Sunday, February 13, 2011

The creativity never ceases

The Montreal International Jazz Festival’s innovative programming is one of the creative charms that keeps jazz fans coming back for more. Every year, there’s a new twist or musical pairing that makes its presentations stand apart from other venues.

It’s a staggering jazz festival just in the quantity of its 600 or so performances. But the quality puts it over the top as what I consider the world’s finest jazz festival. It runs like clockwork, draws most of its audience from greater Montreal but also reaches out to media and jazz fans from across North America and around the globe.

Tickets went on sale yesterday for one of the treats at this year’s 32nd annual festival, scheduled June 25 through July 4 in downtown Montreal’s Place des Festivals (the larger venue surround to the Place des Arts).

Singer-pianist Diana Krall,made her Montreal debut in 1995 with a 10-night club residency celebrating the music of Nat King Cole. Canada's native daughter, from British Columbia, returned in 1998, 1999 and 2004 for major venue concerts. The last one was a gala celebrating the festival’s silver anniversary. (Husband Elvis Costello was an unbilled but not surprising guest.)

This time, Krall is flying solo. Just her and her piano, for a three-night solo run in Théâtre Maisonneuve, on June 26, 27 and 28. It is part of the festival’s En voix series celebrating the masters and rising stars of the vocal art. It’s a major twist from past Montreal performances, particularly her 1999 appearance, which had 30 other musicians taking part.

Another coup for Montreal – the three-night residency. Now that she’s among the jazz elite, Krall rarely plays multiple nights in the venue.

Three powerhouse June 25 opening night concerts in Montreal will feature:

  • Sing the Truth! (Angélique Kidjo, Dianne Reeves and Lizz Wright honoring and carrying forward the outspoken civil rights legacies of Miriam Makeba, Abbey Lincoln and Odetta).

  • Flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia.

  • Brazilian singer-guitarist Milton Nascimento, making his first Montreal appearance in more than 15 years.

Just from that first night array, this figures to be another memorable year for the festival.

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