Extended AnalysisMore articles about Rachid Taha
Rachid Taha: Diwan 2
Universal Music France
The final day of the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal is a free one (with the exception of the second night of the Buddy Guy/George Thorogood & The Destroyers show at Metropolis), with a series of shows taking place around the seven stages situated throughout the six square city blocks closed off during the festival. Like Day One and Day Six, the culmination was a huge outdoor eventa Closing Party at the large Scéne General Motors stage, featuring Algerian-born singer Rachid Taha.
While the counts are not yet in, eyeballing the crowd at the festival's final spectacle suggests an even larger crowd than the 100,000+ audience for Seun Kuti and Egypt '80 on Day Six. Taha's performance was politically charged, and a curious blend of Middle Eastern harmonies and textures with some hard rock posturing.
The most dominant voice of Taha's two-hour performance (aside from Taha himself) was Hakim Hamadouche. The lutist/vocalist opened the performance in duet with trumpeter Stéphane Baudet, drawing an unexpected line between Middle Eastern tradition and jazz on a beautiful version of Gershwin's "Summertime that ultimately saw complexion of the rest of Taha's core group, including keyboards, guitar, drums and percussion, turn more rock-edged. Despite Taha's commanding the stage, the more natural Hamadouche had his own charisma, and was an equally effective partner in encouraging the audience to sing, clap and yell.
l:r Stéphane Baudet, Hakim Hamadouche
Taha's appearance was greeted with tremendous applause by the crowd, as he actively engaged its participation throughout the set. Taha drew liberally from Diwan 2 (Wrasse, 2006), Téktoi (Wrasse, 2005) and Made in Medina (Ark 21, 2000). Powerful rhythms defined the entire set, made even more vital by the pairing of conventional drum kit and percussion including djembé and frame drum. Seun Kuti's performance on Day Six was characterized by joyous grooves, Taha's set was heavier and more aggressive, and no less compelling as the audience followed his every move and cheered loudly throughout.
Clearly energized by the huge crowd, Taha strutted all over the stage, going to the side to encourage fans down Jeanne Mance (perpendicular to St. Catherine's, which was the street to which the Scéne General Motors stage faced). His exuberance was occasionally a little over the top as he swung his microphone around, ultimately needing a replacement and, at one point, losing his balance and falling down on the stage. Still, the audience didn't care, and was with him 100% throughout the show.
Unlike Kuti's performance, which was a larger-than-life spectacle with images projected on buildings, fireworks and more, Taha's performance was less showy, though he did bring on some guests towards the end, including Québécois singers Lynda Thalie and Yann Perreau, as well as three scantily clad dancers (with whom Taha interacted). Still, despite the lack of pyrotechnics and spectacle, Taha's show had its own energy and excitement, and if crowd response was an indicator, was every bit as successful (if not even more so) than Kuti's. The set closer, a visceral version of The Clash's "Rock the Casbah, was impressive if only to hear over 100,000 people singing along.
Two encores, with everyone on stage for the finale, and the concert was over. Two additional free shows took place at smaller stages, running from the end of Taha's performance until midnight, but it was Taha's show that effectively drew the 2007 FIJM to close.
Since it's impossible to attend every single FIJM show, any list of top picks is inherently limited and inconclusive. The 2007 FIJM sported one of its most diverse line-ups ever, making top picks even harder to identify. Still, there were four shows that deserve special mention at the 28th Edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal:
l:r: Allan Holdsworth, Chad Wackerman, Jimmy Johnson
With Esperanza Spalding opening for guitarist Russell Malone at what, sadly, was the final jazz performance at Montreal's Le Spectrum club before it is demolished later this summer, audiences had the opportunity to see a true star in the making. Spalding is a strong bassist, charismatic singer and accessible yet substantive composer who's already got a great future ahead of her at the tender age of twenty-two. Her lithe scatting was particularly notable for its lack of over- the-top melisma, while still maintaining a passionate delivery.
Malone's show, with his longstanding quartet, cemented his position as one of the best mainstream guitarists on the scene. Despite his primarily centrist approach to the jazz tradition, elements of grittier blues and even brief forays into free play suggest a broader purview that may well result in an unpredictable future, in the best possible way.
One moment, you will be redirected shortly.