Saturday, April 28, 2012

Montreal is full of surprises - again

For 32 years, the Montreal International Jazz Festival team has been showing the world how to produce a music festival that is filled with programming innovations, draws from genres and artists from around the globe – and runs like clockwork.
The 33rd edition, which runs from June 28 to July 8, is just around the corner and the tickets for the 180+ indoor concerts went on sale this weekend. This six-square-block musical party is always a treat, no matter whether you go just for the 400 or so free outdoor shows at 10 stages in and around Montreal’s Place des Arts, or you also pony up to see some of the formal indoor concerts.
Jazz is always the core of the festival, but you’ll also find plenty of blues, folk, afro-pop and world music. It’s always a treat to hear some of the formidable Canadian musicians who never seem to garner much attention here in the U.S.


The many headliners include James Taylor, Liza Minnelli, German electronic music pioneers Tangerine Dream, Miles Davis Award winner Ron Carter, Wayne Shorter, Seal, Norah Jones, Melody Gardot, Sophie Milman, Esperanza Spalding, Eliane Elias, James Carter, Carmen Lundy, Chris Botti, Johnny Clegg, Ziggy Marley, Oliver Jones, Peter Appleyard (winner of 2012’s Oscar Peterson Award that the festival gives to high-achieving Canadian musicians).

These really caught my eye:
  • On June 29, pianists Patricia Barber and Kenny Werner team up for a duo concert. Swiss singer Sophie Hunger sings the music of Bob Dylan in a July 3 show in which she shares the billing with English folk-rock musician and activist Billy Bragg.
  • The fifth annual edition of the festival’s Battle of the Bands, set for July 8, has twoo new yet ideal participants: the Duke Ellington Orchestra and the Count Basie Orchestra.
  • On July 2, Kenny Garrett, Wallace Roney, Joey DeFrancesco, Omar Hakim and Darryl Jones pay tribute to Miles Davis when they perform as the all-star collective Miles Smiles
  • The festival’s acclaimed Invitation TD series enables two musicians to perform in a variety of contexts over several evenings. This year’s lucky artists are bassist Stanley Clarke and Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen. Clarke will perform on consecutive nights with Japanese pianist Hiromi, the Harlem String Quartet, the SMV trio (Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten) and the Stanley Clarke Band. Gustavsen will take over the series on July 4 with his regular ensemble. Then his trio, a rare solo performance and a duo with singer Solveig Slettahjell.
  •  Late night performances at Gesù - Centre de créativité, an intimate performance space in the basement of a neighboring church, include the husband and wife piano duo of Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes on July  2, and guitarist Pat Martino’s Organ Trio with Pat Bianchi on Hammond B3 and Carmen Intorre on drums on July 5.
  • Singer Gregory Porter will make his first Montreal appearance when he opens the festival’s club performance series June 28 at L’Astral. Other performers at the club located in the festival’s Maison du Jazz are saxophonist Pierrick Pédron, harmonica ace Grégoire Maret, cornetist Médéric Collignon, singers Dorothée Berryman, Nellie McKay and Molly Johnson, and trios led by Jef Neve, Colin Vallon and Neil Cowley.
And then there are those hundreds of outdoor shows and major extravaganazas, which the festival has not yet announced but are always top-notch. Bring a lot of energy - and comfortable shoes.

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