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Live Reviews

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

By Published: March 12, 2004
Anyway, Larry soon stepped off. After a few hardy "Larry Graham, ladies and gentlemen, Larry Graham.", Prince strapped on his guitar (the Telecaster from Dirty Mind/1999 days) and kicked the NPG band off into some stank cog sinister jizz fission mystery dance. It was crazy - spirits of Stevie Wonder's "Contusion" channeled through Miles Davis' "Perfect Way" by way of "Ballad Of Dorothy Parker". From then until intermission, the jamstorm never let up "Girls & Boys", "Hot Thing", "Talkin' Loud & Sayin' Nothin'"). Things got so outré that most of the people missed the genius segue from a poignant "Forever In My Life" to a two verse/two chorus vonce on Joni Mitchell's "A Case Of You" Prince threw in the mix. A 10-minute freestyle cipher built to a thunderous crescendo then silence. Standing ovation. Prince said, "Don't thank me, it's Him. See you in 10 minutes."

The scene in the lobby made me laff. I don't speak French but judging by the vocal tones, facial tics and hand gesticulations, a heap of folks were either pissed off, extremely puzzled or flat out over the moon. Prince must have been feelin' 'em 'cause when he walked onstage for the second half he was wearing an impish grin. Grabbing the mic he asked, "Who was that on the stage 10 minutes ago? You want to rock and roll?" BAM!! The world went Day-Glo. Prince one-step beyond your wildest wet dream. Two-and-a-half hours of feverish medleys ("Let's Work"/"Uptown"/"Controversy"/"I Wanna Be Your Lover"; "Do Me BABY"/"Scandalous/The Beautiful Ones"), buckwildin' funk ("Sexy Dancer", "Housequake", "Little Red Corvette", "Cream") and showstopping ballads ("Diamonds and Pearls", "Nothing Compares 2 U" [Roy Hargrove cameo]). Larry Graham returned with a volcanic version of "The Jam" (Graham Central Station original). Then he and Prince (that Telecaster) caught mad wreck for seven amped-up minutes. Then gone. Pandemonium.

The encore? The most delirious, heavenly majestic, misty-eyed, collective body swaying/arm waving version of "Purple Rain" I've ever experienced (and I've seen Prince 10 times). I can still hear 3,000 voices singing "Ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo, Ooo-ooo-ooo-oo, Ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo" over and over 'til the lights came on. Festival highlight? YEEEAAHHH BOY!!! The after party at the tiny Jai Bar was a rare chance to catch Brotha Man up close. All good 'n' a bag o' chips but anti-climatic.

The Montreal Jazz Festival is arguably the best of its kind in North America. It's got the total package: jazz, blues, world music, cutting edge shit you'll never see/hear in the lower 48, cosmopolitan atmosphere, Old World charm, open-minded/enthusiastic audiences and cost-effective exchange rates. You owe it to yourself to check it out.

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