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Festival International De Jazz De Montréal 2017: July 5-6

Mark Sullivan By

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Festival International de Jazz de Montréal
Montréal, Canada
July 5-6, 2017

July 3-4 | July 5-6 | July 7-8

Two more days in the lovely city of Montreal, a paradise for music lovers of all sorts during the Festival. Or anyone who just loves a good street party, for that matter. Last night (Thursday) after the late show I attended the streets were still packed.

July 5

John Pizzarelli Quartet with Daniel Jobim

The third of John Pizzarelli's three Invitation shows at Gesù. I missed the first two: "Billie & Blue Eyes" featuring Catherine Russell; and "Joni Mitchell & McCartney" featuring Jessica Molaskey. This last was "Sinatra & Jobim at 50," a celebration of the 1967 album Francis Albert Sinatra & Antônio Carlos Jobim (as well as the title of a forthcoming Pizzarelli album which also features Jobim's grandson Daniel Jobim). The show opened with "Baubles, Bangles and Beads," one of the three standards on the original album that had been rearranged as bossa novas. Pizzarelli was playing nylon-string guitar, as he did for most of the show—a more traditional instrument for Brazilian music than his usual seven-string archtop (which he did play occasionally). He stopped to introduce the program, noting that the Sinatra/Jobim album was beaten for the Grammy Album of the Year by The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Also told the story of Jobim taking Sinatra's call at the bar! He introduced the other members of his quartet: pianist Konrad Paszkudzki, bassist Michael Karn, and drummer Andy Watson. Plus special guests: Jobim's grandson Daniel Jobim on vocals, his daughter Madeline on backing vocals and nylon-string guitar, and his wife Jessica [Molaskey] also on backing vocals. So there was a warm, casual, almost family tone set from the start.

They went on to play several songs mostly from the original album: "Agua de Beber;" "Meditation (Meditação)" which led into "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars (Corcovado);" Dindi;" the Cole Porter standard "I Concentrate on You;" and "Wave." Great songs, delivered with an easy lilt. I did notice that Pizzarelli's solo passages when playing nylon-string sometimes sounded a little rough. A minor nit, and surely only a sign that the archtop is his usual axe. The entire presentation was so genial that it almost switched off my critical faculties entirely. The next group of songs was introduced as not being on the original album, although they are on the new tribute album. Michael Franks' "Antonio's Song" was written in honor of Antonio Carlos Jobim (Franks is also a personal hero of Pizzarelli). Daniel Jobim switched to piano for "Two Kites." And there was one Pizzarelli original: "She's So Sensitive" cleverly included a quote from Jobim's classic "How Insensitive (Insensatez)."

Called back for an encore, the band stuck up what is probably Jobim's best-known song, "The Girl From Ipanema" (which had been quoted earlier in "Antonio's Song"). They concluded with the rousing "Só Danço Samba," which appeared on Pizzarelli's first Brazilian album Bossa Nova (Telarc Records, 2004). An exciting end to a charming show. The sold-out crowd certainly had a blast.

Jane Bunnett & Maqueque

Canadian soprano saxophonist/flautist Jane Bunnett opened this evening's "Programme double" with her all-female Afro-Cuban/jazz group Maqueque (pronounced "Mah-Keh-Keh," meaning "the energy of a young girl's spirit"). Bunnett has a long history of interest in Cuban music, and travels there frequently: her first recording reflecting that was Spirits of Havana (Denon, 1992). Most of the band members are Cuban, so the authentic feel of their playing is a given. Bunnett was delighted to recruit two Canadians to this version of the band: vocalist Joanna Majoko, originally from Zimbabwe; and percussionist Melissa Lavergne, from right here in Montréal.

Bunnett is extremely proud of the group, and it only takes about two minutes to hear why. Opener "Little Feet" from their new album Oddara (Linus Entertainment, 2016) presented precision and blazing energy, inspiring the leader to play the first of many thrilling soprano saxophone solos. "Maqueque" from their first, self-titled album (Justin Time Records, 2014) gave pianist Danae Olano a chance to shine. She spent most of her time accompanying, but she clearly has massive technique: Bunnett mentioned that she recently came in second in a national classical piano competition in Cuba. Bunnett's flute conversed with vocalise solos from both singers—the vocalists also frequently function as a coro (chorus), a frequent part of Cuban music, as well as salsa.

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