Wednesday, May 01, 2013

2013 Montreal Jazz Festival - indoor programming picks

Yesterday was International Jazz Day, commemorated with a star-studded gala in Istanbul and notable releases from Aaron Parks and Darcy James Argue. The Montreal Jazz Festival took Tuesday morning to announce their full ticketed programming for this year's edition. Many of the big shows had already been announced. I'm truly impressed with the depth of this year's jazz programming. There's maybe less obvious marquee names than usual, but the quality of the music-making is probably among the highest of the past ten years I've been following the festival.

For out-of-towners (and Montrealers who don't really follow the jazz scene), the Jazz d'ici series - 6 pm at L'Astral - is a must. From trumpeter, composer and Oddsound label founder Jacques Kuba Seguin on June 28, to the Jensen family (saxophonist Christine Jensen invites trumpeter Ingrid and organist Gary Versace on July 1; saxophonist Joel Miller, Christine's partner, brings his Latin-tinged Honeycomb band the 3rd), the series is a fantastic overview of the contemporary straightahead community in town, and is worth the discovery. There's some new projects in the lineup this year - saxophonist André Leroux, often heard on Festival stages as a sideman, leads his own band for the first time on June 29; Chet Doxas has re-convened his band Muse Hill (June 30), which unites bassist Morgan Moore with the leading lights of Montreal's indie rock scene including Joe Grass and the Barr Brothers; and pianist Marianne Trudel brings her relatively new project, Trifolia, on July 4.

I was a little late to the press conference, and walked in just as they announced that their Invitation Series would be curated by Charles Lloyd for the first half and Vijay Iyer for the second half. I was stunned. Lloyd is not someone I thought would be on the short list for the Series, though he's more than deserving of the honour. He'll hold court in Théâtre Jean-Duceppe with his quartet (June 28),  with the Sangam trio of Eric Harland & Zakir Hussain (June 29), and in duos with Jason Moran and Bill Frisell (June 30). Iyer's series will be in my favourite room, Salle Gesù, presenting his trio, with Justin Brown on the drum throne (July 4), duo with Craig Taborn (July 5), and solo piano on the 6th.

Now that those two universally strong series are out of the way, let's go chronologically:

June 28
6 pm: Jacques Kuba Seguin's Odd Lot (L'Astral - see above)
6 pm: Charles Lloyd Quartet (Théâtre Jean-Duceppe - see above)
7 pm: Sienna Dahlen (Savoy du Metropolis) - Sienna is a vocalist who wraps around lyrics and is a supreme collaborator. She's been the voice on Paris-based drummer Karl Jannuska's last few discs and also appears on guitarist Mike Rud's forthcoming Notes on Montreal. Her own recent disc, Verglas, is a stark beauty befitting its name.
8 pm: Chucho Valdes & The Afro-Cuban Messengers (Théâtre Maisonneuve) - part of the dynasty of Cuban piano, son of the late Bebo and father to Chuchito, Valdes is one of the standard bearers of Afro-Cuban jazz. I've never seen him live.
9 pm: Tia Fuller (L'Astral) - best known as a sax player in Beyoncé's band, I first heard Tia at a jam session at Cleopatra's Needle in NYC, and she laid down that hard-driving alto sound. I haven't, unfortunately, heard her records as a leader, but now is the opportunity.
9:30 pm: Ravi Coltrane (Jean-Duceppe) - I would say that Coltrane's latest album, Spirit Fiction, is among his strongest. This is absolutely the time to hear him.

June 29
6 pm: Charles Lloyd Sangam (Jean-Duceppe) - see above
7 pm: Wayne Shorter 80th Birthday Celebration (Maisonneuve) - there's many other great shows happening this night, which is truly unfortunate, because this triple-bill is unquestionably the place to be. First up is Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas' Sound Prints quintet, indebted to Wayne without directly playing his tunes (and read Dave's insights into Wayne's new record); second is pianist Geri Allen - who I admittedly have not paid enough attention to over the years - with Esperanza Spalding and Teri Lyne Carrington; and the finale is Shorter's quartet. Now re-signed to Blue Note, Without A Net is another compelling live document of this band, who after a decade together are now more telepathic than ever. Go see this concert.
9:30 pm: Jason Moran's Fats Waller Dance Party (Jean-Duceppe) - why is this the same night? Moran's relationship to stride piano (cf. his solo piano album Modernistic) has always been riveting to me, in the vein of his mentor Jaki Byard. The clips of this show - featuring the enigmatic Me'shell Ndegeocello - were fascinating. Another one of those painful Festival conflicts.
10:30 pm: Goldings/Bernstein/Stewart (Gesù) - why is this the same night? This organ trio have been a working band for two decades, I guess, and the rhythmic hookup between Larry Goldings and drummer Bill Stewart is one of the great pleasures of 21st-century jazz.

June 30
6 pm: Muse Hill (L'Astral) - see above
6 pm: Charles Lloyd with Jason Moran & Bill Frisell (Jean-Duceppe) - see above
7 pm: Elizabeth Shepherd (Savoy du Metropolis) - I've known of Elizabeth since her first album, Start to Move. Her original tunes are full of groove and the way she recasts standards is provocative, as heard on her last album Rewind. The intimacy of Savoy is the perfect spot for her.
8:30 pm: Rhye (Metropolis) - the latest project from Danish producer Robin Hannibal (also responsible for Quadron) has been on my to-hear list for a while.
9 pm: Youn Sun Nah (L'Astral) - publicist extraordinaire Matt Merewitz hipped me to this Korean singer, whose repertoire is vast and varied, from standards and Korean folk songs to Metallica and Nine Inch Nails.

July 1
6 pm: Christine Jensen with Ingrid Jensen & Gary Versace (L'Astral) - see above
7 pm: Elizabeth Shepherd (Savoy) - see above
9:30 pm: David Murray Infinity Quartet (Jean-Duceppe) - Murray, the big-sounding saxophonist, has been working with the texts of Ishmael Reed for years, with the instantly recognizable voices of Cassandra Wilson and Bobby Womack, among others. Add the idiosyncratic soul singer Macy Gray - yes, that Macy Gray - to the list. The Conjure records of the late '80s have been a predilection of mine recently so I'm terribly curious to hear this.
10:30 pm: The Bad Plus (Gesù) - it's the Bad Plus. At Gesù.

July 2
8 pm: Thus:Owls (Musée d'art contemporain) - led by guitarist Simon Angell of the Patrick Watsons and vocalist Erika Angell, this ephemeral group has been gaining lots of well-deserved buzz.
9:30 pm: Kurt Rosenwinkel New Quartet (Jean-Duceppe) - The tandem of Kurt with pianist Aaron Parks is such a beautiful, textured sound. Kurt is one of my favourite improvisers and composers and has indelibly influenced how musicians in my generation, especially guitar players, approach our craft.
10:30 pm: Steve Kuhn Trio (Gesù) - I'm sadly not as familiar with pianist Kuhn as I should be. The trio is rounded out by bassist Steve Swallow and drummer par excellence Joey Baron. Excitement should ensue - Swallow and Baron should make for an incredibly responsive and sensitive rhythm section.

July 3
6 pm: Joel Miller's Honeycomb (L'Astral) - see above.
7 pm: Vieux Farka Touré (Club Soda) - the son of legendary Malian guitarist Ali Farka Touré, this is a night of electrified African music that is firmly "ancient to the future."
8 pm: Dr. John/Leon Russell (Maisonneuve) - my passion for New Orleans piano is no secret. Nor is my love for rootsy piano pop, of which Leon Russell is the forefather. This is a true double-bill with both Mac and Leon performing full length sets. It's gonna be a long night of Southern style piano.

July 4
6 pm: Vijay Iyer Trio (Gesù) - Vijay has not compromised his art at all, but it seems like the rest of the world has caught up to him. His last stretch of records on ACT are, each of them, truly ear-opening gems. I'm curious to hear Justin Brown in place of Marcus Gilmore.
10:30 pm: Charlie Hunter/Scott Amendola (Gesù) - 7-string guitarist Hunter is known for playing bass and guitar at the same time. He's had a longstanding partnership with drummer Amendola, who also plays with sonic wizard Nels Cline. After all my years of admiring Hunter, I've still never seen him live, and in this stripped-down scenario in my favourite room, I can't think of a better way.
11 pm: Fitz and the Tantrums (Club Soda) - "Breaking the Chains of Love" grabbed my attention the first time I heard it. Their forthcoming album, More Than Just a Dream, takes them out of the '60s into the '80s and '90s. This will be a party.

July 5
6 pm: Vijay Iyer/Craig Taborn (Gesù) - two polyglot pianists with impeccable technique, rhythmic virtuosity, and wide-ranging musical interests. If memory serves, these two played together with Roscoe Mitchell's Note Factory. The mention of this duo's premiere last summer immediately sparked my interest and I'm fascinated by this pairing.
10:30 pm: Tim Berne's Snakeoil (Gesù) - I missed Snakeoil when they played Casa del Popolo last year. Pianist Matt Mitchell is firmly in the lineage of Iyer and Taborn. Frankly, this is the most shocking booking of the festival. I never thought that I would read "Tim Berne" - a highly modernist saxophonist/composer/improviser - and "Montreal Jazz Festival" in the same sentence. As an aside, I think it's imperative that this show be a resounding success in ticket sales, if we want to ensure that this kind of creative programming continues at Jazz Fest. Since the "contemporary" series got axed a few years ago, much of the left-of-centre improvised music has had no space in the programming. Second to the Wayne Shorter celebration, this is my most anticipated show of the festival, without question.

July 6
6 pm: Vijay Iyer solo (Gesù) - see above.
8 pm: Leif Vollebekk (Musée d'art contemporain) - Even though I'm friends with many people who have played with Leif, I haven't really heard him outside his guest turn with Karkwa on CBC a little while ago. He's quickly becoming the face of the Montreal indie community, and from what little I've heard, rightfully so.
10:30 pm: Antonio Sanchez Migration (Gesù) - Sanchez has been here multiple times, playing drums with Pat Metheny (when the robots aren't doing it for him). I'm thrilled to check out his own group, featuring another fantastically influential composer, David Binney, pianist John Escreet, and Matt Brewer on bass.

July 7
8:30 pm: The Specials (Metropolis) - break out the two-toned shoes, these ska legends are in town. Honestly, the ska scene has never been on my radar, but I know Montrealers love their ska so this will be a show to remember.
10:30 pm: John Abercrombie Quartet (Gesù) - in all the times guitarist Abercrombie has performed at the festival, I've still never been able to see him. He is one of the quintessential ECM guitarists, whose output never flags or falters. Joey Baron is once again behind the drums - perhaps this festival is an unspoken Joey Baron invitation series? - with Drew Gress on bass (one of my absolute favourites), and saxophonist Billy Drewes.

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