Posted by: russdavis | July 6, 2011

Montreal 2011 Wrap Up by MOJAN Bruce Raff!

Montreal 2011 Wrap Up by MOJAN Bruce Raff!

Bruce Raff...MOJA's "Man In Montreal"

Russ here…and one of the treats of this, my 8th straight trip in a row to cover the Monteal Jazz Fest, was meeting and spending some entertaining time with one of our fellow MOJANS, Bruce Raff from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  He is the perfect example of what a real MOJAN is all about (a MOJAN is a citizen of MOJA Nation in case you don’t know). He’s positive and energetic and intense about his love of the music and the people who make it.  He has his favorites but he’s open to new things too an there were plenty of artists in both categories for Bruce and all of us to enjoy at the 32nd Festival International de Jazz de Montreal.  Read on and you’ll get some of Bruce’s comments on things he saw, heard and enjoyed at this years festival…plus a poem he wrote about dragging a suspicious item out of the freezer to consume for his lunch at work.  I’ll leave that for last, but first…on to Bruce’s music reviews!

The first show of the festival for me was Return To Forever IV with Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Lenny White, Jean-Luc Ponty and Frank Gambale.  Here’s what Bruce had to say…”Beyond Belief!  I had huge expectations for the show and it was even more than that.  One of my biggest was to see Jean-Luc Ponty for the first time.  It was already awesome to see the world’s greatest fusion band, but to add to that another of the world’s greatest fusion pioneers, as well as greatest violin player, made this one of the best shows I have ever seen!

One of the peaks for me was seeing the pride of New Orleans, Galactic, tear it up on the largest outdoor free stage in front of tens of thousands.  They did two sets at 9PM and 11PM. I only caught part of the second but Bruce, being the good Louisiana boy he is, saw both and has this to say…”Galactic must be cajun french for mega-power. They put on the most incredible shows (yes they played twice) which were the most energetic outdoor performances I think I have ever seen.  Not only were they putting out tremendous energy, the festival stage had an incredible light show that pounded my visual sensations as the band pounded my mind.  Being from Louisiana, I am familiar with the band and have seen them indoors a couple of times.  But this was a completely different experience.  And to my delight, the crowd was blown away also.  I can’t count the times I heard ‘these guys are awesome’.”


“To really put the show over the edge, Galactic brought Trombone Shorty who virtually stole the first set.  If you have never seen this man, it is a must.  But the true highlight of the show was during the second set when Stanton Moore, THE MAN, pulled the snare of his kit and played it one handed while walking to front of the stage and placed it down.  The rest of the band brought various percussion, including the horns, held them up around Moore who proceeded to put on a 10 minute percussion solo that had the several thousand on-lookers in awe.   Absolutely phenomenal.”

Bruce and I were in different parts of the festival most of the time so each of us got to see things the other did not.  One of the bands that Bruce saw, and obviously really enjoyed had a world-jazz musical point of view.  Here’s what he had to say about Jayme Stone, a Canadian musician from Ontario… “This is 3rd place for the festival.  Jayme Stone.  He was at the smallest of all TD stages but was the best outdoor show outside of galactic so far.  A banjo player a lot like Fleck, but did an eastern rhythm.  Had an unbelievable sax player, drums, double bass, and cello.  And these guys F’n jammed.  I shot some video and need to get it to you to see.  It will blow your mind.”


For a few years now a feature of the Montreal Jazz Fest is a Guitar Exposition that this year was named Guitarissimo. It was a series of guitar only performances in one hall, the Cinquieme Salle, by greats like Kurt Rosenwinkel, Laurence Juber and two great trios, The Montreal Guitare Trio and MOJA favorites, California Guitar Trio.  Here’s what Bruce, a guitarist himself, had to say after seeing both trios on July 2nd… “Guitar trio’s were fun.  Montreal guys played all nylon strings with heavy finger picking and California played steel with picks and a more modern, American influenced sound.  The California group played Echoes by Pink Floyd which was very interesting.  Did you know that they all studied at one time under Robert Fripp?  For both shows, both groups got together and played Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen.”


Finally, Bruce took the time to put down all this thoughts at once about what his experience at his first, and I’m betting not his last, Festival International de Jazz de Montreal was all about. Some of the music you’ll read about Bruce actually purchased himself and contributed to the MOJA Radio library so you could hear it. I’m posting it unedited and once you’ve read it I have a feeling you’ll be interested in booking your trip for FIJM # 33 next year. Take it away Bruce… “Well, the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal.  I see why so many people I have met keep coming back.  The quality of performances, the wonderfully positive attitudes of patrons and festival personnel, and above all the work the festival planners have put into this effort.   To see such a monumental event be run with such efficiencies is incredible.


While Russ is busy covering the major acts, I thought I would go under-cover and give a brief report on the free shows I have been attending.  All are outstanding.  While there are a lot of blues, R & B, Dixieland and soul, (stuff I hear in my home town in Louisiana non-stop) I have tried to focus on the eclectic and progressive jazz artists. And there have been plenty.  Lots are professional groups from while several are groups of students from local McGill University.  Here is just a short synopsis of what the festival has offered along these lines.  And it is worth picking up some of their music.

John Roney – Canadian pianist extraordinaire with electric bass and drummer.  Straight ahead jazz but very talented.

Jim Zeller and Alan Gerber – Although R&B, Zeller is one hell of a harmonica player.  They have been jamming together for a very long time.

Filewile – Billed as “extraordinary trip-hop”…they were.  Swiss electro funk/bizarreness!  Mind altering.

Massey Vanier 5 – A dozen or so local students, ages around 13 to 15, Performing incredible progressive, orchestra style music.

Streetnix – Street band of all brass instruments with drums.

Tubby (de L’University McGill) – college students.  Young female pianist, saxophone player and two drummers.  Modern day Thelonius Monk style.  Another mind altering group!

Freshly Ground –  South African indigenous/contemporary blend.  Outstanding vocalist and outstanding violinist accompanied by African rhythms.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a CD before they left.

Jayme Stone – Now this is one you have to check-out. An incredible banjo player who played songs inspired by folk dances from around the world.  Had an unbelievably talented band, especially the trumpet player who stayed seated in a little metal chair but almost fell our several times as hard as he was playing.  They brought styles from Russia, Romania, Italy and with a sassy sense of humor.

Bomata – Clarinet, double bass and percussionist (not drums).  Wonderful rhythms from Latino to Middle eastern.

Small World Project – An unbelievable show on the smallest stage!  The leader of the Montreal Guitar Trio accompanied by an upright bass and percussions.  Dufour is an outstanding guitarist but for this group, he played small-scale acoustical instruments including a charango and some tiny oriental looking stringed instrument which I have not figured out yet.  He was playing with the intensity of Paco DeLucia.  Hopefully some of the footage will get posted.

Montreal All-star Big Band – about 20 local, young teenagers. The amazing part was their rendition of Spain.  They cut out some of the really difficult riffs but still made a very impressive performance.


Another major highlight of this trip (Russ don’t leave this out) was meeting Russ Davis.  I can tell all of you that this is one great person.  Not only does he truly care about MOJA, he also cares about the world and other people.  Many times I would see him offer help to strangers, like offering to help carry a baby stroller up steps, or insisting on buying an idiot a bottle of water because he didn’t bring one on a 30 minute uphill hike!  I thank him for keeping this great music available and hope he continues to do so for a very long time.  Now I need to get back to the festival.  It’s my birthday (July 3) and I’m going to see Bela Fleck in row 3 seat 33.  What kind of karma is that!



I can’t help myself. I just have to include Bruce’s poem about a lunchtime experience at work that inspired him so much he wrote the following…enjoy!


Ode to the Mystery Meal


Is it bird or is it meat?

This mystery meal, I now must eat.

For if it’s cow, I’ll say “amen”

but if it’s fowl, I’ll say “Again!”


For month’s it’s been in it’s frozen state

wondering if forever it will hibernate

and it’s seen its peers come and thaw

while it sits amongst food oh so raw


Then one day on comes the light

and it feel itself pried from the ice

soon waves of micro beam it’s face

and the chill is gone, all but a trace


it raps with joy when pierced with the fork

and wonders about his pal, the left-over pork

But then in dismay he is tossed in the trash

it appears his ripeness has come and passed


Now he sits in the landfill amongst rotting debris

convinced that as odor he will finally be free

to fly with the eagles and ride on the breeze

till he finds the jerk that made him freeze


The moral it seems is here for your eyes

it’s here for the hungry and here for the wise

For it is through man he should have been passed

He would have been proud to be that methane gas



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