Le Festival International De Jazz De Montreal 2001 Part 1-2
Thursday, July 5th, 1am: Bugge Wesseltoft at Spectrum. The buzz band of the Festival, this Norwegian four-piece (Wesseltoft, Fender Rhodes, synth, sampler, Ingebrigt Flaten, acoustic/electric bass; Anders Engen, drums, Jonas Lonna, turntables) are the poster boys of the European "future jazz" movement (St. Germain, Nils Petter Molvaer, Erik Truffaz). While jazz critics have declared them rightful heirs to the whole Miles Davis-Headhunters-Return To Forever ism-schism (check the new Moving on Jazzland Records), Bugge Wesseltoft's live set proved them to be solidly in Larry Heard's jazzalacious deep house music camp. Vamps, improvisations, melodic hooks and grooves that never strayed far from the pocket. "Future jazz"? Dunno. Party music? Hell yes!
July 5, 2001: Spectrum, 2:00am. Euro-DJ tag team Dzihan & Kamien are winding down a head ringing, body shimmering, feet loosing set. Spinning off of Bugge Weseltoft vibe, D&K worked a deliciously subversive reggae-dub/dancehall-deep house-hip-hop-Goa-trance-techno mojo 'til it tore the roof off the sucker. Ten minutes later, I'm making my way through the rammed Salon Jeanne-Mance (the bar at the Hotel Wyndham Montreal). Another great jam session is in progress. It's just Russell Malone playing his guitar (mellow tone soft-shoe). Roy Hargrove is in an N'Awlins froggy blues state of mind. Russell sings (!). Can't remember the tune, but I do remember the voice. Molasses-smoked baritone, whispery intimate, a tint of melancholy. He should do it more often. What came next - a ripping jam that featured bravura Mingusesque bass solo from Christian McBride - was an anti-climax. Last call. Bedtime.
2:00pm: Walking up St. Denis with fellow journalist Michelle Mercer. Can't find a place to eat. My suggestion: Moules Et Cie (77 Ave, Des Pins; 514-496-0540). My favorite spot to grit in Montreal. Mussels and frites to die for. Place has changed since my last visit. Half of the place is now a sushi eatery. Today, the only customers were a sharply dressed elderly couple on the moules side. Before I can sit down, the distinguished gentleman introduces himself, his wife (100% class) and engages me in a tete-a-tete. Turns out he pioneered designer skiwear back in the late '40s. Irving of Montreal (saw the label). Exclusive to Sacks Fifth Avenue (biiig bucks). Now 72, Mr. Irving manufactures Kevlar vests for the NYPD (among others). Gave me his card and a swatch of Kevlar. Said to keep in touch. Montrealers are like that.
The Moules Mediterrane - juicy, melt-in-your-mouth mussels, sour-sweet saffron broth, translucent, tangy scallions, golden crisp frites - was off the meter. Ditto for Michelle's Moules Poulette. The house verre vin rouge was superb. It gets better. Total bill (three wines) came to $43.88. Canadian.
3:45pm: Interview with Diane Nalini. Who she? She's a twenty-something Montrealer, Rhodes Scholar, Doctor of Applied Physics (lunches with Stephen Hawking!), Oxford Fellow, speaks four languages, soon come big time jazz chanteuse. The day before, Nalini and ace Canuck jazzbos Mike Rud, Dave Watts (guitar, bass; respectively) rendered a hustling/bustling noontime shopping mall (Place du Complexe Desjardins) silent and spellbound. Tall, thick, lustrous hair pulled back, ocher complexion, laughing eyes, warm smile. Mellifluous contralto, emotively nuanced, rhythmically pliable, seductively melodic, phrases like back in the day (Billie, Ella, and Carmen). Chile could sang. In French ("La Mer" AKA "Beyond The Sea"), Portuguese ("Carolina"), English (Stars Fell On Alabama", "How Long Has This Been Going On?"). Old wine in sparkling new bottles. Think Sade with jazz chops.
Nalini's first gig was singing along to Ella in the family living room. She was three years old. A professional since '91, Nalini produced her debut recording After Dusk in 2000 (www.dianenalini.com). 10 tracks, including those aforementioned and two fine Nalini originals ("The portrait On The Wall", "After Dusk"). Festival highlight?
8:30pm: James Carter, Spectrum. Been following James Carter for a looong time. First saw him in Julius Hemphill's saxophone opera Long Tongues, He brought down the house with an absolutely nuclear five-minute tenor solo. Like John Gilmore (Sun Ra). He was not yet 16. Tracked him from there to Lester Bowie, Wynton Marsalis, the Kansas City Band (spin-off from the Robert Altman film Kansas City) and a slew of wicked solo albums on DIW and Atlantic. What I love most about JC - the double-tonguing, circular breathing, over-blowing, brashness, showboating, frenzied, cluttered solos - drives a whole lotta people crazy. But that's cool 'cause he's always in it to win it. He ain't ever safe, y'know?