This summer I was back in Canada for one of the premier jazz events in the world, the Montreal International Jazz Festival (MIJF)! See my write-up from last year’s edition here: http://jazzuality.com/jazz-event-report/montreal-international-jazz-festival-35-years-of-established-and-emerging-artistes/ (fans of jazz can also check out my app ‘Oktav,’ a collection of witty quotes about music – available on Apple iTunes and Android).
The festival featured a stellar lineup of established and emerging artistes in jazz as well as world music from around the planet: Canada, USA, Japan, Norway, Turkey, Mexico, Senegal, Mauritania, Brazil, Cuba, Haiti and Guadaloupe.
For 10 gloriously long summer days, from early afternoon to late night, close to two million visitors heard dozens of bands perform across 15 concert halls and 10 outdoor stages. Two-thirds of the performances were free in outdoor venues, the rest in ticketed indoor events.
Join us in this photo tour of MIJF 2016, and make sure you put the 2017 edition on your must-attend list for next year!
One of the opening acts at the festival was Jon Cleary, with some sizzling piano work on his jazz and funk tracks. Originally from the UK, Cleary is now based in New Orleans, and won a Grammy for Best Regional Roots Music Album in 2015.
Brass band Lucky Chops have come a long way since playing in New York subways. They played two foot-stomping sets at different outdoor venues at MIJF. The sextet has performed at a range of jazz festivals around the world.
Emefe played a high-energy set blending AfroBeat, jazz, pop and funk. Explosive bass riffs and long groove tracks showed clear influences of late great Nigerian legend Fela Kuti, perfect for two late-night performances.
Angel Forrest brought Day One to a close with a fine set of blues. She invited a range of lead guitarists to join her on stage one by one, and ended by featuring all six together for the last song. Forrest is a three-time winner of the Maple Blues Award for Female Singer of the Year.
Violinist Lisanne Tremblay and her quartet kicked off Day Two with a set called ‘Violinisation,’ named after her debut album. She has studied at Montreal’s McGill University and Havana Superior Institute of Arts in Cuba.
Montreal quintet Tertio delivered a set blending jazz and rock, featuring Vincent Duhaime-Perrault, Andy King, Paul Shrofel, Alex Lefaivre and Éric Thibodeau. The trumpet and guitar solos really stood out during their set; the band was nominated for the 2016 TD Grand Jazz Award.
One of the outstanding indoor sets on Day Two featured Lisa Simone, daughter of the late African American civil rights activist and vocalist Nina Simone. The Broadway performer addressed the audience in English and French, and ended her set by walking all the way round the periphery of the huge hall singing and shaking hands with the audience, something they will never forget. The next performance on the stage was equally magnificent, by Melody Gardot.
Fans of Western classical music were treated to a concert by Québec-born violinist Angèle Dubeau. She has won the Félix award for Album of the Year on a number of occasions. She also created La Pièta, an ensemble for strings and piano made up exclusively of women. Some of her work has been inspired by composer Philip Glass.
Japan’s thriving jazz talent was well captured by trumpeter Takuya Kuroda, with a healthy dose of post-bop. Born in Kobe, Kuroda attended the Berklee College of Music where he met some of his current bandmates. He is now based in New York city, and has released a range of albums on Blue Note Records. His third album is aptly titled ‘Rising Son.’
Day Three also ended on a high-energy note with Montreal collective Busty and the Bass, who blended electronica, jazz and soul in a rousing set. They have performed in New York and Ottawa, and released a mini-album last year called Glam.
Tenor saxophonist Anne Dominique performed an early set on Day Four, along with Jean-Nicolas Trottier on trombone, Jonathan Cayer on piano, Sébastien Pellerin on double bass and Éric Thibodeau on drums. The dreamy set reflected the influences of John Coltrane and Michael Brecker.
Trumpeter Christian Scott performed two sizzling indoor sets, one of them featuring vocalist Lizz Wright. Described as a ‘sonic explorer,’ he is also known as Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah. The New Orleans composer has won two Edison awards and was nominated for the Grammy. He was accompanied by a range of musicians including Elena Pinderhughes on flute.
Tia Brazda is a jazz club musician from Toronto blending swing and jazz, and drew lots of attention after her set when she mingled among the audience. Her debut album BandShell has received extensive airplay in Canada and overseas.
Israeli bassist and composer Avishai Cohen played indoors in trio format. His career began with piano but then moved over to bass, eventually playing with Chick Corea and later releasing several of his own albums such as Adama, Lyla and Gently Disturbed.
Guitarist-singer Popa Chuby cranked up with the volume late at night with some blues-rock and funk, reflecting his urban New York influences. His albums include the aptly named Booty and the Beast, and Big Man, Big Guitar.
The perfect Saturday night closing band was Bears of Legend, featuring over 15 musicians on a range of instruments. Jazz, folk and rock blended together in a vivid stage performance. The Quebec band’s albums include Ghostwritten Chronicles and Good Morning Motherland.
Sunday afternoon’s performances kicked off with the Fog Brass Band, led by Toronto trumpeter Rebecca Hennessy. Jazz and blues were served up in fine style on tuba (Jay Burr), trombone (Tom Richards) and electric guitar (Don Scott).
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Written by Madanmohan Rao
Editor & DJ, World Music and Jazz;
Bangalore Global Correspondent for Jazzuality.com