Montreal Jazz Festival Day 10: July 7, 2007
Day Ten of the 2007 Festival International de Jazz de Montreal replayed the refrain of diversity, ranging from mainstream to fusion, from established artists to stars-in-the-making. It was also an ideal day to check out the third edition of the Montreal Musician and Musical Instrument Show (MMMIS) and its new offshoot, the Montreal Guitar Salontwo shows that demonstrate the Festival's desire to promote not only the artists and the music they make, but their instruments and technologies.
Day Ten was the final day of ticketed events (Day Eleven features the festival's traditional closing spectacle event) and was, as it drew to a close, a day to appreciate the festival's power-packed line-up and memorable programs but also to be saddened that it's nearly over. Additionally, there was an underlying, unsettling awareness that made the ending of the 28th edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal all the more bittersweet: the pending closure of Le Spectrum, one of Montreal's most famous clubs for a quarter century.
- MMMIS and Montreal Guitar Salon
- Chet Doxas Quartet
- Wayne Krantz Trio
- Esperanza Spalding / Russell Malone Quartet
When the festival created the Montreal Musician and Musical Instrument Show, the goal was not only to provide a focal point at the festival for musicians to check out new gear and meet some of the manufacturers face-to-face, but to provide educational streams, such as workshops with festival artistsâïï¦even opportunities for non-musicians to participate in creating some remarkable music. With nearly 150 interactive activities, over four days MMMIS is not just a trade show, it's a one-of-a-kind show that's doubled in size since last year and, like FIJM, is rapidly becoming the new benchmark against which all similar shows are measured.
Walking through the exhibition at Complex Desjardins, it's hard not to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of manufacturers, ranging from small independents to large multi-nationals. From drums to banjos, guitars to saxophones, it's an opportunity to experience, first-hand, where the industry is heading.
It's also an opportunity to attend public interviews, instrumental workshops and, in the MMMIS GM Tent, experience open jams like the Brazilian Percussion and Djembé sessions. A new feature this year is a workshop that, in one hour, guarantees non-musicians will learn how to play Carl Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes" on guitar. It may not be high art, but by encouraging those who've never played to take part, it encourages a deeper relationship between audience and artist, and perhaps is the first step in newcomers' becoming talented artists.
MMMIS / Montreal Guitar Show
MMMIS organizers had anticipated that the Montreal Guitar Show would be a success, but when there was such a large line-up on July 6 to get into the first day, they ended up opening the show an hour early. With over sixty luthiers, who build custom instruments that range in price from $3,000 to $45,000, it's all the more remarkable to consider that these are all successful craftspersons who, along with the manufacturering giants like Fender and Gibson, remain productively employed due to the popularity of the guitar.
It was a rare opportunity to experience the real craft of guitar-making with a wide variety of luthiers representing a wealth of individual innovation. Amongst them was Toronto's Linda Manzer, who is now into her third decade building custom-designed instruments for Pat Metheny, including the baritone guitar used on One Quiet Night (Warner Bros., 203) and the one-of-a-kind (actually, there are two) 43-string Pikasso Guitar that's he's used on albums including Imaginary Day (Warner Bros., 1997) and Trio Live (Warner Bros., 2000).
But that's only part of the story. One luthier was also a woodcarving artist, and each guitar he builds has a unique carving on the back of the body. Others challenge convention through designs that would appear to be unworkableuntil they materialize. Sound booths were provided so that interested attendees could try out a guitar insulated from the noise of the crowdand, perhaps, make some joyful noise themselves.
With the growth of MMMIS and its offshoot Montreal Guitar Show, FIJM continues to expand its purview, with little appearing to be out of its reach.
Another strength of FIJM is its commitment to the vibrant Montreal jazz scene. Unlike other festivals which, while creating opportunities for local acts to perform, typically put them in less-than-favorable places, FIJM regularly puts local musicians on equal footing with their international colleagues. The 6:00 pm Jazz D'Ici series at the festival's most intimate venue, the Gesu theatre, has provided a wonderful place for local musicians to reach out to the festival's international audience.
Amongst the many fine and stylistically diverse artists in the Montreal area, tenor saxophonist Chet Doxas and his quartet stand out. Still only in his mid-twenties, Doxas' debut, Sidewalk Etiquette (Justin Time, 2006), was a refreshing mix of introspective ECM-like abstraction, complex thematic twists and turns, and some flat-out swinging. Drawing on the record plus some new material, Doxas' quartet demonstrated even greater flexibility on location than on the disc.
Pianist John Roney is a leader in his own right, and has run the late night jam sessions at the Montreal Hyatt Regency hotel, where one never knows who might show up to sit in. His Rate of Change Effendi, 2006) was another surprising debut, although its generally introspective nature represents only a part of what Roney is all about. With Doxas he was often far more outgoing, demonstrating a focused approach to soloing that resulted in strong narratives rather than merely a stream of disconnected ideas.
l:r: John Roney, Chet Doxas
Bassist Zack Lober is also a part of Roney's trio and is a player who values economy, making every note count whether as an accompanist or soloist. Drummer Jim DoxasChet's brother and the third member of Roney's triois one of the most exciting drummers to come out of Canada in years. Possessing a seemingly endless wellspring of ideas, he nevertheless has the kind of ears that, like Lober, value meaning over virtuosity, and is as content with simple cymbal washes as he is playing more propulsive and expressionist attacks. In some ways his appearance of abandon resembles Brian Blade's and, like Blade, there's considerable thought underlying the apparent freedom, though the musical idea isn't contrived or over- analyzed. Lober and Jim make a terrific rhythm section, responsive but equal partners in the quartet who are just as likely to push the music into new areas as they are to follow Roney or Chet's lead.
Chet's a fine saxophonist with considerable promise. Capable of great virtuosity, he's assimilated the cerebral and economical side of Wayne Shorter's playing into a personal voice that is stretched by his varied and complex writing. That the members of this quartet work together in other contextsLober and Jim Doxas in Roney's trio and the electronica-centric Byproduct, featuring Lober and the Doxas brothers means that, when they come together as the Chet Doxas Quartet, there's a collective chemistry along with a divergent approach and the open-mindedness that makes anything possible.