The 33rd edition of the Montreal Jazz Festival unofficially kicks off in two evenings from now, with "pre-opening" concerts courtesy of Janelle Monáe and James Taylor (not, unfortunately, a double-bill). I profiled the indoor programming here; my picks for the must-see outdoor and free shows are below. There is once again an official jam session at the Hyatt hotel, hosted by pianist John Roney. The unofficial jams include the B3 organ hang over at Brutopia, hosted by Martin K. Petersen and company, and local Afrobeat dons Papagroove hold court at L'Absynthe for a few nights as well. And for all the people who grouse every year that the Festival is less and less jazzy (especially outdoors), keep reading.
Ivan Garzón Quartet (8 pm, CBC stage): I play with Ivan in Denis Chang's manouche quartet, where he plays rhythm guitar. He's also a fantastic post-bop electric player, and is in the running for the TD Grand Prix.
Marie-Christine (8 pm, Rio Tinto Alcan stage): One of the great rising soul and R&B singers in town, she's a commanding stage presence to match her voice.
Mike Essoudry's Mash Potato Mashers (4 & 6 pm, Heineken Lounge): Mike and I crossed paths at McGill. The Ottawa drummer's revisionist brass band is part of the daily afternoon brass-heavy madness throughout the festival.
Peripheral Vision (6 pm, TD stage): My buddies from Toronto, guitarist Don Scott and bassist Michael Herring, co-lead this quartet featuring their forward-thinking tunes. They're also nominated for the Prize.
Curumin (10 pm, Bell stage): If you missed his show three years ago on the same stage, prepare to be converted to this dubby, hip-hop-inflected Brazilian pop music. Curumin is undoubtedly the reason why my heart and my ears gravitate to São Paulo's music scene.
Alexandre Côté Quintet (6 pm, TD stage): Alex is an un(der)sung hero of the Montreal scene, as a saxophonist and as a composer. I'm privileged to play alongside him in Gary Schwartz's LETTINGO, and his writing always opens my eyes to new possibilities.
Maria Farinha Band (8 & 10 pm, Rio Tinto Alcan stage): This singer's list of sidemen include the cream of the crop of Brazilian musicians from Canada, the US and São Paulo. A dose of traditional MPB.
Plaster (10 pm, Bell stage): The original purveyors of local wall-shaking live electro. These guys embodied lots of what I loved about the Montreal scene circa 2004-05, and they're back!
July 1 - the night of too many decisions
Chris Tarry Group (6 pm, TD stage): The ex-Metalwood bassist has been settled in NYC for many years now, cranking out phenomenal original music and short stories. Tarry's sound on electric bass has been one of my favourites for years.
Robi Botos (8 pm, CBC stage): I grew up marvelling at Robi's talent in Toronto, watching him give master classes at The Rex with every solo. Without question one of Canada's best pianists. He's in the running for the Prize as well.
Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto (8 pm, Bell stage): the premier traditional cumbia group, in existence since 1940! An opportunity to not be missed. It'll provide context for...
Boogat (10 pm, Bell stage): Montreal MC turned ambassador for electro-Latin music. He's prepping a new record, and I'm sure all the dancefloor hits will be in his set too. ¡Dios mio, que viva Montreal!
Kneebody (10 pm, CBC stage): I've been a fan of this bi-coastal quintet since their first album on Greenleaf. Their electric, modern jazz packs a wallop, with a killer frontline of multi-reedist Ben Wendel and trumpeter Shane Endsley.
Heavy Soundz (midnight, Savoy, til July 3): alongside Boogat, the leading voice of Latin hip-hop in town. They take up three late-nights of residency at the Savoy.
Roma Carnivale vs Fanfare Severni (5 pm, place des Festivals): two local Balkan-influenced brass bands march across the place des Festivals for some heatstroke-inducing early partying. My money's on Roma.
Rachel Therrien Quintet (6 pm, TD stage): Like me, Rachel nurtures two great passions: Latin music and contemporary jazz. Fresh off the Banff Centre's jazz workshop, her sound has grown immensely and I can't wait to hear her showcase for the Prize.
Jazz Amnesty Sound System (midnight, L'Astral, til July 4): Selectors Andy Williams (of the Goods) and Luv dig into their impossibly deep jazz crates for a vinyl-only dancefloor section. I've been honoured to guest on a couple of their nights at the Waverly and I always get schooled by their records.
Sidi Touré (8 pm, Rio Tinto Alcan stage): This Malian singer and guitarist is firmly in line with many of his great countrymen, with a disarming voice and potent fingerwork.
Escort (9:30 pm, TD stage): a live disco big band direct from Brooklyn, featuring members of Darcy James Argue's Secret Society among others, for the mid-festival blowout? Yes, please.
Karl Jannuska (6 pm, TD stage): A bit of a mythical figure on the Montreal scene, this McGill alumnus moved to Paris before I arrived. Everyone still talks about his drumming and his compositions, for good reason. Featuring vocalist Sienna Dahlen, Jannuska's music is moving and somewhat haunting.
Ernesto Cervini Quartet (8 pm, CBC stage): I'm not really sure how you can be nominated for the TD "Rising Star" prize when you've released a few records on Anzic and your tenor saxophonist is Joel Frahm. Ernesto is a fantastic drummer (and an equally capable pianist and clarinetist) whose compositional voice is constantly growing.
Besh O Drom (8 & 10 pm, Rio Tinto Alcan stage): a group that was at the forefront of the Balkan Beats movement, this band direct from Hungary will show us how it's done.
The Narcicyst (10 pm, Bell stage): MC, author, professor, social critic and fashionista will grace the Jazz Fest stage with an all new show before he leaves our belle ville. Allahdamercy!
Chet Doxas Quartet (10 pm, CBC stage): The brothers Doxas (Jim's a drummer) are fixtures on the local scene, and the catalysts for some of jazz's biggest names to come to town. Chet will be playing music from his last album, Big Sky, featuring guitarist and Triplettes de Belleville composer Ben Charest.
Coyote Bill (10 pm, Bell stage): horn-heavy funky goodness featuring composer/producer/saxophonist extraordinaire Charles Papasoff, and members of Papagroove.
Kalmunity Vibe Collective (midnight, Savoy, til July 7): full disclosure - I'm playing on this one. Kalmunity has provided nine years of improvised grooves and social commentary in the city, and has been the incubator for some of the city's most promising talent over the past decade. With our three nights at the Savoy, we're indulging three different facets of our collective personality. July 5 is my baby, exploring the roots of all this music at Congo Square, and seeing how and where it grew from there. For those of you who attended our Mardi Gras party, expect some greasy NOLA funk through the Kalmunity kaleidoscope. The following nights are spotlighting J Dilla (July 6) and "the present moment" (July 7).
Canicule Tropicale (midnight, L'Astral, til July 7): My boys Philippe Noël and Kobal are back once again, with an all-tropical, all-vinyl marathon of dancefloor rockin' goodness.
Samuel Blais Quartet (8 pm, CBC stage): another young saxophonist whose enterprising NYC connections have led to an influx of fantastic shows in this city. He's showcasing his homegrown quartet, one of his many simultaneous projects.
Orgone (TD stage, 9 & 11 pm): I still harbour a love for the "jamband" scene - a remnant from my high school and early university days. These guys are carrying the torch of that community quite well, with an improvisational sense to their funk.
Frank Lozano Montreal Quartet (10 pm, CBC stage): Frank was a teacher of mine at McGill and a big inspiration, with a language that spans all periods and improvisational abilities.
Chicha Libre (8 pm, Bell stage): Led by Olivier Conan, the co-founder of Brooklyn's renowned club Barbès, this group has led the way for the rediscovery of Peruvian chicha music. They've put out a couple of brilliant records.
Blackmahal (10 pm, Bell stage): Bill Smith of Eye For Talent agency described them to me as "Bollywood hip-hop." An intriguing enough endorsement to warrant closing out the festival with this group.