie, the all-star Mack Avenue Superband and Steve Turre in a celebration of Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s birthday with special guest James Carter. And those were the shows I was NOT able to attend. I had been asked to emcee performances at the Apsopure Waterfront Stage next to the Detroit River and there I spent the day in the company of and listening to the clarinetist from Israel, Anat Cohen, followed by Detroit guitarist Perry Hughes and his organ ensemble, alto saxophone sensation Rudresh Mahanthappa performing his latest work Bird Calls, and the second of 4 performances featuring Pat Metheny, this one being the reunion of the Gary Burton-Pat Metheny quartet. During this hot, steamy day I spent my time under the trees next to the river and when I was not listening to the performances I enjoyed my conversations with the artists who were all in a fantastic mood. It seemed like I had been invited to the family reunion of the music community, a continuing theme of the rest of the festival.

MOJA's Russ Davis interviewed jazz legend Oliver Lake at the 2015 Detroit Jazz Fest!

MOJA’s Russ Davis interviewed jazz legend Oliver Lake at the 2015 Detroit Jazz Fest!

MOJA's Russ Davis caught up with his old friend, the legendary JOHN SCOFIELD backstage at the 2015 Detroit Jazz Fest!

MOJA’s Russ Davis caught up with his old friend, the legendary JOHN SCOFIELD backstage at the 2015 Detroit Jazz Fest!

One of the features that sets Detroit apart from most any other festival is a series of conversations and presentations that occur under what they call the “Jazz Talk Tent” which is positioned right on Woodward Avenue in the middle of the festival grounds. On Saturday, Sunday and Monday, if you’d spent your time only in the tent, you might have learned more about the history of Detroit jazz, or the life and careers of Benny Goodman or Dizzy Gillespie with commentary by expert musicologists. Or you could have gotten up close and personal with artists like Monty Alexander, Eddie Daniels, Anat Cohen, Rene Marie, Steve Turre, James Carter, Joanne Bracken and Gordon Goodwin. I had the honor of conducting an interview and multi-media presentation with the great saxophonist, artist, poet, educator and general Renaissance man Oliver Lake. This occurred on Sunday afternoon and precluded me from hearing some of the great performances on this, the third day of the festival. I’ll place that in the category of “There’s a price to pay for every good thing!”

Sunday featured some interesting presentations that one would imagine artistic director Chris Collins, an educator, composer, player and arranger, was instrumental in putting together. Mr. Collins either led, condoned or commissioned various large ensemble, orchestra and/or big band presentations including one that fused Celtic music and Jazz under his direction, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra honoring the late great bassist and led by his old friends Carla Bley and Steve Swallow, Eddie Daniels with a jazz version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with the Detroit String Orchestra and Danilo Perez, who performed his Panama 500 at the festival in recent years, presenting his newly-commissioned Detroit World Suite.

As for small group shows, Pat Metheny, in his third of four festival presentations, performed in a duo setting with Detroit legend Ron Carter, emerging piano star Aaron Diehl led his trio, Ken Peplowski led his quartet, Richard Bona brought “World Jazz” to the festival with his ensemble presentation of what he called Mandekan Cubano and trumpeter Dave Douglas led his quintet. I was pleased to hear some of Mr. Douglas and his band pushing the musical envelope after I’d taken in another trio featuring drummer Will Calhoun, bassist Doug Wimbush and vocalist/percussionist Vinx doing some “envelope pushing” themselves as the trio Jungle Funk. Then I was off to hear Oliver Lake take the saxophone-organ combo to a new, inventive place with his Oliver Lake Organ Quartet. The man who may be best known for his work with his fellow musical adventurers in the World Saxophone Quartet, never wants to leave a musical stone unturned if there’s something rare and uniquely his own underneath. The open-minded jazz fans of Detroit “got it” with his new take on organ combo, as they seemed to with another performance that featured jazz of a more free nature by Rudresh Mahanthapa. I ended the day enjoying the high level give and take between two old friends that revisited their musical union that began when they were Berklee College of Music classmates in the 1970’s. Guitar master John Scofield and one of the reigning tenor sax giants Joe Lovano thrilled a packed Carhartt Amphitheater crowd with their performance and the third day of the festival was in the books on a high note!

With the day after Monday, Labor Day, being a work/school day, the Detroit Jazz Festival presents a slightly shorter schedule but that does not mean it’s short on quality or variety. This just might have been my favorite day of the festival, as near impossible as that is to imagine. The day included the Cuban-born legendary trumpeter Arturo Sandoval followed on the Chase Main Stage by Jamaica’s national treasure Monty Alexander with his Harlem-Kingston Express. Mr. Alexander’s performance brought even more heat to a 90+ degree day under a blazing sun that made things feel more like Kingston than Detroit. For lovers of great singers there was the perfect voice of the charming Carmen Lundy, followed on the Carhartt Amphitheater Stage by the dashing Ron Carter and his trio featuring equally dashing Russell Malone on guitar. I say dashing in that these gentlemen were immaculately dressed in matching, dark three piece suits and never seemed to break a sweat while they cranked out one cool jazz classic after another for an adoring audience. Youngblood trumpeter from New Orleans, Christian Scott, returned to the festival again this year and played at the same time as the legendary Joanne Brackeen who was joined by special guest Rudresh Mahanthapa who stayed overtime at the festival just to hang and have fun sitting in.

My two favorite shows of the day, and possibly the performances that had the greatest impact on me personally, both occurred on Sunday and featured drummer Will Calhoun in the second of two shows by groups led by him and the final performance by “Artist In Residence” Pat Metheny. I’d seen Will Calhoun the previous day with the Jungle Funk trio playing in a stripped down setting that featured his drum kit and various percussion devices with electronic embellishments, along with his long time associate Doug Wimbish on bass and some electronic toys of his own. Vocalist Vinx, who could probably sing opera or on the Broadway stage, also added percussion elements to the mix. It was jazz and funk, yes, but there was more than just that exhibited in the performance and I knew that when Mr. Calhoun took the stage on Sunday with his quartet, featuring rising keyboard star Marc Carey and saxophone master Greg Osby, that more modern innovation would be revealed. Truly there was as we heard everything from the standard “Afro Blue” to Will Calhoun originals, to rock and funk reminiscent of the sound of his band Living Color, and world music inspired by his travels all over Africa to investigate the source of American music. Marc Carey was brilliant on both acoustic piano and Fender Rhodes while Greg Osby’s contribution of his signature alto sound serving up his free, improvisational soul was the icing on a delicious cake. Will Calhoun’s pounding drum style together with his use of rare electronic percussion instruments made for a brilliant and unique performance.

To top off the festival and bring things full circle, Pat Metheny took the stage of the huge Carhartt Amphitheater with a massive ensemble, The Detroit Jazz Festival Big Band directed by Alan Broadbent along with Gary Burton on vibes, Scott Colley on bass and Pat’s old friend, drummer Danny Gottlieb, with whom he explained he had not played for 31 years. The set began with a big sounding piece of swinging jazz to loosen up the players and the audience. Then Mr. Metheny explained what would come next…the 35 minute piece that he had been commissioned to create by the German nation to salute one of their honored artists and a personal friend and associate of his and Gary Burton’s, German bassist Eberhard Weber, with whom Pat and Gary had recorded with in the 1970’s & ‘80’s on various projects on the ECM label. Mr. Weber had recently suffered a stroke that took away his ability to play music, so it was important to Pat to “include” him in some way on the creation of this work. His did this in a brilliant way as Metheny remembered having seen a German television special featuring a live performance by the master bassist playing his unique bass that he’d had made just for him and his own style. Not only did Pat lift the audio from those performances and weave them into the audio tracks for this new work but he also projected the image of Eberhard Weber actually playing live from the television special totally in sync with the live performance. It was nothing short of astounding! Seeing the performance as it blended with the live playing of this marvelous piece had brought Mr. Weber to the festival. Pat Metheny has certainly become a master of the long form in modern jazz and this work, soon to be released as Hommage A Eberhard Weber on ECM Records, is a brilliant addition to his long list of long-form masterpieces. The set ended as the full big band was replaced by the Detroit Jazz Festival String Orchestra backing up Mr. Metheny on some of his famous compositions like “Last Train Home” arranged by Alan Broadbent. The last song was a touching and personal rendition of Charlie Haden’s “First Song,” dedicated to Pat Metheny’s close friend who just recently passed away. On that gentle note the 36th Detroit Jazz Festival came to an end. I only hope that my mental faculties will allow my memory to remain active for years to come because once again a number of wonderful memories were created at this marvelous event!

Russ Davis

<I>Russ Davis produces and presents the only jazz program – “Jazz America” – for the U.S. Government Service, Voice of America. He also programs and presents the online modern jazz channel MOJA Radio, a subscription service. You can hear a number of free programs, including the latest Jazz America show by visiting http://www.mojaradio.com

Newport Jazz Fest Logo

The great Christian McBride (with MOJA's Russ Davis) returns to Newport again in 2015!

The great Christian McBride (with MOJA’s Russ Davis) returns to Newport again in 2015!

Michel Camilo (at Newport 2014 with Russ Davis) returns again this year for multiple shows!

Michel Camilo (at Newport 2014 with Russ Davis) returns again this year for multiple shows!

Kenny Garrett (with MOJA's Russ Davis) plays Newport 2015!

Kenny Garrett (with MOJA’s Russ Davis) plays Newport 2015!

The Mike Stern-Bill Evans Band (with MOJA's Russ Davis) play Newport 2015!

The Mike Stern-Bill Evans Band (with MOJA’s Russ Davis) play Newport 2015!

Snarky Puppy returns to Newport for the second year in a row!

Snarky Puppy returns to Newport for the second year in a row!

Over six decades ago when George Wein and his associates were cruising around the lovely seaside village of Newport, Rhode Island and deciding that this would be a perfect place to stage a grand celebration of jazz I wonder if they ran into F. Scott Fitzgerald, his wife Zelda and their friend Jay Gatsby on the rolling lawn of an expansive mansion atop the Newport cliffs overlooking the ocean? Gatsby would have liked what he saw and heard and he’d be there this year, along with thousands more jazz fans from everywhere, to enjoy 3 days of performances by jazz royalty from generations new and old from Friday, July 31st through Sunday, August 2nd at Fort Adams State Park.

As I take a look at the 60+ performances on the lineup I can’t help but notice a “changing of the guard” that is always inevitable in jazz history but is certainly pronounced this year as I see very few artists who’ll present music directly from bebop and more styles that spring from newer influences. That isn’t to say there won’t be any of the traditions of jazz history on display as artists from the Jazz Birthplace of New Orleans like Dr. John, Herlin Riley, Jon Batiste and Irvin Mayfield & the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra are all over the four stages at the fort. Plus there’s Lucky Peterson singing the blues, James Carter with a salute to Don Byas and special presentations celebrating the many historic performances by Miles Davis over the years at Newport. There will be great veterans bringing on the tradition when recently-named NEA Jazz Master Lou Donaldson plays the Harbor Stage on the last day, or when Pat Martino returns to his early days with his latest organ trio. There’s Jack DeJohnette presenting his “Made In Chicago” show, Tom Harrell and Jon Faddis joined by a host of young-bloods for sure to be great performances filled with tradition. There will be various big bands and jazz orchestras, including the award-winning Maria Schneider Orchestra and John Hollenbeck’s Large Ensemble, sure to draw at least a bit from that same traditional well.

The “World of Jazz” is on display too as Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra welcomes special guest Rudresh Mahantappa. Michel Camilo plays a duet performance with the brilliant Japanese-born pianist Hiromi after he performs the day before as a guest at Conrad Herwig’s “Latin Side of Horace Silver” show. One of the most highly anticipated shows features the teenage pianist Joey Alexander (born Joey Alexander Sila in Denpasar, Bali) who turned 12 on June 25th. He possesses incredible chops and has played jazz standards at a high level and by ear since his age was in single digits. He’s one of the current sensations of jazz without a doubt and I’m sure lots of folks will show up to see what everyone is talking about while they wonder if he might have the goods to be more than just a current curiosity. Speaking of international, Cuba sends the master trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, Canada sends Bria Skonberg and England’s popular pianist and vocalist Jamie Cullum actually plays the very last show of the festival on Sunday afternoon.

Speaking of vocalists, in addition to those I’ve already mentioned, the popular Jose James brings his blend of jazz, hip-hop and neo-soul to the festival. Plus three of the finest and most popular female voices in jazz, and from different generations, are set to play Newport 2015. The great Cassandra Wilson celebrates Billie Holiday, Lisa Fischer leads the band Grand Baton and young Ms. Cecile McLorin Salvant adds her soulful vocal style to her performance with the Aaron Diehl Trio possibly singing some standards as she does on her newest release For One To Love.

And the ladies of modern jazz are well represented. In addition to those I’ve noted previously there are bands led by Helen Sung, the aforementioned pianist Hiromi, who’s become quite the Newport favorite, leading her own trio in addition to playing in a duo with Michel Camilo. And from the experimental side of things comes Chicago-born saxophonist Ms. Matana Roberts pushing the musical envelope, as those members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) are known to do.

Speaking of music coming from the left side of things, i.e. experimental, funky or new fusion, there’s plenty to enjoy at Newport this year including the brilliant, fun, up and funky collaboration between guitarist Mike Stern and saxophonist Bill Evans. The current darlings of modern jazz, Snarky Puppy, return for the second year in a row to get both the younger and older generations of jazz fans revved up and then there’s Kneebody, another band who, like Snarky Puppy, were born out of the educational experience having been classmates at the Eastman School of Music. This eclectic quintet blends jazz, funk, hip-hop, electro pop, rock and who-knows-what for a pleasing and uplifting mix. No one pushes the envelope more than saxman/composer Steve Lehman, who plays one of the first sets of the festival on Friday. Staid, stale and predictable this Newport Jazz Festival is not.

Back to that “Changing of the Guard” element of this years festival, there are established greats like Kenny Garrett, Christian McBride, Jason Lindner, Billy Childs, James Carter, Frank Kimbrough, Bill Frisell and others playing alongside those from the younger generation reaching to find a similar level of recognition and success. Some of those in that group playing this year in Newport include pianist Gerald Clayton, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and pianists Aaron Diehl and Christian Sands

Now, lastly, something I feel needs to be said about the “Grandfather of all Jazz Festivals” and that Great Gatsby reference I made in the beginning of this piece. Jay Gatsby wasn’t hurting for cash, so he’s not going to have any problems hanging out at Fort Adams State Park for the three great days by the sea. He’s got lots of money in the bank, someone to drive him to and from the event and a VERY nice place to stay. What I’m getting at is that you need to REALLY want to attend this event, as it isn’t exactly easy to get to or cheap. Unless you live fairly close and can drive there yourself, there’s no mass transit directly to Newport so you’re looking at trains or planes to Boston or Providence followed by a bus trip. Newport isn’t a large city, it is in essence a quaint seaside village, so there aren’t ample accommodations with special deals so you may have to make a B&B reservation, stay in someone’s home via AirBNB or pay pretty high rates at the local hotels. There are deals on tickets for students and other discounts but it isn’t a free festival like Detroit where anyone from anywhere can just show up and enjoy jazz at the highest level for nothing. I’m not saying this as a put-down of the festival just a warning to be prepared.

Now don’t get me wrong. This is a one-of-a-kind event that has been around for over 6 decades for a reason. The scene is beautiful and the atmosphere is electric while also being relaxing. A festivalgoer feels as if he or she is witnessing history and that something special is going on, which it is. The artists that play there, veteran or up-and-coming, feel privileged and excited to be on the bill and they give inspired performances because of it. Newport itself is one of the most charming villages one is ever likely to set foot in. The people are bright and friendly and the shopping and restaurants, as well as the historical sites, will keep you busy and happy during the time you aren’t taking in the music. I’ve had any number of folks say to me…”Somewhere down the line I’ve got to make it to the Newport Jazz Festival!” I know the feeling and that’s why once again I’ll say “See you in NEWPORT!”

Russ Davis

<I>Russ Davis produces and presents the only jazz program – “Jazz America” – for the U.S. Government Service, Voice of America. He also programs and presents the online modern jazz channel MOJA Radio, a subscription service. You can hear a number of free programs, including the latest Jazz America show by visiting <A HREF=http://www.mojaradio.com>MOJA Radio’s website</a>.</I>

Snarky Puppy Poster (MTL 2015)Jaga Jazzist Poster (MTL 2015)Michael League of Snarky Puppy with Russ (MTL 2015)2015 Montreal Jazz Mid-Festival Review: Part Three! Attack From Norway and Mexico…Some Very Aggressive Puppies…it’s a wrap! ;>(

My final report of the experiences I enjoyed at the 36th edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal begins and ends with performances that were nothing short of spectacles instead of simply musical performances. And there was some very cool stuff in between. I remind you to go to the festival website at http://www.fijm.com and get all the details of the wonderful array of events that are what has to be the greatest jazz festival in the world. I’ve had five wonderful days here and I am departing with a heavy heart as I would love to stay for the next five days which will include shows by artists like Vijay Iyer, John Pizzarelli, Marc Cary, Madeleine Peryoux, Dee Dee Bridgewater, John Medeski, Ron Carter, Patricia Barber, Russell Malone, Abdullah Ibrahim, Oliver Jones and dozens more. Don’t get me started…I’ll begin to cry! ;>(

My first stop is to Saint Laurent Street and the familiar confines of Club Soda to hear the 8-piece wonder that is Norway’s Jaga Jazzist. Question…have you ever been in the path of a rampaging bull elephant coming right towards you that had no desire to get out of your way? That was the beginning, middle and end of the performance by these folks (seven men and one woman) who came from Oslo to serve up their unique blend of electric and acoustic instrumentation, rock-jazz-classical-electronica-who knows what, designed to assault and thrill the raving crowd that hung on every note. Standing on a stage among a field of 5-foot high blinking neon trees (you had to be there) the band exploded from the first note with joyous sound and spirit that was nothing short of astounding. There wasn’t much subtlety in this presentation, though there certainly are dynamics in the music, but the volume and performance was full throttle from the beginning to the end. Jaga Jazzist has been around since they were in their teens and now, almost 20 years later, their music has arrived at a point where their fully formed style is totally their own. With electric keyboards, guitar and bass, the versatile horns and woodwinds players who double as percussionists and vocalists, all driven by the pounding drums of Martin Horntveth, Jaga Jazzist served up music from their newest release Starfire and selected cuts from previous releases. There are almost no words to fully describe the style that is Jaga Jazzist music. When I imagine what people from say 150 years ago thought “the music of the future” would sound like, this is that music and these are the people who make it! It could qualify as many things stylistically. Though the band seems to play as a single unit moving through all the progressions and musical changes, there are occasional moments for the guitarist, saxophonist, flutist or keyboardist to take a brief lead before the single cell organism that is the band as a whole explodes and takes off again to soar to another exuberant peak. Just go see this band should you have the chance, but bring an open mind and be ready for VOLUME!!

I think my ears were still ringing after my night in Club Soda with Jaga Jazzist when I arrived for an interview/conversation I’d been looking forward to for a long time. Bassist, composer and bandleader of Snarky Puppy, Michael League, was taking the time to speak to press at the festival and I wanted to get the story behind the band that is a certified phenomenon and current darlings of modern jazz. I heard the story from this intelligent and personable young guy and discovered that the band, a bunch of college buddies who got together at that Denton, Texas music factory that is North Texas State University, boldly took off on their musical journey that’s taken them to Grammy awards and world travels, serving up their unique blend of various styles that have gathered a rabid following. I’d witness the group and those fans in action later in the day at a packed Metropolis. More to come on that…

I’d also been looking forward to witnessing firsthand another worldwide phenomenon, the duo from Mexico that call themselves Rodrigo Y Gabriela. What a story is this one, guitar-playing members of a Mexico City heavy metal band who decided to take off as a duo to busk on the streets of Europe. Before long they’d found a unique style, an audience, representation that booked them on the European festival circuit and as they played to stunned and thrilled audiences their style developed further. They’ve recorded with accompanying musicians like a 13-piece orchestra from Cuba, sitar great Anoushka Shankar and others, but their bread and butter is playing as a duo and most of their releases are live recordings from around the world. Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero could not remember if they’d played Montreal before until an audience member told them it was their second time. Hey, give them a break. They are living out of suitcases, and guitar cases, and they’re all over the place all the time. This was the end of a short North American tour and they’d be leaving again for Europe the next day. In the meantime they had one more powerful set to unleash on a packed house in the beautiful Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier that knew every song and hung on every note. They know how to get friendly with an audience and even invited about 30 or 40 of them to join them onstage to dance along with them while they played.

The message in the performance by Rodrigo Y Gabriela is “simple” and that means musically and emotionally. They mentioned that they didn’t usually play to seated audiences, thus the invitation to join them on stage and to rise to your feet if you are sitting while they play. I’ll call the performance “The Beautiful People Play Heavy-Metal Flamenco.” These two are, shall we say, easy to look at! They can certainly play but back to the term simple. There is plenty of improvisation by each of them but the music is mostly about the rhythm as they kick into simple chord progressions, repeat them and kick up their heels while they invite the audience to do the same. It’s a party! They use their guitars like congas so they need no percussionists and the audience keeps the beat with constant clapping. If you don’t want to get up and have fun you have probably come to the wrong show. Flamenco purists might want to stay home too and if you’re looking for intricate compositions this ain’t your show either. Sometimes I felt like they were playing the song they’d just played, but who cares? It’s fun and sometimes that’s exactly what you need!

The final chapter of my Montreal 2015 journey came inside the cavernous club/edifice/cave that is Metropolis. To fill this place you’ve got to bring a big crowd with big energy and create a big sound. All of the above occurred with the Snarky Puppy show on Tuesday night, June 30th, my last in Montreal this year. In the conversation with Michael League that I mentioned earlier I discovered that though jazz is certainly a big part of the musical message of the band it’s only a portion of what they have to offer stylistically and they feel no major obligation to carry jazz on their backs further into the 21st century. I’d seen them perform at the 2014 Newport Jazz Festival and they gave a very “jazzy” show that had baby boomers and teenagers in the crowd both bobbing their heads and tapping their feet together. On this night in Montreal they knew they had a rabid, loud, young crowd that was mostly standing and ready to rock. Michael League had told me that gospel and soul music had been original, major influences along with rock and jazz and the set began with a soulful groove that quickly exploded into full-blown rock. There have been 30 musicians who’ve been part of the band at one time or another and I learned that they still come and go from time to time. On this evening there were 8 Puppies on stage, two drummer/percussionists, two keyboardists/trumpeter/percussionists, 2 multi horn/woodwinds players, bass and guitar. The sound was big and electric and it needed to be! There was the occasionally horn lead to give the set some jazz element along with some familiar Snarky Puppy funk and hip hop passages and even a guest vocalist, from Montreal no less, who joined in with a very soulful presentation and a spirited rap to complete the mix. It was another spectacular show at this marvelous festival and I can’t wait until the 37th edition in 2016!

Russ Davis

<I>Russ Davis produces and presents the only jazz program – “Jazz America” – for the U.S. Government Service, Voice of America. He also programs and presents the online modern jazz channel MOJA Radio, a subscription service. You can hear a number of free programs, including the latest Jazz America show by visiting <A HREF=http://www.mojaradio.com>MOJA Radio’s website</a>.</I>

Kurt Rosenwinkel-A Man and his Devices!

Kurt Rosenwinkel-A Man and his Devices!

Robert Glasper hanging with Russ Davis in Montreal!

Robert Glasper hanging with Russ Davis in Montreal!

Molly Johnson-Because of Billie2015 Montreal Jazz Mid-Festival Review: Part Two!

Let me give you more of my experiences enjoyed at the 36th edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal after I remind you to go to the festival website at www.fijm.com and get all the details of the wonderful array of events that are what has to be the greatest jazz festival in the world. My first stop took me inside the friendly confines of the two-tiered Club Soda to hear one of Canada’s greatest vocalists, now and ever, Molly Johnson. Ms. Johnson has recently released her salute to the 100th birthday of Billie Holiday titled Because of Billie and dare I say hers, among the many from some of the most famous singers working today, is my personal favorite. She does not in any way attempt to imitate the Billie Holiday style. She’s just sings in her natural way in a style that’s helped establish herself as one of the current greats, and it lends itself to singing Holiday classics just perfectly. The three musicians she worked with on this night were old friends and after a few tunes everyone inside Club Soda was a friend as well. We learned intimate details delivered in such a lighthearted, friendly and sly way that pretty soon one felt as if they were sitting in Molly’s living room, having some drinks and conversation while she entertained us with some songs. I can’t remember a more pleasant vocal performance in years.

 

My next stop was a short walk across Saint Laurent Street to a grand hall that had not hosted a Montreal Jazz Festival in a decade, but has certainly housed an event or two over the century plus of its existence. The beautiful Monument National was the site of many important artistic and political-cultural events over the decades with the latest being the performance by Grammy-winning keyboardist Robert Glasper and his acoustic trio featuring Vicente Archer on bass and drummer Damon Reid. They’ve just released a new acoustic album of versions of other people’s music. Thus the title Covered. The set began with a song that Mr. Glasper announced had not made the cut on the album due to legal reasons, Prince’s “Sign Of The Times.” In fact Robert began the set with a 2-3 minute comedy routine that made me remember how difficult it must be to “be funny.” It also made me want to remind Robert to stay with his day job as he’s really good at that. He’s one heck of a piano player and proved it throughout the set. I must say that there were times when the spacial, minimalistic approach featuring repetitive phrases played over a modern, funky rhythm as a bed for improvisation gets a little tired no matter how high level the improvising is. I got the sense that Mr. Glasper is still working things out with this new arrangement and he certainly has all the skills to make it a success.

 

My next stop would take me inside the intimate setting of the old church that became a “down-under” concert space, the Gesu, to hear guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel in one of three performances at the festival this year. This show was with his new quartet featuring keyboardist Aaron Parks, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Allan Mednard. When I noticed that Aaron Parks was working with Mr. Rosenwinkel I felt it was certain that he’d bring out the gentler side of Kurt’s musical personality and from the beginning it seemed to be true as the first piece began in a softer vein but rose in intensity as the piece progressed. There was plenty of spice in this set, if that is actually what variety is made of in life as well as music, as there were moments of hard, driving, pure swing and songs filled with a soaring quality as the band cranked out a collection of improvised, original hymns and anthems. Kurt added wordless vocal to most of the tunes as he wore a wireless microphone under his signature military style cap and matched his clean guitar lines with his voice. At times Mr. Parks matched Kurt’s guitar with electric piano lines as well as acoustic piano and I closed my eyes and seemed to hear the classic sound of 20th century Pat Metheny Group music with those great South American vocalists joining with Pat’s guitar, Lyle Mays’s piano and Steve Rodby’s bass lines. Wait a minute…this was Kurt, Aaron and Eric Revis I was listening to! Whatever the case, it was a fine and pleasing set played by some of the current masters of jazz in this century!

 

I returned to the Theatre Maisonneuve to take in the first few tunes of the set by the John Scofield-Joe Lovano quartet featuring Bill Stewart on drums and Larry Grenadier on bass or, as I call the band, “Two Beards and The Boys!” John and Joe had famously been together back in the 20th century in the John Scofield Quartet. It was a decidedly funkier style then as John led the band with his funky, buzzing guitar out front. In the case of what I heard on this night in Montreal it seems both gentlemen are out front, trading composing duties and presenting a much more traditional approach. I heard three songs to start the set that showed the guys swinging hard and Mr. Lovano channeling his inner Coltrane while Mr. Scofield played with a cleaner sound and channeled his inner Kenny Burrell. It appears that this is what we can expect from their coming release, apparently on the way in the autumn. All in all the set of music was very professional and most pleasing.

 

The next chapter of my Montreal 2015 journey begins with a question. When was the last time the world was invaded by an army from Norway? Well that band of electro-acoustic vandals known as Jaga Jazzist invaded Club Soda and took it by storm. I was there to witness it and somehow survived. I’ll tell you that story in my next installment.

 

Russ Davis

 

<I>Russ Davis produces and presents the only jazz program – “Jazz America” – for the U.S. Government Service, Voice of America. He also programs and presents the online modern jazz channel MOJA Radio, a subscription service. You can hear a number of free programs, including the latest Jazz America show by visiting <A HREF=http://www.mojaradio.com>MOJA Radio’s website</a>.</I>

Al Di Meola salutes the Montreal Crowd!

Al Di Meola salutes the Montreal Crowd!

Stanley Clarke with MOJA's Russ Davis

Stanley Clarke with MOJA’s Russ Davis

Bebel Gilberto charms the Montreal Crowd!

Bebel Gilberto charms the Montreal Crowd!

Al Di Meola & Russ (MTL 2015) (2)How can one write a postscript for a festival that’s still going on? The answer is I can’t stay for the whole ten, glorious days of the 36th edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal. So I’ll give you some personal highlights from my five days here and ask you to go to the festival website at www.fijm.com and get all the details of the astounding variety and depth of styles exhibited in the massive lineup of hundreds of artists and dozens of performances, indoor and outside, paid and free, that represent what has to be the greatest jazz festival in the world.

 

My activities began not long after landing in the city as Al Di Meola met the press with his acceptance of MILES DAVIS AWARD bestowed upon an artist who has pushed the envelope in jazz, a la Miles, over the years. No one has taken more chances and presented the music in a more varied and inventive approach, from electric to acoustic and with everything from rock-jazz to Latin and Middle Eastern influences than has the man from New Jersey, guitar god Al Di Meola. Festival co-founder and director Andre Menard chatted with Al for a while, invited questions from the press then handed over the golden statue. Al was truly thrilled and touched and said so in conversation I enjoyed with him after the ceremony. We talked about his many Montreal Jazz Festival experiences over the years, his return to electric guitar with his current tour and latest album Elysium. It was off to sound check for Al and off to the streets of Montreal for me.

 

After my usual trek to the top of Mount Royal to get the blood flowing and to take in the impressive view of the city below, I was off to hear my first live music. Inside the two-tier venue Club Soda a packed house waited to hear one of the reigning queens of Brazilian music, the daughter of Astrid, Bebel Gilberto. Her blending of traditional Brazilian style with a modern approach complete with a smattering of electronics to give things a 21st century twist made for a perfect compliment to her charming voice and stage presence. The crowd knew her and her music and everyone got along well!

 

On my way to the beautiful Theatre Maisonneuve for Al Di Meola’s show the air was filled with the sights and sounds of the festival in the street with thousands gathered to hear free music on outdoor stages all over the downtown area surrounding the Place des Artes, the grand square that holds the many venues and outdoor plaza and the Montreal Modern Art Museum. Every city should have a physical center for culture, but few cities “get it” like this one does. I entered through one of the portals that leads underground to the entrance to the theatre and got ready for Al’s show. Since there are about 7 months of pretty cold weather here the city has done a great job of keeping things comfortable with miles and miles of underground spaces. While the crowd soaked up the rare, warm night outside, another crowd, a packed house of mostly baby-boomers, filled the Theatre Maisonneve in anticipation of the start of what is billed as the “Electric Gypsy & More Electric Tour 2015.”

 

Al told me that the Canadian and Worldwide audiences, even more than the American audience, had been clamoring for him to put together an electric tour that would remind them of his more electric, fusion days as opposed to most of his recent efforts that had been more world music in nature with his legendary World Sinfonia band. Then there was his release All Your Life, his salute to the Beatles recorded at Abbey Road Studios, which was mostly acoustic with just a touch of electric element, pointing to his new electro-acoustic release Elysium and this new electric-dominated tour. Al and his compatriots, which included veteran keyboardist Philippe Saisse and percussionist Gumbi Ortiz, both longtime Di Meola friends and associates, took to the stage and lit a fire that never stopped. The crowd was hungry for some of those familiar classics with fusion-era energy and they were not disappointed. The set included music from Return To Forever as well as the albums Elegant Gypsy, Casino and Splendido Hotel.

 

To top things off, Al sprung a surprise on the crowd that made this show unique in every way. He told the story of a young man who had attended their show in Toronto just the night before. A tall, strapping young dude from Detroit who had driven to see Al and the band and brought his violin with him. He asked to come backstage to meet the band afterwards, telling Al that he might be young but he knew his music very well and went about the business of showing him on the spot. He was so impressive that Al invited him to come to Montreal and play some tunes with them. He did just that and was absolutely astounding, playing right along with the band during the two songs he played as if he’d rehearsed with them for years and actually traded licks with Al’s fiery, improvised lines, matching him note for note and nuance for nuance. I can’t remember ever seeing or hearing anything quite like this and it left the crowd stunned and me wondering how I was going to top this for amazing performances as the festival progressed.

 

My next stop took me to hear young trumpeter Theo Croker in the close, friendly confines of the Club L’Astral on the ground floor of the building that houses the Festival offices and archives, the Maison Du Festival. The intriguing story of Theo’s big break and debut album, Afrophysicist, is that he was in the horn section backing up Dee Dee Bridgewater in China and she was so impressed with him that she offered to produce his album. On stage with him in Montreal were three more young guys like himself who looked to be a group of college kids but played masterfully, blending modern beats and sensibilities with acoustic instrumentation with inviting results. Theo’s set was another example of the fact that the future of jazz is here, it’s found new rhythms and is in the good hands of inventive, young musicians.

 

My first day was topped off with a set that frankly surprised me. I didn’t quite know what to expect from the trio of veteran all-stars that bill themselves as NeTTwork. They are bassist Charnett Moffett, drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts and guitarist, and on this evening pianist too, Stanley Jordan. The surprises came in the form of seeing Mr. Jordan playing his familiar tapping style on the guitar while simultaneously playing piano, hearing Mr. Watts playing drums in a completely groove and free style with almost no swing rhythm throughout the set, and hearing the mastery and versatility of Charnett Moffett that was astounding. Mr. Moffett led the way playing two basses through various devices. At once playing in a powerful free style, then in a funky groove mode, followed by an ethereal, flowing style on another bass that he programmed to sound like a sitar. East meets West meets South meets Mars. I like surprises and this was one of them and I look forward to more from NeTTwork!

 

Day two brought a return trip to the beautiful Theatre Maisonneuve for another sold out house filled with more of those fusion-loving baby boomers who packed the place to hear the newest edition of The Stanley Clarke Band. This time Stanley unleashed the incredible keyboard talent that is the Georgia-born (Tiblisi…not Atlanta) Beka Gochiashvili who is only a teenager but plays like a seasoned master. He was joined by his fellow youngsters…20-somethings Mike Mitchell and Cameron Graves. Where DOES Stanley find these young guys? Wherever they come from they blended their talents with the master to bring the crowd to their feet several times. Stanley’s Grammy-nominated latest release UP was not the focus of the set as he began with a Return To Forever classic and followed that with a salute to the recent passing of his old friend and musical collaborator George Duke. “Brazilian Love Affair” was brilliant and uplifting and the set only progressed from there to what I’m sure became one of the great peaks of this fabulous festival. Luckily I’m going to be around for three more days and I’ll check in with another report very soon!

 

Russ Davis

 

<I>Russ Davis produces and presents the only jazz program – “Jazz America” – for the U.S. Government Service, Voice of America. He also programs and presents the online modern jazz channel MOJA Radio, a subscription service. You can hear a number of free programs, including the latest Jazz America show by visiting <A HREF=http://www.mojaradio.com>MOJA Radio’s website</a>.</I>

Andre Menard & Alain Simard, the guys who started it all with the 1980 Montreal Jazz Fest, here with MOJA's Russ Davis

Andre Menard & Alain Simard, the guys who started it all with the 1980 Montreal Jazz Fest, here with MOJA’s Russ Davis

Snarky Puppy represents the new wave of Modern Jazz at this year's festival in Montreal!

Snarky Puppy represents the new wave of Modern Jazz at this year’s festival in Montreal!

The legendary Wayne Shorter, just one of the jazz greats playing this year's Montreal Jazz Festival!

The legendary Wayne Shorter, just one of the jazz greats playing this year’s Montreal Jazz Festival!

Montreal_logo_2011

Back in the late 1970’s a couple of young friends, Andre Menard and Alain Simard, were sitting around in the beautiful city of Montreal, Quebec and dreaming of putting together a grand jazz festival that would do justice to their hometown that people around the world now call “The City of Festivals,” As I prepare for the 36th edition of The Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, and my 11th straight trip there, I’d like to give you a quick view of what 2015 festival goers can look forward to during the 10 days of this glorious event that runs from the 26th of June through July 5th. I certainly won’t take the time and space to list all the performances that will take place, you can go to the festival website at www.fijm.com and get all the details, but I am always astounded at the variety and depth of styles exhibited in the massive lineup that truly presents something for everyone. The festival features plenty of jazz to qualify the name of the gathering but there’s a decidedly international flavor with artists from all over the globe exhibiting the sound of their respective regions. There’s also rock, pop, techno, hip-hop, soul and blues aplenty to keep anyone looking for variety happy and busy as they run from stage to stage soaking up the music in the dozens of free shows that accompany the paid performances in Montreal’s beautiful indoor venues.

As with many festivals, especially one with the scope and expense involved with an event like this one, major sponsors and big-ticket pop artists pay the bills for the lesser known acts. It’s the former that brings in the bucks and the crowds and the latter that gets my attention. I’m looking for the artists from around the world that I may have heard of but never seen and/or the ones I’ve never heard of that will be that one, big surprise that makes my festival experience complete. This year pop artists like Steve Miller, Huey Lewis & The News, Erykah Badu & Joss Stone will bring in the crowds and pay the bills and with the passing of legendary blues giant B.B. King, who played the festival in 2014, the last day of the event will feature a host of Quebec’s finest blues performers in a grand celebration of Mr. King in a free outdoor show in the center of the city.

Now, let’s talk Jazz. The biggest names in jazz will also pack the beautiful indoor venues around the Place des Arts, the city center where the festival events happen, all within walking distance of one another. During the 10 days of the festival one can see jazz legends like Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Addullah Ibrahim, Harold Maybern, Buster Williams with Gary Bartz and Canadian treasures Oliver Jones and Vic Vogel. From the current generation of established jazz stars playing Montreal this year take your pick of performances from the likes of Al Di Meola, playing electric this year and the recipient of the festival’s “Miles Davis Award” as well, John Scofield with Joe Lovano, The Bad Plus with Joshua Redman, Eliane Elias, Stanley Clarke, Dee Dee Bridgewater, John Medeski playing solo piano, Patricia Barber, John Pizzarelli, Russell Malone, Avishai Cohen, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Renee Rosnes, Stanley Jordan with Charnett Moffett & Jeff “Tain” Watts, Bill Frisell, Dave Douglas…well you get the idea.

And if there is anyone out there who still thinks that jazz is a stagnant art form with no emerging stars, then all you need to do is either start paying better attention, come to my home and listen to all the incredible new music that comes my way every week and/or come to Montreal this year to hear the likes of Theo Croker, Christian Scott, Robert Glasper in a trio setting, Vijay Iyer, Julian Lage with Nels Cline, Marc Carey, and the current darlings of jazz who’ve won Grammys and thrilled crowds from Newport to The Netherlands, Snarky Puppy. And just to prove that this is truly a local festival you’re invited to take in some of the fantastic Canadian talent on the festival lineup including the incredible vocalist Molly Johnson in her salute to Billie Holiday, Jane Bunnett & her band filled with Cubans called Maqueque, singer Ranee Lee, Jesse Cook, Alain Caron with John Roney and the Moutin twins and their Moutin Factory Quintet to name a few of many, many more!

Then there’s that international element that sets Montreal apart from most every festival out there. I’ve always said that visiting Montreal is like going to Europe without leaving North America, but during festival time it’s more like traveling the musical world while staying in one place. Festival co-founder and director Andre Menard told me last year that 37 countries were represented in the list of artists who made their way to Montreal to play. I dare say that there may be even more this year. There’s a healthy representation from Africa including Richard Bona, vocalist Somi performing music from her album The Lagos Music Salon. Israel is well represented with the likes of Gilad Hekselman and the aforementioned Avishai Cohen. From Norway comes my current favorite electro-acoustic large ensemble Jaga Jazzist and vocalist Sondre Lerche. England’s soulful singer and pianist Jamie Cullum is on the bill. The Mexican duo of Rodriguo Y Gabriela, who began life in a Mexico City thrash metal band then broke away to form their duo to busk on the streets of Europe, then record with a Havana big band will bring their big sound to Montreal. Speaking of Cuba, pianist Alfredo Rodriquez is well established and promises to put on a fabulous show in Montreal. From France there’s Richard Galliano & Sylvain Luc and many, many more that promise to reward festival attendees with surprising performances filled with international flavor.

So you see, there’s much to enjoy at the 36th Montreal Jazz Festival. To give you a taste of what to expect you can hear my preview in my 2-hour show Jazz America that I produce for the U.S. Government service Voice of America. I’ve posted it on my MOJA Radio website, as I do each week. It will be available for free listening on demand now through Sunday, June 21st at www.russdavismoja.com/voice-america-2/.

As you can see I’m pretty excited about my eleventh trip in a row to Montreal for this great event, but the bad part is that I just can’t be there for all 10 days. I suppose I’ll just have to make the best of a bad situation and see a dozen shows or so in the time I do have. I guess I can enjoy a meal in a few of their world-class restaurants, take my daily walk through the city streets and up Mount Royal to take in the breath-taking view of the city below from the top. I guess I just have to try and enjoy the company of the charming inhabitants of this most livable and beautiful city for a while. Oh well, it’s a tough task but I think I can live through it one more time!

Russ Davis

Russ Davis produces and presents the only jazz program – “Jazz America” – for the U.S. Government Service, Voice of America. He also programs and presents the online modern jazz channel MOJA Radio, a subscription service. You can hear a number of free programs, including the latest Jazz America show by visiting MOJA Radio’s website.

Older Posts »

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 981 other followers