Festival International de Jazz de Montreal 2005, Day 5
After the absolutely stellar Hussain/McLaughlin show on Day 4, your correspondent mulled over the idea of having that be the last impression of this year's festival. Reason quickly took over however; scheduling though resulted in seeing several shows, but only one the whole way through.
The day began with a press conference with Pat Metheny. The guitarist is the star of the second week of the festival (check back here for continued coverage by correspondent John Kelman). He hosts the second Invitation Series, collaborating with folks like Charlie Haden, Gary Burton, Dewey Redman and Mick Goodrick. And finally, he closes out the Festival with the huge blowout concert at the Scene General Motors. He had flown into Montreal shortly before the press conference from Europe. The trio performance for Day 6 would be his 100th concert of a tour, each show being 3 hours long!
The usual host of questions was asked and throughout Metheny was gracious and enthusiastic, despite probably not knowing what month it was due to his grueling touring schedule. He said that Montreal held a special place in his heart and that his invitation series would feature some of the most special people in his life. He complimented the Montreal Jazz Festival as the best in the world, not only in his opinion, but also from other musicians. He theorized that it is the combination of top names with listening crowds in an organic environment with venues all close by. He discussed how much of a challenge it would be to play with all the different groups, as they are totally different worlds and also lamented that summer time made some people unavailable. One of the more fascinating discussions concerned how Montreal is on the cusp of the festival season, just when most of North America ends and Europe begins so most people have to make a decision early on whether they can appear. For himself, he said it was complex to arrange this week at Montreal but it was worth it. He ended the conference by saying the bilingual nature of Montreal, where you don't know if the person next to you speaks French or English makes the audiences at Montreal better listeners.
Shortly before dinnertime, your correspondent caught some of the Matthias Lupri show free at the Scene General Motors. [On a side note, we haven't spoken much about Montreal the city, a wonderful, warm, friendly and beautiful place. But the food! So many good restaurants of so many different types. It's like a festival of food or something!] Vibes player Lupri had just finished a tour of Canada and this performance preceded a trip to The Hague for North Sea. With him were Donny McCaslin (saxophone), Nate Radley (guitar), Evan Gregor (bass) and Jordan Perlson (drums), McCaslin's clear intellectual playing being the standout. The music was well-arranged downtown New York post-bop (Lupri is based there) and the large crowd really enjoyed the performance. One imagines these free shows are excellent opportunities for exposure to bands not quite ready to play one of the indoor concerts.
The Queen Mab TrioIgnatine Hermine Henneman (viola), Marilyn Lerner (piano) and Lori Freedman (clarinet) - was another unknown at the Contemporary Art Museum (site of the festival's avant-garde performances). They were a lovely stimulating chamber ensemble that incorporated a mélange of stylesclassical, "creative improvised music , chansons, freeinto their heady playing. From left to right, the styles of the players went from classical (piano) to progressive (viola) to avant-garde (bass clarinet, clarinet) with hairstyles to match. This mix of instruments is not often heard and the viola and the bass clarinet combine to form a lovely sound. The closest comparison your correspondent could make was a sparser lower register version of the Abaton Trio. Lori Freedman, whom your correspondent missed at this year's Vision Festival, had wonderful bass clarinet techniquein fact all three musicians approached their instruments with clarity of purpose.
The Bill Frisell Quintet at the Spectrum followed this up. Another packed house of whooping fans was treated to an opening segment of atmospheric electronics and moody playing by Frisell, violinist Jenny Scheinman, slide guitarist Greg Leisz, bassist Viktor Krauss and drummer Matt Chamberlain. This opening tune segued into the more Nashville Americana music Frisell is becoming known for. Those hoping for the Frisell of the Fri-Lo- Mo trio or his Zorn-affiliated work may have been disappointed but it didn't seem like any of those people were at the performance given the warm crowd response.
The final show of this festival for your correspondent was a Philly soul jazz summit with the Odean Pope Saxophone Choir at Gesú. Piano, bass and drums (George Burton, Tyrone Brown, Craig McIver) supported a front line of NINE saxophones (Louis Taylor, Sam Reed, Byard Lancaster, Elliott Levin, Terry Lawson, Terrence Brown, Seth Meicht, Joe Sudler) including that of the leader. This big band played the Blue Note in New York but this performance was more successful since a) a group like this needs spectacle environment rather than a jazz club and b) the saxophones were arranged proscenium style rather than staggered in rows, allowing for the full onslaught of the saxophones to hit at once. The material was a mix of originals, tunes by former band members and covers like "Giant Steps and "I'll Remember Clifford . This big band lacked the precision and slickness of the Dave Holland Big Band from the beginning of the festival but played with the fire that that band did not. The arrangements, done mostly by Pope, were high energy, low impact affairs that featured some nice solos, particularly by Pope and first alto Taylor. Also of note were Pope's explanations and elucidations before each song, particularly when explaining the harmonic complexity of "Giant Steps . The closing number was an ideal closer to your correspondent's week in Montreal. "Phrygian Love Theme was a "blow -out, all the saxophones wailing over a tight burning arrangement. As a nod to the many musicians who played in the Montreal streets during the past week, the entire horn section started walking around the Gesú, creating swirls of sound, especially Lancaster playing both alto and soprano. The Gesú reverted back to its original use as a church, Philly was represented and the crowd loved it. A happy endnote.
The coverage of the festival will continue through the end with more intriguing performances. Your correspondent now hands off the baton to John Kelman but not without first thanking the entire staff of the festival for their professionalism and enthusiasm, especially the entire press relations staff who make my job easier and my time in Montreal the reason I come back every year. Thanks and see you in 2006!
Continue: Day 6