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Festival International de Jazz de Montréal 2019: Week 2

Mark Sullivan By

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As on the album, saxophonist John Coltrane's "Compassion" (played arco) and drummer Paul Motian's "The Owl Of Cranston" (played pizzicato) were combined into a medley. The bassist explored different tunings for the album. Historically, there have been other tunings than the fourths in current use, and other tunings changed the resonance of the bass. He confessed to stealing from viola music by the twentieth century composer Paul Hindemith. A second medley combined songs from two bebop pianists: Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk. An interesting stylistic change, and a chance for Grenadier to demonstrate his bebop chops.

Brought back for an encore, Grenadier chose the first song he wrote (not that long ago, he assured the audience). "State of the Union" appeared on the trio Fly's debut Fly (Savoy Jazz, 2004). The whole performance was a remarkable demonstration of the range of the double bass as a solo instrument, as well as Grenadier's voice on it.

Friday, July 5

Bobo Stenson

Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson appears on one of the earliest ECM albums, making his solo performance an appropriate part of the ECM 50th anniversary celebration. The main part of his set turned out to be a single hour-long improvisation—or possibly a suite of his tunes played without pause—music that was more about small moments than big gestures. Stenson would introduce a musical idea—a melody, chord sequence, bass line—and explore it for five to ten minutes before introducing a new one. So none of the ideas overstayed their welcome, and there was a calm feeling of continuous flow: not much drama.

There were many lyrical passages, a clear Stenson signature. Motion came from occasional rippling arpeggios or bass ostinato patterns: at one point he broke out into a rhapsodic chord sequence, a contrasting gesture. The last part of the performance went into bluesy territory, then a bit of stride piano, before a gentle ending.

Called back for an encore, Stenson began playing a sprightly piece that sounded like a composed song rather than an improvisation. After about five minutes of exposition he introduced a new, slower chord sequence and melody. The ending was a gentle surprise, concluding on a single bass note.

Peter Frampton: The Farewell Tour

English guitarist/singer/songwriter Peter Frampton is on what he is calling The Farewell Tour: having been diagnosed with a progressive muscle disorder, he is not sure how much longer he will be physically capable of playing, and wanted to go out on a high note. Before the show the onstage screen was showing a photo montage covering Frampton's childhood through the present. A recorded greeting told the audience that they were free to take photographs during the first three songs, admonishing them to "be in the moment" after that.

"Something's Happening" from the famous Frampton Comes Alive! album (A&M, 1976) opened the set, complete with clever hall light illumination to accompany the line "turn up the lights, I feel like dancing." After introducing the green drum kit that had been used on Frampton Comes Alive! —which Frampton purchased on ebay—the band played some more hits, including "Show Me the Way." He said that the band has been varying their set list on the tour, introducing "Fig Tree Bay," the first track on his first solo album Winds of Change (A&M, 1972).

Frampton said he had rediscovered his love of the blues during a long tour with American guitarist Steve Miller. So he and his band recently recorded All Blues (UMe, 2019), which debuted at Number One on the Billboard blues chart. They played an instrumental version of "Georgia On My Mind" and "I'll Play The Blues For You." A short acoustic guitar solo set included "All I Want to Be (Is By Your Side)"—which included an audience sing-along on the title phrase—-and an impressive finger-style instrumental. "Black Hole Sun" by the late Chris Cornell was next, a largely instrumental version that Cornell had loved so much that he asked Frampton to perform it with him live. The main show ended with blistering guitar playing from 2nd guitarist Adam Lester, first solo, then in a classic lead guitar duel with his boss.

The first encore began with "Baby, I Love Your Way," which Frampton said had been written on the same day as "Show Me The Way," and under deadline at that! He has been hoping for another day like that ever since. "Do You Feel Like We Do" included more obligatory audience participation, as well as a guitar duel with keyboardist Robert Arthurs (and some jokes sung through the guitar voice box effect). Later encores revisited the Humble Pie classic "I Don't Need No Doctor" and George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."

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