Montreal Jazz Fest — Wishing I was there

I’ve had some incredible experiences hearing great performances and soaking up the other jazz happenings at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. Not to mention getting a chance to enjoy the cosmopolitan culture of one of North America’s most beautiful and most historic cities.


Last summer’s festival was again jam-packed with great music, some of which I wrote about for JazzTimes, and in several posts on this blog.

Sadly, I can’t make it for the 38th edition of the fest, which runs June 28-July 8.

But if I WERE headed to Montreal at the end of this month, I’d do my best to catch the following jazz, blues and pop/rock artists (some of whom are playing in bands with others on the list):

Ambrose Akinmusire, Arturo Sandoval, The Bad Plus, Ben Street, Bill Frisell, Brian Blade, Buddy Guy, Carla Bley, Charles Bradley, Charles Lloyd, Charlie Musselwhite, Curtis Lundy, Danilo Perez, Dave Douglas, Diana Krall, Donny McCaslin, E.J. Strickland, Eric Harland, Essiet Essiet, George Cables, Gerald Clayton, Ingrid Jensen, Jack DeJohnette, Jacob Collier, Jane Bunnett, Jeremy Pelt, Jesse Cook, John Hollenbeck, John Medeski, John Pizzarelli, John Scofield, Joshua Redman, Joss Stone, King Crimson, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Larry Grenadier, Michael Blake, Nicholas Payton, Reuben Rogers, Robert Glasper, Robin Eubanks, Scott Colley, Stanley Clarke, UZEB, and Wallace Roney.

Headed to Montreal? Let me know your thoughts on what you hear.

As for me — better luck next year.



Just Around the Corner: The Montreal International Jazz Fest

It’s that time of year again: I get to take in the announcements of world-class artists playing amazing summer jazz festivals, some in the United States but mostly in Canada, Europe, and elsewhere around the world.

So many festivals, so little time. But mainly, so little $$ to get there. Still, we can all revel in the fact that jazz is alive and well, at least on the fest circuit, and that so many first-rate players are keeping busy playing these events.

I’ve had the opportunity to attend The Montreal International Jazz Festival three times over the last 14 years, and it’s one of my favorites — loads of high-caliber jazz, world music, blues, pop/rock, and “other” acts, all playing gorgeous indoor theaters, intimate nightclubs, and sprawling outdoor stages. Did I mention that everything is extremely well organized?


Montreal is an unusually clean and attractive city, and easy to get around via walking and public transportation. In addition to checking out all the amazing music, it was great wandering around the Old Town area, observing Canada Day festivities, savoring the Euro-cosmopolitanism of Montreal and having several outstanding meals, including one at the Stash Cafe, a superb Polish restaurant. Back when, I even had the chance to spend some time there hanging out with my old friend, WUSF’s Bob Seymour and his wife Marian. And it’s always nice running into jazz-journalist colleagues.

Most recently, in 2012, I covered the fest for Relix & — check out my fest overview, and my reviews of Esperanza Spalding (see my video clip, above); SMV (Stanley Clarke/Marcus Miller/Victor Wooten), the Stanley Clarke Band, and Victor Wooten’s group; and Bill Frisell. I also interviewed Stanley for a preview of his multiple Montreal appearances, for a story that ran in Bass Player mag.

Back in 2002, I reviewed the fest for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, and in 2001, my coverage appeared at (and elsewhere).

This year’s fest, its 35th, takes place June 26 to July 5, and two acts on the bill are really whetting my appetite: The Bad Plus with Joshua Redman, and Snarky Puppy. I’ve seen both bands — The Bad Plus at Jazz Fest in New Orleans and the Clearwater, Fla venue now called the Capitol Theatre; Snarky Puppy just recently at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg — although I’ve never seen Redman with The Bad Plus. Both groups play jazz-oriented music that is deeply creative and often falls on the side of edgy/innovative. These guys are players, and both bands up up to a kind of music that travels beyond typical jazz confines while still honoring the tradition(s).

Also appealing to me: Bebel Gilberto, Al Di Meola, Stanley Clarke, Richard Galliano, Abdullah Ibrahim (solo and with various ensembles), Madeleine Peyroux, Dee Dee Bridgewater with Irvin Mayfield and the NOJO, and Eliane Elias,

So … maybe I’ll get back this year, maybe I won’t. If you get the chance, go. For all the details, click here

The Bad Plus, “Never Stop” (CD review)

I recently reviewed Never Stop, the latest CD from eclectic acoustic trio The Bad Plus, for Las Vegas City Life. Click here to go directly to the review, or see the full text below.


The Bad Plus, Never Stop (E1 Entertainment)

Whether covering Radiohead, Nirvana or David Bowie, or doing its own thing, The Bad Plus always comes equipped with unusual powers of reinvention and real understanding of how to create musical drama, skills that served it well on For All I Care, 2008’s covers album with singer Wendy Lewis. An acoustic jazz trio, with sensibilities also rooted in rock and classical, adding a vocalist and taking on Wilco’s “Radio Cure,” Yes’s “Roundabout” and Stravinsky? What’s not to like?

For Never Stop, it’s all originals, all the time, and pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King don’t disappoint.

The stuttering theme and rhythms of the title track, edged with marching rhythms, feels like hypnotic pop with a swelling chorus. Two pieces, “People Like You” and “Bill Hickman at Home,” sprawl past the nine-minute mark: The former is a quiet, harmonically rich ballad that alternately surges and relaxes, while the latter, with Iverson on an antique-sounding piano with pointedly iffy intonation, is half bar room swagger, half arty experimentation, with plenty of open space for Anderson’s surprising explorations.

The trio brings the chewy funk on the pulsing “Beryl Loves to Groove,” and goes for bluesy gospel on closer “Super America.” No charge for the handclaps


Listening Post #3

Five releases in rotation at home and in the car – a list without comment (in alphabetical order):

the-bad-plus1The Bad Plus, For All I Care (Heads Up, 2009)

Olu Dara, Neighborhoods (Atlantic, 2001)

Mosquitos, Mosquitos (Bar None, 2003)

Umphrey’s McGee, Mantis (Sci Fidelity, 2009)

Neil Young,  Sugar Mountain – Live at Canterbury House 1968 (Reprise, 2008)

The Bad Plus – Still Bad (That’s Good)

What is jazz?

The Bad Plus, nominally a jazz piano trio – piano, upright bass, drums – begs that question.

Still, the group turned in one of the most inspired sets at this year’s Jazz Fest in New Orleans; an emotionally intense version of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars,” released on the group’s 2007 Prog CD, was a particular highlight. I spoke with several Bad Plus newbies who were entirely blown away by the performance.

The trio’s latest, For All I Care, is their first with a vocalist. Minneapolis altrock singer Wendy Lewis achieves a spooky feel on Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb,” her voice whispery over Dave King’s quietly rumbling toms and Reid Anderson’s deeply resonant bass lines. Pianist Ethan Iverson shortly later countes with fluttering piano cascades.

It may not — does not — swing. But it’s a wildly creative approach. And the same could be said about what the trio does with Nirvana’s “Comfortably Numb,” Wilco’s “Radio Cure,” Yes’s “Long Distance Runaround” (Yes!), the Bee Gees’ “How Deep is Your Love,” Heart’s “Barracuda” and the Flaming Lips’ “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate.” The group also takes on several 20th Century classical composers.

The project, produced by Tchad Blake (Los Lobos, Peter Gabriel, Tom Waits) is remarkable, and I’ll go into greater detail in a review slated to be published in a jazz mag early next year.

Here’s hoping that The Bad Plus (finally) returns to our neck of the woods. I fondly recall their first appearance here, at the Royalty Theatre in Clearwater.