While Europe's Montreux Jazz Festival has already begun (Jun 30, 2017 – Jul 15, 2017) and the North Sea Jazz Festival (July 7- July 9, 2017) is about to begin, their Canadian counterpart, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, kicked off its 38th edition on June 28, 2017.
An unparalleled combination of Canadian talent and wonderful musicians from all over the globe populate Quebec's most popular festival. As a Montreal-based company, Stingray can't sit this one out.
On behalf of Stingray DJAZZ, I will share highlights, favorites, and discoveries!
The first day of the festival is dedicated to Montreal's 375th anniversary. Canadian bands such as The Franklin Electric, Milk & Bone, and Cœur de Pirate warm up the city for the annual gathering of music lovers. Vocalist Cœur de pirate leaves a particularly lasting impression: the combination of the evening twilight and Béatrice Martin's mischievous voice create a cheerful atmosphere.
I am raring to go!
The Bad Plus (Le Gesù - Centre de Créativité)
Day two kicks off the festival's regular program that takes place mainly in the evenings. In spite of the poor weather, the crowds spill out to city’s 34-stage festival grounds.
I begin by catching the festival’s first concert by The Bad Plus at Le Gesù, one of the city’s oldest performance halls. Within seconds, it's obvious that this trio can't wait to get going. The three musicians display a boundless energy, guaranteeing an adventurous night.
The audience quickly embraces the band, especially bassist Reid Anderson's deadpan commentary. As soon as the trio plays the first bars to Maps – the opening number of the album It’s Hard – they once again prove how attuned they are to each other.
Drummer Dave King plays his inimitable licks without ever getting sidetracked from accompanying bassist Anderson and pianist Ethan Iverson. King's varied and subtle touch lifts his two bandmates to a higher level. Barring a less impressive rendition of Time After Time, The Bad Plus plays an excellent opening concert at Gesù.
Robert Glasper Experiment (de Maisonneuve Boulevard)
Later on in the evening, Robert Glasper brings his Experiment to de Maisonneuve Boulevard. Following Kendrick Scott's performance, a properly warmed-up audience greets Glasper with resounding applause when he walks out on stage.
Drummers Justin Tyson commands the stage and sets in motion a tight beat that dictates the mood for the rest of the evening. Musicians come and go as saxophonist, vocalist and keytar player Casey Benjamin shines both on and off stage, supporting the light show and joining a masterful, almost dark exploration of hard bop, funk, and pop.
Although the collective operates under Robert Glasper's name, the Fender Rhodes player doesn't deny any of his bandmates the opportunity to show off their musical mettle. With particularly impressive contributions from Tyson, every member of this unified collective is indispensable. Moreover, tonight's lighting technician deserves special mention for his impressive effort!
Cory Henry & The Funk Apostles (Club Soda)
Friday night is all about organist Cory Henry.
A diverse and excited audience of Henry fans, a striking number dressed in floral shirts, queues up outside the venue.
Henry, a Hammond B3 player from the Snarky Puppy family, is one of the most noteworthy artists on the jazz, funk, and soul scene. The reason why becomes abundantly clear when the New Yorker makes his entrance! The Club Soda audience jumps to its feet and rushes to the dance floor. Henry's phenomenal showmanship and unbeatable sound instantly forgive his run-of-the-mill lyrics.
This man's got the soul, he's got the funk, and he knows exactly what he's doing! Supported by his Funk Apostles, Henry delivers unreleased material from a forthcoming album. The raw, overdriven sound of his Hammond organ ignites the dance floor. On Saturday night, June 30, the Montreal Jazz Festival should by rights have been called the Montreal Funk Festival!
Jacob Collier (Club Soda)
Saturday, July 1 has a touch of red and white, as Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary! The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal does not let this milestone pass by unnoticed: a sparkling ”Discothèque” closes the evening.
Before the festivities get underway, London prodigy Jacob Collier makes his Montreal debut at Club Soda. The multi-instrumentalist and Quincy Jones protégé shares the stage with no less than 10 instruments that he plays all by himself! This one-man band uses samples and live animations while he shifts his custom-built synth across the stage.
Collier, an exceptionally gifted, lisping charmer, wraps his audience around his little finger with playful ease. Some of his songs may have a cheesy tinge, but his show is a spectacle that everyone should see!
Knower performs just a stone’s throw away at L’Astral. This Los Angeles-based semi-psychedelic indie electronica ensemble has worked with Snarky Puppy and does not shy away from playing some steaming funk licks.
Led by vocalist Genevieve Artadi and drummer Louis Cole, these five musicians thrive in their self-organized chaos. Cole, a creative character who is dressed for the occasion in pizza pants, uses any and every part of his drum kit. As it turns out, he is also a rapper and a semi-professional stand-up comedian. Knower's songs are diverse: from hip hop and power funk to psychedelic electronica, and even a spacy ballad.
Tonight, Knower follows its creative instincts much to the audience’s enjoyment. The audience leaves the venue smiling, making its way to the Place des Festivals next door to witness the conclusion of “Discothèque” featuring illustrious Canadians Carly Rae Jepsen, Men Without Hats, Radio Radio, Muzion, Buffalo Hat Singers, and more than 35 accompanying musicians.