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Silver anniversary spectacle
In addition to its 150 indoor ticketed concerts over 12 nights, downtown Montreal was bubbling with its usual crowd-pleasing mix of musical on 10 outdoor stages, street performers and people watching. If anything, the fact that it is the festival's 25th year, has intensified the turnout. An estimated 1.8 million music fans turned out for the festival in 2003 and Artistic Director (and Festival Co-founder) Andre Menard anticipates the 2 million attendance barrier will be exceeded this year.
It's all about conversation
Legendary Cuban bassist Cachaito Lopez and guitarist Manuel Galban opened Tuesday's evening events with a concert by their 10-piece Cuban band at the Spectrum de Montreal. But they set the tone for the night - musical conversation - by starting with a guitar and bass solo. That musical intimacy continued an hour later, several blocks away by singer Tierney Sutton's quarter at the festival's primary vocal venue, Club Soda.
It's all about trios
Matt Wilson, named Drummer of the Year last year by the Jazz Journalists Association, worked with Charlie Haden in Wednesday night's Invitation series concert. Haden brought in Wilson and saxophonist Dewey Redman (a longtime Wilson employer) for this second evening in his portion of the singular artist series, which Haden inaugurated in 1989 with an eight-night run. The first contact between Haden and Wilson was in a very different shared role. Three and one-half years ago, Wilson called Haden, the father of triplet girls, for advice when his wife was expecting what turned out to be triplet boys. Haden's advice: "Be patient and be prepared to get little sleep." Wilson was also scheduled to perform Thursday night with Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra at Montreal's Monument-National theater.
Pianist Chick Corea was featured in four different contexts during week one of the Invitation series. Haden opened his segment on Tuesday, July 6, with a series of duos with Egberto Gismonti and John Taylor, and will conclude it on Friday with his primary working band, Quartet West.
Their fire need not alarm
Usually the first song or two give the audience the impression that Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez and his trio are on musical fire. The band with bassist Ben Street and drummer Adam Cruz was upstaged at by a malfunctioning fire alarm, which went off three times just before the band took to the stage at the acoustically perfect Salle Gesu. The concert finally got rolling, only to have the alarm blare again - just as Perez was beginning his second tune. Nonplussed, Perez turned what could have been an annoyance into a crowd-pleasing musical moment. He played repetitive and complementing thick block chords until the alarm stopped, using it as an oblique entry into Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed." It was Perez's first quartet performance featuring trio and fire alarm.
Whatever the weather
The crowd seemed non-plussed no matter whether it was searing afternoon heat, a steady drizzle by the time Roomful of Blues took to the Labatt Bleue stage Wednesday night or the full-blown downpour that started before New York-based Yerba Buena finished its set of throbbing Afro-Cuban dance and party music, on the primary outdoor General Motors Stage two hours later.
Special creations in light of this year's Silver anniversary of the Montreal Jazz Festival include Canada's issuance of a commemorative postage stamp, Universal Music's distribution of a 25th anniversary CD of festival highlights featuring performances by Miles Davis, Diana Krall and Oscar Peterson, and a 200-page photo-rich souvenir book looking in depth at its history and past triumphs.