My summer travels this year took me again to Canada for one of the premier jazz events in the world, the Montreal International Jazz Festival (MIJF)! See my write-up from previous editions of MIJF (2016, 2015); fans of jazz can also check out my app ‘Oktav,’ a collection of witty quotes about music – available on Apple iTunes and Android.
In addition to legends like Stanley Clarke, Buddy Guy, and Charlie Musselwhite, I also caught superb performances by acoustic guitarist Jack Broadbent, multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier, ‘heavyweight champion of the blues’ Sugaray Rayford, electro-funk maestros Shobaleader One, saxophonist-academic Rudresh Mahantappa, and Canadian harp wiz Guy Belanger. There were also touches of Africa (Soul Jazz Orchestra) and South Korea (Youn Sun Nah).
For 10 gloriously 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. As usual, two-thirds of the performances were free in outdoor venues, the rest in ticketed indoor events.
Join us in this photo tour of MIJF 2017, and make sure you put the 2018 edition on your must-attend list for next year!
Stanley Clarke is right up there among the legends of jazz bass such as Jaco Pastorius and Alain Caron. The co-founder of Return to Forever (with Chick Corea) played with a lineup of younger musicians at MIJF 2017, with spectacular solos on acoustic and electric bass.
Charlie Musselwhite shot to prominence as an ace blues harmonica player in the 1960s, and is very much around on the concert circuit. He has been a contemporary of Mike Bloomfield and Paul Butterfield. Canadian acoustic duo Steve Hill and Matt Andersen opened for Musselwhite in a humorous set.
Buddy Guy is living legend of the blues, and has influenced everyone from Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton to Jimmy Page and Stevie Ray Vaughan. He delivered a spectacular set at MIJF 2017, and even walked off the stage and played among the audience during his last number, to everyone’s delight.
Guy Bélanger played a terrific role at MIJF 2017, anchoring a range of late night sets where he jammed on harmonica with a number of Canadian blues artists. He has collaborated with the likes of Bob Walsh and Muddy Waters, and played an important storytelling role by educating the audience on the rise of jazz and blues in Canada.
Roberto Fonseca is a talented Cuban pianist and composer, who accompanied the Orquestra de Ibrahim Ferrer (Buena Vista Social Club) on tour in the early 2000s. His music is rooted in the Cuban tradition while also integrating jazz and funk. His set featured some tracks from his latest album ABUC (2016), and he politely responded to a heckler in the audience who asked him to speak in English and not French!
Jack Broadbent, the British singer/songwriter, showcased brilliant acoustic style and technique on slide guitar. He draws inspiration from John Lee Hooker and Jimi Hendrix, but has added layers of his own songwriting sensibility. Jack played with his father Micky on bass.
Souljazz Orchestra from Ottawa combines funk, soul, Afro, jazz and Latin. Their outdoor set had the audience swaying and dancing as they sampled the music of legends such as Femi Kuti, Erik Truffaz and Etta James.
Sugaray Rayford, the aptly-named ‘heavyweight champion of the blues,’ towered on stage belting out the blues, urging everyone to dance along since this was a “party and not a concert!” He connected superbly with the fans in a one-hour set of blues and soul. “The blues is the roots, everything else is the fruits,” Rayford shouted out, to loud applause.
Selwyn Birchwood played a superb set of blues and funk, standing out on stage with his large Afro hairdo. The young guitarist-singer’s influences include B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Elmore James and Howlin’ Wolf.
Théo Lawrence is a young French-Canadian bluesman, who draws on influences from Otis Redding and Son House. His elegant set of blues and soul showed that these traditions will be preserved and interpreted for decades more to come.
Jacob Collier wowed the crowd with a spectacular set where he played and mixed all the instruments himself – bass, keyboards, drums and percussion! The young musician has previously opened shows for Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. He played a number of tracks from his album My Room (2016). While music technology is great, Collier showed that it works best in the hands of a master.
Pokey LaFarge showed the audience a flavour of music from Missouri, with early jazz, ragtime, blues and swing. His latest album is Manic Revelations, with a mix of storytelling and diverse musical blends.
Quinn Bachand is a Canadian musician blending jazz with euro-gypsy music. He has been nominated for the TD Grand Jazz Award and the Stingray Rising Star Award. Their evening set at the outdoor Club Jazz Casino set the stage for a nice night of jazz.
The Jeremy Pelt Quintet is anchored by trumpeter-composer Jeremy Pelt. At MIJF 2017, he played the opening set for Stanley Clarke. The lineup included Victor Gould (piano), Vicente Archer (bass), Jonathan Barber (drums), and Jacquelene Acevedo (percussion). Their energy and chemistry drew loud applause for the solos and call-and-response interchanges.
Betty Bonifassi delivered a powerful vocal set, drawing on the work of American ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax. Her current project is a contemporary interpretation of slave songs from the turn of the 20th century.
Jowee Omicil is a mutli-instrumentalist based in Montreal. He is of Haitian descent, and his jazz music reflected Caribbean, African, and Latin influences. He has collaborated with Pharoah Sanders, Brandford Marsalis and Kenny Garrett.
The Marc LeClerc Quartet featured Mark Leclerc (saxophone), Andrei Dinu (guitar), Steve Bergeron (piano), Édouard Brasseur (bass) and Antoine Forest -Michaud (drums). They performed two sets at MIJF 2017.
The Bad Plus played a number of indoor sets including one with saxophonist Rudresh Mahantappa. The Minneapolis trio showcased their diverse skills, along with Mahanthappa who also happens to be jazz director at Princeton University. His other projects fuse jazz with Indian classical music.
The sisters Christine and Ingrid Jensen, on saxophone and trumpet, were accompanied by Ben Monder on guitar. Their new album of contemporary jazz is titled Infinitude. Ingrid Jensen graduated from Berklee College of Music, taught in Europe, and is based in New York. Ingrid and her sister Christine (based in Montreal) are also part of the group Nordic Connect, with pianist Maggi Olin. The Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra’s two albums, Treelines and Habitat, have won the Juno Award.
Lysandre Champagne, the youthful quintet headed by the charismatic Misses Satchmo on vocals and trumpet, delivered a pleasing set of jazzy-swing cabaret-style music. Their latest album is titled Is That All There Is.
Daniel Clarke is a young pianist who has already made a mark by playing with the likes of Gregory Charles, Molly Johnson and the Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir. At the tender age of 13 he recorded an album with Oliver Jones.
Franky Selector cranked up a groovy party sound, perfect for a closing set on Day 7 of MIJF 2017. Keyboards, brass, bass, vocals and dance blended perfectly late into the night at the Metropolis venue.
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Written and photographed by Madanmohan Rao
Editor & DJ, World Music and Jazz;
Bangalore Global Correspondent for Jazzuality.com .