Published since 2004
Ken Franckling is an award-winning jazz writer and photographer who has been covering the mainstream jazz scene for more than 25 years.
Haden winds down Invitation series
Bassist Charlie Haden concluded his four-night "Invitation" series of concerts Friday night at Montreal's Monument-National featuring his Quartet West band with pianist Alan Broadbent, tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts and drummer Rodney Green. There was no doubt why Haden considers this unit his favorite performance group. The music started out strong and only got better as the evening progressed. The concert, originally scheduled for 8 p.m., was moved up to accommodate Haden's tight travel schedule as he heads to Europe. In spite of those constraints, he and the band came back for an encore.
Barber - barefooted and deep into the music
Singer-pianist Patricia Barber's Friday night performance at the Spectrum de Montreal got off to an uncommonly late start. After waiting somewhat patiently for 15 minutes for the scheduled 9:30 show, the crowd seemed to will Barber onto the stage with repetitive rhythmic clapping. The singer and her backing trio took to the stage, Barber unstrapped and removed her shoes, and the frequent - and somewhat eccentric - Montreal visitor's show finally was underway.
Intimacy and acoustics reign
Mark down Club Soda and Salle Gesu, the Center of Creativity, as two of Montreal's finest listening rooms. While there is nothing wrong with the bigger, high-ticket indoor venues in the Place des Arts, these two offer something special.
For Club Soda, it is the intimacy provided by a room holding only 550 in its cabaret seating arrangement. It is for singers and those who wish to hear them in comfort.
Salle Gesu is a marvelous performance theater housed within the basement level of an old stone church around the corner from the Spectrum and the Place des Arts. It's an acoustically pure place for intense chamber jazz - and hard-core listeners. Perhaps the purity upstairs somehow filters down. Those featured at Gesu during this year's festival included pianists Brad Mehldau and Danilo Perez's trios; a 90-minute duo evening by pianist Bill Mays and alto saxophonist Bud Shank; saxophonists Jane Bunnett, Greg Osby and Chris Potter on various evenings; slide trumpeter Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Band; and drummer Aldo Romano's trio with pianist Danilo Rea and bassist Remi Vignolo.
Grand Prix de Jazz
The festival awarded its annual Grand Prix de Jazz to the ODD Jazz quartet, as the best of 10 emerging Canadian groups to perform at this year's Montreal Jazz Festival. The band includes alto saxophonist Jocelyn Auger, drummer Martin Lavallee, keyboard player Jonathan Cayer and bassist Mathieu Desy. They performed Saturday evening on the festival's primary main stage and received a $5,000 award, an invitation to perform next year and 50 hours ifstudio production time for a recording.
Ovations for Oliver and Oscar
Montreal's final grand indoor concert on Saturday night featured Canadian pianists Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones. It was the first time Canada's finest jazz pianists had ever shared a stage, let alone worked together - even though they grew up at the same time in the same Montreal neighborhood. Jones emerged from retirement to perform with Peterson. He may have been out of the spotlight for several years, but his skills were as sharp as ever. Peterson remains slowed by a stroke a decade ago that severely limited his left hand. He uses it sparingly and judiciously but still swings more with one hand than most pianists do with two. After the leaders performed with their respective bands - trio for Jones, quartet for Peterson - Jones returned to the stage to join the group in a two-piano format. They performed two tunes, beginning with "Just Friends" and ending with a rousing, building gospel-tinged rendition of Peterson's "Hymn for Freedom."
Grand finale set
Sunday's grand outdoor finale promised to be a true spectacle. It was a special performance by Montreal-based Cirque de Soleil in celebration of its 20th anniversary and the jazz festival's 25th anniversary. The main outdoor stage, Scene General Motors, underwent major changes and expansions that took crews three prior nights to complete - after each evening's performances were done. It drew an estimated record crowd of 205,000.
The Totals Are In
Festival organizers reported on July 12 that overall MIJF attendance exceeded more than 1.9 million, with a 42 percent increase in ticket sales and at least 48 indoor concerts were sold out. The latter included all eight Invitation Series concerts headlined by Chick Corea and Charlie Haden.
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