Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Insider's guide to FIJM 2011 - Indoor edition

The complete indoor programming has been announced for the 32nd edition of the Montreal Jazz Festival. And while, as Peter Hum writes of the Ottawa counterpart, many will bemoan the big name pop headliners like Robert Plant and Peter Frampton, there's a good chunk of phenomenal jazz & world music in the program as well. Let's get to it:

June 25
David Binney Quartet (6 pm, Gésu) - one of the premier voices of modern jazz over the past 15 years, Binney brings his working band of David Virelles (the Cuban pianist that won the Festival's Grand Prix a few years back), Eivind Opsvik and Dan Weiss.
The Jolly Boys (7 pm, Club Soda) - the pioneers of mento.
Jon Day (8 pm, Musée d'art contemporain, also June 26) - a good friend of mine, a great jazz pianist and the co-founder of McGill's Effusion A Capella has transformed himself into a phenomenal and exploratory singer-songwriter-producer. He surprised people at the press event today.
Milton Nascimento (9:30 pm, Théâtre Maisonneuve) - an absolute legend of Brazilian music with his haunting voice in tact. FIJM books these Brazilian masters only once in a blue moon. I already have my ticket.

June 26
Marc Ribot y los Cubanos Postizos (8 pm, Théâtre Jean-Duceppe) - I wore out these albums, paying tribute to the tres master Arsenio Rodriguez. Traditional Cuban music mixed with Ribot's punky, bluesy edge. Ribot is one of the three hosts of the Invitation series; he'll also be playing with his rock band Ceramic Dog and the project Caged Funk.
Steel Pulse & Ernest Ranglin (8:30 pm, Metropolis) - As great as Steel Pulse is, don't miss this opportunity to see the absolute master (and inventor) of the reggae guitar skank, Ranglin.
Brad Mehldau/Joshua Redman Duo (9:30 pm, Théâtre Maisonneuve) - My favourite moments of Mehldau's Highway Rider feature Redman. This video of them tackling Nirvana's "Lithium" is a fantastic preview.
Anat Cohen (10:30 pm, Gésu) - she wowed at L'Astral last time round with her powerfully swinging mix of modern jazz influenced by klezmer and choro.

June 27
Lee Konitz & Dan Tepfer (7 & 10 pm, Upstairs) - An undisputed master with a buzz-worthy up-and-comer. They're also two highly sensitive improvisers. At Upstairs, it'll feel like eavesdropping on a conversation.
Esperanza Spalding's Chamber Music Society (9:30 pm, Théâtre Maisonneuve) - see: Grammy win. See also: Herbie Hancock's endorsement.

June 28
FLY (6 pm, Gésu) - this collaborative trio of Mark Turner, Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard are three of my favourite player/composers. I still spin their first record obsessively. I believe this is their first time as a group at the festival.
Gretchen Parlato (9 pm, L'Astral) - considering she sold out Savoy for two nights last year, and that her new album The Lost and Found has garnered a lot of well-deserved buzz and is produced by FIJM darling Robert Glasper, this should sell out quickly and for good reason.

June 29
Darcy James Argue's Secret Society (6 pm, Gésu) - For those who don't already know, go here and find out why.
Lee Fields & The Expressions (7 pm, Club Soda) - part of the Daptone family of unheralded, resurrected soulful party rockers.
Rudresh Mahanthappa & Bunky Green (10:30 pm, Gésu) - Rudresh is deservedly becoming a regular here, and their collaborative album Apex was one of last year's best.

June 30
John Benitez Group f/ Yosvany Terry (7 & 10 pm & midnight, Upstairs) - See: my unabashed love for forward-thinking, burning Latin jazz. Benitez, among other accomplishments, is the bassist on Roy Hargrove's Habana record, my first real entry into Latin music and so he's important to me for sentimental reasons, aside from his deep pocket.

July 1
Don Byron New Gospel Quintet (6 pm, Gésu) - Don schooled us all in gospel at Banff in 2005, and even back then it was clear that this music communicated something very deep and powerful to him. With this band, he now communicates it to us all.
Sierra Maestra (7 pm, Club Soda) - put a legendary Cuban group in a small club and watch the roof explode.
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey (9:30 pm, L'Astral) - Indigone had the pleasure of opening for these guys at Sala Rossa a couple of years back. They've embarked on two ambitious projects recently, one re-working Beethoven and the other The Race Riot Suite written by their lap steel guitarist, Chris Combs. A unique and mesmerizing group.
Jaga Jazzist (11 pm, Club Soda) - the groovy, electro-jazz wielding Norwegians are back. Someone hipped me to them years ago and I've never seen them live.

July 2
Ana Moura (6 pm, Théâtre Maisonneuve) - fado is a Portuguese folk style that cuts right through me, and Ana is probably its most renowned practitioner these days.
The Roots (8:30 pm, Metropolis) - I still haven't seen them live. They need no justification or introduction. Watch an episode of Jimmy Fallon or follow ?uestlove on Twitter.

July 3
Jean-Pierre Zanella Homage to Don Alias (6 pm, L'Astral) - the legendary percussionist lived here for a while and served as a mentor to a generation of Montreal players. Saxophonist Zanella, who embodies Alias' musical polyglot nature, pays tribute with a cast of Montreal's finest, and guest bassist Gene Perla.
Christian McBride & Inside Straight (6 pm, Gésu) - the bassist who salutes James Brown and Ray Brown equally brings his swinging, straightahead formation to town.

July 4
Daniel Lanois' Black Dub (7 pm, Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier) - the début of this band was supposed to be last year, but Lanois was in a severe motorcycle accident. Lanois and Brian Blade in any combination proves to be magical, and with the addition of Trixie Whitley it will be stunning. Indie sweetheart Leif Vollebekk opens.
Yaron Herman Trio (9 pm, L'Astral) - See: Nextbop. See also: the only pianist I know that counts Frisell, Britney Spears, Björk and "Hatikvah" among his repertoire.

The outdoor programming will be revealed, as we say in French, sous peu. And it'll be interesting, considering our fantastic city is ripping up Ste-Catherine street throughout the festivities, causing the programming committee to deal with the loss of two stages.

EDITED TO ADD: Evelyn Reid has posted her more general and very thorough summary of the festival.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A couple of posts on Josh Rager's blog - one recent guest post from Toronto pianist Chris Donnelly, and an older one from Josh himself - have sparked my thought process. I want to specifically focus on the issue of students not showing up to teachers' gigs. As an educator myself now, and not long ago a student, I see both sides of this.

Chris and Josh, noting the absence and potential lack of interest of students at gigs by local musicians, is a sentiment echoed by many other players and teachers through the years. I agree with them that having local role models is vital - I owe a lot of the musician I've become to the time I spent hanging out at The Rex in Toronto as an impressionable teenager. I also agree with the idea, proffered in so many "why is jazz dying?" articles, that clubs and concert venues have become prohibitive to students, either through age restrictions, ticket prices and cover charges, or by drink minimums and the like. I was lucky - when I was growing up in Toronto, The Rex and Top O' the Senator were licensed as restaurants, not bars, which meant minors were allowed. I still have fond memories of being served iced tea in a pint glass at the Rex. The Senator even had student half-price Wednesdays. There seem to be two possible responses to Chris and Josh's questions:

1) the general lack of respect and recognition at a local level
2) a sense of reciprocity.


It's clear that priority, among audiences and presenters, will go to foreign artists (be it from out-of-town, out-of-province, or out-of-country) above the locals. If audiences ignore local artists, then clubs and festivals aren't necessarily wrong to bump locals down the ladder. But the regularity of certain artists at certain clubs can work to their detriment as well. The public can procrastinate without fearing too much repercussion - why go this month when I can see him next month? If enough people think that same way, we have empty rooms. The local scene absolutely has to be nurtured. I wish I had the definitive answer about how to do that. There's been so much written throughout the blogosphere about innovative arts presentation methods and how to get warm bodies in the door. Every city needs its equivalent of Search & Restore, and often I think it needs to come from the musicians ourselves. As important as blogs, radio, and (what little) print media (is left) are, we as musicians do more than anyone else to present and represent ourselves. We get to identify our own sense of collective and community and then spread those ideas and identities to the city, and the world.


What if we flip the equation and ask where are the teachers at the student gigs? Where is the support for young players outside of the classroom? I think for the most part, we tend to play for our peers - students go to fellow students' concerts, and the teachers hang out with each other as well. As much as that's lamentable, it's also understandable and normal. Perhaps there's more give-and-take, and more cross-generational mingling, than I'm seeing.

I definitely remember the initiative my classmates had in putting on recitals and booking gigs; even at the McGill combo nights at Upstairs I don't remember seeing profs that weren't adjudicating. At jam sessions, the students are often put together in one group, often later in the night, instead of being cajoled and educated on the spot by older players; by role models. I don't think that's effective for many reasons - primarily for the reason Josh mentioned in his recap of the John Patitucci clinic, that younger players should take every opportunity to play with the more experienced, and that a bunch of students scuffling together doesn't make for great music. And I wouldn't be surprised if, in part, the lack of student attendance at gigs is fuelled by the lack of support from their teachers (either perceived or real) and/or being shafted by one too many jam session hosts. My private instructors were generous with their involvement in my own music-making, and were honest if they couldn't make one of my recitals or gigs. I try to be as supportive and up-front with my own students.

There's likely other factors, the same factors that drive students to seek out their international idols versus their local mentors. Montreal is a far smaller city compared to New York, and to hang out at sessions and shows in either city means something very different. I love trading insights with fellow Montreal musicians after various concerts in town, but there's also a certain amount of perceived glamour and gravitas when you can rub elbows with [insert more famous jazz player] at [insert more famous jazz club]. Also, if we're dealing with a generation of students who have not checked out Thelonious Monk or "Carolina Shout," and choose instead to soak up every gesture of the under-40 jazz generation (Rosenwinkel, Monder, Mehldau, Glasper), then the more straightahead-leaning musician/educators are likely to be on the other side of a generation, tradition, and taste gap.

Yes, it's been a while since I've been at a jazz show myself. I realize that my show-going habits (when I'm not working myself) have leaned towards out-of-towners and non-jazz music. And we need to be honest about the fact that life just gets in the way of going to all the shows we would love to see, if we had all the time in the world and a couple of clones to fill in our places. Life gets in the way for students as well as professional musicians and teachers. None of this is to justify the behaviour of people who ignore their most valuable resources. If anything, it's to work towards rectifying it.