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Festival International de Jazz de Montréal 2017: July 3-4

Mark Sullivan By

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Drummer Duncan Bellamy introduced the next group of pieces as part of the forthcoming album Art in the Age of Automation. True to the title, they generally involved sample loops as a base—controlled by Bellamy, who then had the sometimes unenviable job of trying to play live drums in sync. "Objects to place in a line" did include arco bass as well as the sound of acoustic piano, but "City of Glass" opened with what was almost a rhythm sample solo before the band joined in. Call it a work in progress: a band trying to balance the acoustic and electronic sides of its personality. It is still an exciting performing group, warmly received by the Montreal audience.

The reason I only caught the opening and closing acts of the marathon was my attendance at another marathon in between, in the form of the three-hour "An evening with King Crimson." John Kelman will be writing a full account, but as a long-time fan I wanted to mention how terrific the performance was. So powerful as to be overwhelming at times, which I can illustrate with a personal story. A little ways into the first set they launched into "Red"—an old favorite, but one I have no particular emotional attachment to that I know of. But at the start I felt the hair on the back of my neck go up, and suddenly found myself weeping uncontrollably. It's among the most emotional responses I've ever had listening to music, and I have no explanation. But it's certainly powerful stuff.

July 4

Danilo Pérez Trio

The first of two acts billed as a "Programme double," the Panamanian pianist/composer Danilo Pérez brought his longtime band mates bassist Ben Street and drummer Adam Cruz. The opening tune began with unaccompanied piano setting the tone—a common approach for this trio. The entire band built slowly—muting inside the piano, muted bass, drum kit played with the hands—until a full crescendo. The piano then set up a new ostinato pattern, joined by the band. I didn't catch the name of the piece, but it had the feel of a suite. "Expeditions" was introduced as a new song. Briefer than the opener, but it too was multi-sectional. "Providencia" got an especially infectious Latin groove going—lots of nodding heads in the audience—and had a big, repeated rhythmic finish.

It being Independence Day in the United States, Pérez gave a little speech about the power of music to build community, a theme which he elaborated on later in the set. He described Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed" as an appropriate choice. It gave the rhythm section a chance to shine, with Street's bass solo accompanied only by Cruz's drums. After band introductions, they launched into an astonishing son montuno, which the band was demonstrably delighted by: they were clearly enjoying themselves immensely, as was the audience. It included an unaccompanied section with the pianist playing a straight montuno pattern with his left hand while commenting with clusters played by his arms, the back of his hand, etc. At the end the drums and bass traded eights, bebop style. Tremendously exciting.

Pérez announced a Thelonious Monk medley in honor of what would have been his 100th birthday this year. He began with an exploratory solo version of the beautiful ballad "Round Midnight," then the whole trio launched into "Evidence." Solo again, the pianist wove several tunes together, notably "Well, You Needn't" and "In Walked Bud" (Monk's tribute to the great bebop pianist Bud Powell) before the group joined in for a final Latin groove. An exciting end to a joyous performance.

Still Dreaming

Still Dreaming was inspired by the quartet Old and New Dreams (all former Ornette Coleman sidemen). In this version tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman takes the role of his father, Dewey Redman; cornetist Ron Miles stands in for Don Cherry; double bassist Scott Colley for his mentor Charlie Haden; and drummer Brian Blade in place of Ed Blackwell. This new group (which Redman joked was "a tribute to a tribute: kind of messed up") intends to capture the spirit of the original, rather than playing all old repertoire.

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