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Live Reviews

Le Festival International De Jazz De Montreal 2001 Part 1-2

By Published: March 12, 2004
The brainchild of Istanbul's Burhan Ocal (check Istanbul Oriental Ensemble: Caravanserai; Network Medien) and Philly Harmelodic funk bass pioneer Jamaladeen Tacuma, Groove Alla Turca plays a sublimely wigged-out fusion of Turkish rhythm/melody/harmonic, Harmelodic swing, blues-soul-funk-hip-hop grooves. Their debut Birds & Blues (Doublemoon Records) is off the meter - Natacha Atlas wailing, Miles Griffith rapping, Jack Walrath trumpeting, tambourine-oud-darbuka-saz-kanun-ney-violin-clarinet-trombone-alto-tenor-flute-guitar-traps criss-crossing over-under-around. Mad brilliant, but a mere soundcheck compared to the live gig. Too bad I missed it (no more VIP laminates).

Feeling empty, I opted for a lonely walk of shame up rue St. Denis. Block after block of cafes, bistros, bars, trendy restaurants, and African-Asian-vegetarian eateries. Too dark, bright, crowded, loud, ordinary, and expensive. 40 minutes in, I found my oasis: Bambou Bleu (3985 St-Denis, 514-845-1401). Spacious dining room, white tablecloths, big bay window, diffuse lighting, Vietnamese cuisine. Empty save for a two party table. Kismet! I ordered the 12.95 seafood combination (cup of sweet shrimp-crab-noodle soup, two greasy but yummy shrimp rolls, three exquisitely grilled brochettes du shrimp-salmon-scallop, glazed fried banana desert).

By the time I got back to the Wyndham, the jam session in the bar was swangin'. Roy Hargrove and Quintet mate Jesse Davis (alto sax) were mixing it up with the house band (Steve Amirault Trio). No matter what mood Roy was swinging or what blues Jesse was bopping; the local aces never failed to run with it. Someone at the said, "Jamaladeen is jamming at the Spectrum." He was wrong - a DJ, Burhan Ocal, whirling dervishes and Jamaladeen were freestyling. What a scene - JT deep into a Hendrix-Ornette-George Clinton spirit-cosmic space where all things frammed, flanged, skronked, popped, shredded are exalted, Burhan and various Groove Alla Turcas kicking Turkish boogie down beats, DJ flowing Goa trance grooves, dervishes, dance massive: mental. Got so gone that I forgot to pull out the Canon. I'll never know what came before, but it sure felt like a bravura encore to me. Like I said, it was a blue sky day.

Wednesday, July 4th: Independence Day. But I'm not back in Brooklyn. So, no fireworks on the East River, parades, picnics or backyard barbecue. Nonetheless, a hedonistic blowout in the name of patriotism is always deriguer. The perfect way: six concerts in six hours. 6pm: Arto Lindsay at Spectrum. The bespectacled king of skronk guitar, nerdy-voiced bilingual (English-Portuguese) singer-writer of off-kilter songs ("Your OK"), ill interpreter of Prince/Al Green, well-schooled in tropicalismo, MPB, and punk funk, Lindsay and band (featuring Melvin Gibbs, bass; Vinicius Canturias, guitar/vocals) played infectiously eccentric no-fixed-address New World fusion pop.

7:30pm: Caught in downpour en route to the Roy Hargrove Quintet at Monument National. Bad omen. Roy and Jesse strike sparks; band smolders and smokes but never a bonfire. 8:45pm: change to dry clothes. 9pm: Kenny Barron & Regina Carter; Spectrum. Folks were exiting, grumbling "Boring...classical bullshit...self-indulgent." They were wrong. Kenny Barron's extended piano solo reinvents Monk's "Misterioso" as a Third Stream evocation/homage to John Lewis and the MJQ and it sucks? Au contraire mon amis. Barron and violinist Carter are all about slow-burning nuance and in-the-moment spontaneity.

9:45pm: Manu Chao at Metropolis. I could hear the music soon as I walked thru de door. With every forward step, the decibels and Fahrenheit intensified. In the big room, pure pandemonium. So humid the camera lens was fogged up, so loud the air was throbbing. Arms waving, bodies undulating, bouncing and oozing sweat screams-shouts-laughter. Onstage, the Radio Bemba band is bashing a ferociously heavy-heavy ska-rockadelic beat. Smack dab in the middle, head cocked back, guitar riding low, legs spread wide in classic rock god stance, is Manu Chao. Every gesture provokes a collective outburst, every leap/lurch/hop generates aftershocks, every call gets a response, every string chop is t'under 'n' lightning. The cat is possessed, the band is possessed, and we are gone. Save for a touchstone verse or chorus, every song is freestyled to the point of absolute reinvention. "Bongo Bong" as speed-punk ska, "Me Gustas Tu" as schizzy dancehall/go-go soundclash, "Clandestino" as one-nation-under-a-groove rock anthem ("Marijuana, ee-le-gal!"). This concert (including 35 minute "encore") was un-fuckin'-believable. Festival highpoint?

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