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Live Reviews

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

By Published: March 12, 2004
Tonite, though, I'm down with the playa haters. Tonite, our man from Detroit is rocking the tunes from his Chasin' The Gypsy deelio. Y'know the avant-freaky homage to Django Reinhardt's spirit-cosmic that's become a genre transcending international pop hit cause celebre? On record, the unlikely mix 'n' matchup of remade-remodeled/sliced 'n' diced noblesse oblige gypsy swing and Carter's mack daddy honk is the most beautifullest thing. Perfect balance. Live, the vonce gets whack. The band (acoustic guitars/bass, drums, and accordion) is playing too clean, too damn cute with the Hot Club gestalt. Scenery. Props. Manqué. Second bananas. JC (resplendent in pinstriped zoot suit, two-tone Stacy Adams and a white beret-cum-chef's hat) is slurring-blurring-freaking his ass off. No connection, no symbiosis, no rapturous frisson. Guest (and cousin) Regina Carter managed to bring the spirit back for three tunes but once she stepped off it was déjà vu all over again. Sometimes enthusiasm and passion ain't good enuff.

9:30pm, Joao Gilberto, Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier. Arrived in time to catch the final 30 minutes of Gilberto's set (including 15-minute encore). There he was, centerstage. Shimmering in the spotlights. Encircled by monitors. Face dappled with shadows, guitar cradled, body slightly hunched. Iconic. That Voice - seductive, poignant, droll. That Guitar - bossasambanova blue-jazzy strums of Heaven. The Songs - "Corcovado", "Bim Bom", "Felicidade", "'S Wonderful", "Desafinado", "Mahna De Carnaval" - Magic. But this lot still wasn't satisfied. Scattered shouts for "La Femme du Ipanema!"; "The Girl From Ipanema!" coalesced into a asylum choir (causing the maestro to start/stop a song three times). As the disgruntled punters filed out, Gilberto played on oblivious. True to his legendary rep as a cranky s.o.b., Joao waited 'til the spot was way sparse to drop a most loverly "Ipanema".

Friday, July 5th, 1:30am: Meanwhile back at the jam session, Carter is getting his Wardell Gray freak on. It's a rollicking disorder at the border with Misters Hargrove, Malone and McBride. Mad looser-tighter-freer and en pointe contextual than on the Spectrum gig, JC regains face. Good omen for tomorrow night. Prince!

5:30pm: Sky clear, palm itching; time to go bargain bin record shopping. First stop: soundcentral (182 Ste-Catherine est; 514-393-4495). A store that specializes in vintage hardcore-punk-metal underground vinyl and uber-indie CDs, soundcentral is the perfect place to find off-the-wall (and cheep!) used CDs. Bingo: primo 16-track club compilation ("What Is Love", "Macarena"), $2.99; all killah 18-track reggae comp, $3.99. C, Dement (388 Ste-Catherine ouest; 514-866-7616) was deeper still: four CDs (including a Paul Mooney comedy joint and a Def Jam 18-track comp) for $11.46. Remember, that's all Canadian currency.

6:45pm, Enrica Rava Quartet featuring Ray Anderson, Salles du Gesu. Full disclosure: I've dug the shit outta Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava's steez since the album he did with Argentinean bandoneon macher Dino Saluzzi (Volver, ECM; '88). I missed most of Rava's set (too caught up in the bargain hunt). Nonetheless, what I heard was so damn fresh that reportage of those final 15 minutes is in order. Walked in on Enrico soloing. White, leonine 'do, slim torso, elbows akimbo, knees slightly bent, back arched, eyes shut, trumpet three degrees south of the mic. Very Miles Davis-on-the-back-cover-of-Jack Johnson iconic. The voodoo he was running down - elliptical, rhythm-shifting clusters of smeared/slurred blue notes, dramatic blaps/baps (punctuated by two-steps-backwards-one-lurch-forward) - strictly personal. Rava's sound - piquant smoke. His tone - burnished titanium. His phrasing - crisply mercurial. An unselfish leader, ER sealed his deal midway through Pheeroan Aklaff's gob smacking Afrolistic drum solo. Rather than cut Aklaff off prematurely, Rava quietly brought him back home with a trio of well-timed extrapolations. Italy, Enrico Rava is one of the best trumpet players in the world.

9:10pm, Prince & NPG, Salle Wiifrid-Pelletier. Arrived in time to see some cat dressed in white from 10-gallon skypiece to boots, popping the bejeezus out of a white electric bass. I ask a fellow journalist who he is. "I don't know but he's boring as shit (or words to that effect)." I took a closer look. "Hey, that's Larry Graham. He's a muthafuckah; played with Sly. He invented that shit." "I don't care who he is, he's terrible!" "Terrible? Larry Graham never played a bad note in his life!" Cat wouldn't back down. The guy next to me was two thumbs up and laughing.

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