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Festival International de Jazz de Montréal 2019: Week 2

Mark Sullivan By

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Therrien asked the audience if they like classical guitar...then apologized for not having one. But she likes to challenge herself with Spanish composer Francisco Tárrega's famous classical guitar composition Capricho árabe. The arrangement began with a long duet with the bass guitar playing accompaniment (primarily in the upper range, sounding much like a guitar). When the band entered Trudel's piano took the lead, before turning it back to the trumpet. They then went into an exciting salsa montuno. After a trumpet solo, the leader traded twos with the drums. "Out Of A Dream" was a fast bebop tune, no relationship to the standard "You Stepped Out Of A Dream."

This is an exciting band, and their long playing experience shows in their easy give and take. Not to mention the joy in playing on their faces.

Django Festival All Stars Featuring Samson Schmitt, Pierre Blanchard, Ludovic Beier

The Django Festival All Stars concluded the "Cycle Django Reinhardt" with an instrumentation that echoed the famous Quintet of the Hot Club of France: two guitars (Samson Schmitt & DouDou Cuillerier), violin (Pierre Blanchard), accordion (Ludovic Beier) and bass (Antonio Licusati). They have the sound and the energy, and are nothing if not entertaining.

They were playful, and clearly did not take themselves too seriously: an example would be Schmitt's quote from the Pink Panther theme early on. The originals included "Reel for Charlie (Chaplin)," "Late Train," and their tribute to Toots Thielemans, "Around Toots." The accordionist played a button melodica for it, matching the layout of his button accordion.

On "Chez Django," they encouraged the willing crowd to shout back the title during the chorus. Cuillerier sang that one, and proved a very capable vocalist, including a good scat solo. Schmitt made a brief Django allusion during his solo, which was as close as they came to playing any of Reinhardt's music.

Alan Parsons

Veteran English audio engineer, songwriter, musician, and record producer Alan Parsons was touring to support his latest album The Secret (Frontiers, 2019), which explores the theme of magic. The show opened with a song from it, but of course he and his band (which included two guitarists, bass, drums, keyboards, and two vocalists, who also played the saxophone, guitar and percussion) made sure to include the hits that the enthusiastic audience had come to hear.

Over the course of the long concert songs included "I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You," "Damned If I Do," "Time," "Don't Answer Me," and "Sirius." Parsons played keyboards and acoustic guitar, and did some singing. But the weight was largely carried by his accomplished band. In addition to the dedicated vocalists both guitarists sang, which helped to cover the variety of voices that had been employed on the original recordings. Parsons sang "Don't Answer Me," "As Lights Fall" (from The Secret), and the finale of the set, the band's biggest hit "Eye In The Sky."

Other highlights included a bass guitar solo with envelope follower on "I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You," dual guitar parts on several tunes, and an unaccompanied keyboard feature (which displayed technical skills beyond that required to cover parts, and included clever quotes from several Parsons songs). Parsons encouraged the audience to use their cell phone flashlight as a special effect during "Limelight."

Called back for an encore, the band played two songs, concluding with "Games People Play." Not their biggest hit, but perhaps the most emotionally resonant. Certainly the capacity audience was satisfied. Larry Grenadier

American double bassist Larry Grenadier has performed at the festival many times, but this was his debut as a soloist, and it also served as part of the celebration for the 50th anniversary of ECM Records. His set largely drew from his solo album The Gleaners (ECM, 2019), beginning with the mournful arco "Oceanic." The bluesy pizzicato "Pettiford" was composed in honor of the great bassist Oscar Pettiford. Grenadier told the story of encountering a Pettiford album by accident when just beginning to study jazz. "Vineland" got its title from the Thomas Pynchon novel of the same name—but Grenadier just liked the sound of it.

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