With the third day of the festival upon us, a certain measure of relief was setting in. You could see it in the faces of organizers. (That, and early signs of exhaustion.) Gone were some of the concerns that come with such a large event. People have been flooding the site, in huge numbers; players playing the venues, as well or better than hoped; and the groove of the whole thing was just beginning to find its form. And so it seemed a perfect moment for the return of a jazzfest favorite, and even more suitable for the introduction of a new face.
Once again the setting was the Théâtre Maisonneuve, and once again the excitement was palpable. Three years have passed since Joshua Redman last performed here in Montreal, and as festival co-founder André Ménard let on in his introductory address, it's been three years too long. But before the saxophonist could regain the stage, in trio format this time, an opening act was waiting in the wings.
At 22-years-old, pianist Taylor Eigsti is hardly the median age for this edition's performers. But then again he's used to being young. After all, he cut his first CD at the age of 14, and with the release of 2006's Lucky To Be Me (Concord), unveiled himself as a "major new talent . Or so said Ménard.
But the proof, as always, is in the putting, which made Eigsti's solo set this evening the perfect opportunity for an audience to be the judge.
As it turned out, the young man made quite an impression. On the standards "Love For Sale and "Caravan , Eigsti displayed the chops that have led people to label him a veritable 'jazz prodigy', while with a more subdued offering like Bjork's "I've Seen It All , he showed a knack for plain prettiness and flair. By the end of his set, Eigsti had easily won over the sellout crowd, and laid the groundwork for many appearances to come.
After a short break to clear the piano from the stage, Redman and his trio were ushered on to furious applause. Appearing alongside bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Antonio Sanchez, Redman picked up where he left off in 2004 by blowing the roof right off the theatre. From a showtune like "Surrey With The Fringe On Top , to Wayne Shorter's "Indian Song , to the originals "Back East and "Indonesia , Redman and company treated their witnesses to a strictly burning set. And when the gas-light flashed empty, they wheeled the piano back out for an encore with Eigsti. Warm feelings all around...
(Warning: Although they are few, there are certain hazards to festival-going. And among them, there is perhaps none more unnerving than the 'Noisy Couple'. Unfortunately for this correspondent, and for all within a ten-foot radius, one such pair was seated in the center of Row 'H' this evening. Throughout both the Eigsti and Redman sets, the couple in questioncharming, affectionate and slightly beyond their primechattered, hummed, and took bathroom breaks during songs. The last straw came when, during an extended drum solo, they unearthed a small Ziploc bag, from which they noshed on (of all things) radishes. One couldn't help but crack a reluctant smile, even if the 'Noisy Couple' had set off a tempest inside.)
The original plan had been to go directly from Théâtre Maisonneuve to the TD Stage on the corner of Clark Street and St-Catherine for a taste of a free outdoor show put on by Danish trumpeter Jens Winther. Although there was overlap, the hope was for a little music still to be left once the Redman show let out. Sadly, however, this wasn't the case. The Winther gig had long since seen its end, with only a light sprinkle of fans still lingering at the picnic tables.
So with a little more than 30 minutes before the start of the Anat Fort concert at 9, it seemed the ideal time to rediscover one of the city's gastronomical specialties at a nearby landmark.
The Montreal Pool Room has been dispensing of 'steamie' hot-dogs since 1912, and has helped in making this modest delicacy a staple in the diet of many Montrealers. What distinguishes the 'steamie' from a run- of-the-mill frank is anyone's guess, although the sheer number of joints and stands that serve them must account for something special. They come out fast and hot, and at $3.88 for two dogs and a fry, it simply doesn't get any more economical. The actual cost of the meal, however, revealed itself later on this evening, in the form of... well, why don't we just leave it at that.
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