Montreal Jazz Festival: As Sterling As Silver
“ [Andre] Menard and [Alain] Simard have masterfully collaborated in designing what is now an 11-day Festival. ”
Anniversaries and birthdays are synonymous with the beginnings of wonderful occurrences. The Festival International de Jazz de Montreala Sterling Silver conglomerance of Jazz sounds known round the world as the Montreal Jazz Festival, celebrates its 25th birthday.
Andre Menard and cofounder-Alain Simard solidified the festival in 1979 organizing a week of various musical encounters. FIJM again, has been voted Best Jazz Festival in North America and number 3 in the world. Menard and FIJM were both honored by the Toronto National Jazz Awards with the first Hall of Fame and Best Festival Jazz Awards. Menard and Simard have masterfully collaborated in designing what is now an 11 day Festival.
The 24th FIJM was ethereal in every aspect covering the musical mixolydia of musical styles with Jazz, Blues, World, and Rock & Roll; and dedicated to the memory of the father of Montreal Jazz who spread Jazz throughout all of CanadaBassist, Charles Biddle.
The people, the music, the city all make up all that is quintessential about FIJM. Hearing and seeing as many concerts as you can dailyfree or ticketed. Planning your schedule of what and who you are going to see and hear. Seeing artists hanging out like you taking in the sights, or brunchin before a set as Kenny Barron and Terrence Blanchard were. Hobnobbing in the Wyndham lobby exchanging greetings with other musicians or jazz goers. Got off the elevator and heard this man say, "Jay, we can get a little something to snack on downstairs." Recognizing the Jay, I sang "Hello Little Girl" to the man who laughingly recognized his hit song from years past. Jay McShann, bandleader/pianist responsible for hiring Charlie Parker. McShann was special guest with Duke Robillard's New Orleans Band. This was an unforgettable moment.
The Journalists Press party was held at the Place de Arts Garden hosted by Media Assistant Manager Claudia Betancourt included dignitaries Menard and Simard. It was a grand beginning to an 11 day swinging affair that satisfied all with music, speeches, wine and hordoeuvres...
Ray Charles Big Band and Raelets opened the FIJM at the plush Wilfred Pelltiere before 3,000. The "Genius" who christened the first FIJM, sang all of his greatest hits to an appreciative audience.
Herbie Hancock performed a slightly avant Garde suite that included Dolphin Dance and was backed by Terry Lynn Carrington, drums; Brian Blades, Bass; and special guest vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, his old Blue Note recording buddy. Hutcherson was featured on "November", a vibrant and beautiful ballad written by him.
Charlie Haden had an extraordinary concert augmented w/strings and Kenny Barron piano and Michael Brecker on sax. Together, they illuminated 2000 listeners to Don Sebesky's "Passions" and a grand velvet smooth interpretation of "America", complimenting July 4th. One possible aspect missing to this beautiful piece of work was the singing of the Genius Ray Charles.
A great lady from the Portuguese Island of Cape Verde, Cesaria Evora, sang her heart out and was given standing ovations that generated 2-song encores by her and her sextet. She sang in Portuguese and spoke to the mostly French speaking audience asking them "Comprende Verdad", meaning, "Do you understand".
Jackie McLean and John Handy performed a tribute to Charlie Parker---both playing their alto saxophones magnificently. Montreal's Vic Vogel gave a great performance with his nonet featuring the tenor saxophones of Jimmy Heath and James Moody, both veterans of many years of Jazz interactions.
Jam Sessions extended you into the wee hours of the morn with firey sounds of electricity felt during all sessions and bringing supreme listening pleasure to the audience seated in the newly created Wyndham Jam Session Lounge, superbly secured by Directuer of Securite Jimmy Failla. He and staff maintained the essence of Montreal's Credo being "The Safest City in the Universe". Roy Hargrove who brought a different collective to his concert (RH Factor), was explosive, and profoundly blew his trumpet astoundingly at the Jams. James Carter as always displayed his virtuosity jamming not only on tenor but on soprano sax as well.
Russell Malone borrowed a guitar after resting up from his concert duo set with Bennie Green on piano and was accompanied tremendously by the house combo.
Canada Day was celebrated festively with harbor fireworks on the St. Lawrence with a 100 thousand persons in attendance. And Later, the St. Catherine St. free concert Salsa party featuring the Spanish Harlem Latin Band, was augumented with a light show of Salsa dancers silhouetted on high rise business windows and spotlighted and illuminated on rooftops surrounding the Grand Stage area before an audience of 250,000.