The Jazz Festival is like a big supermarket. We find everything, for all tastes. There is an aisle for jazz, another for blues, another for world music, another for pop.
Just walk around with your basket and help yourself.
The image may seem sarcastic. She is not. The diversity of the offer can have a catch-all side. But the advantage is that you are rarely disappointed, especially with such quality, indoors and outdoors.
All this to say that after a week of “shopping”, we filled our basket well, even if some products seemed less fresh to us than others. Provisional assessment, on this closing weekend.
In the African products section, thanks to the old Ethiopian keyboardist Hailu Mergia, who is experiencing a second wind at the age of 77. His late afternoon gig at the Loto-Québec stage wasn’t the most exciting, but the “ethiopic” groove took its place.
In the frozen aisle, old Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne stunned us with boredom at the Rogers stage. His flamboyant jacket was worth a look, but his generic boogie went in one ear and out the other. We fled to the first chords of Blueberry Hill, the most homely classic in the history of rock.
In the vegan section, Sam Gendel has lived up to his experiments on YouTube. His truncated sax, with digitally manipulated sounds, opens up interesting perspectives for the future of jazz. But his high side might not have been ideal in the context of Studio TD.
In the ketchup and burger meat department, we fell in love with the American quartet The Altons. His greasy and throbbing soul rock, which emerged from the 1960s and 1970s, does not reinvent the wheel. We think of Curtis Mayfield, Sam Cooke, the Redbone group. But the songs are sincere and performed with heart. They seemed very small on the huge TD stage. We would like to see them again in a small room.
In the department of fine products from the Arab world, we savored the performance of the Anouar Brahem Quartet, at the Théâtre Maisonneuve. A silky, sober performance with great precision. The oudist leaves a lot of room for his prompter Klaus Gesing (alto sax, bass clarinet). This does not prevent it from shining discreetly, with its cascading notes and its distant song. A beautiful conversation, conducted like a whisper. Clearly well-honed concert. But little room for surprises. Small feeling of autopilot.
In the spirits department, harpist Brandee Younger won us over from the start. We will not repeat the originality of this instrument in a jazz context. Emulator of Alice Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby, the musician has found the right balance between sweetness and groove. His angelic melodies could easily fall into rose water. It never does, thanks to bassist Rashaan Carter and drummer Allan Mednard, who take it upon themselves to bring it all down to the underbelly. Converted into a jazz club, Studio TD was absolutely silent. Great listening quality for a privileged moment.
In the exotic fruit department, Marisa Monte created the event at the Salle Maisonneuve, transformed for two evenings into a theater of the people. Half-Snow Queen, half-Virgen de Guadalupe, the Brazilian pop diva had everything of an appearance. Her Montreal audience has been calling for her for more than 25 years. She gave him all her hits and a good show to boot, with her sequined dresses, her 1920s smile, her mermaid gestures. Irresistible, like his songs. But a little surprised, like all of us, at the slowness of the staff to react, when a spectator has been in pain. Strange parenthesis in the middle of a happy evening.
In the jujube department at the THC, applause fed to the duo Domi
In the radius of mined cereal fields, thank you to the Ukrainian group DakhaBrakha, which moved Club Soda on Wednesday evening. Between blues and Eastern European folklore, the quartet delivered their songs of resistance against a backdrop of painful projections, as a reminder of their war in the carelessness of our festival. We could only support and love them.
In the radius of complaints, finally, let’s dream of a festival with the distribution of Earplugs (this child who was crying at the Mezerg concert was painful to see) and less prominent sponsors.
How about even a small political statement? The FTA has now become accustomed to starting its shows by acknowledging that Montreal was on unceded Indigenous territory.
Should the Jazz Festival follow suit?