Hot Montreal Jazz Fest – These days jazz has been providing another kind of heat: “ritmo caliente” from the Spanish Harlem Orchestra at the Place des Festivals this past Saturday, and then R&B revelation Jessie Reyez on Tuesday, and that without forgetting the indoor shows where I had the occasion of enjoying the excellent display of music and dance performed by Chano Dominguez and his group that combines jazz and flamenco in a very creative way. Not just a juxtaposition of different styles and genres, but a genuinely new creation.
However, the Jazz Festival is not just an occasion for music lovers to enjoy a variety of shows, both ticketed and free, but also a chance for artists to be rewarded for their achievements. This recognition takes the form of a series of prizes that the festival bestows every year in different categories. This year’s Ella Fitzgerald Award went to Ben Harper. In its dedication, the festival said: “Creator of a hybrid style tinged with blues, folk and rock, Ben Harper conquered a global audience armed with his slide guitar—his favourite instrument—his remarkable voice, and lyrics marked by a deep social relevance.” Harper was given his award on July 3.
The TD Grand Prix du Jazz was given this year to SHPIK, the most remarkable of all the bands registered at the pan-Canadian contest. The prize was presented by Laurent Saulnier, Vice-President for Programming with the Jazz Festival and Samia Medelci, representing the TD Bank. The members of the band are the pianist and composer Arnaud Spick-Saucier, counter-bassist Étienne Dextraze, drummer Philippe Lussier-Baillargeon, and saxophone and flute player Alex Dodier.
SOME GOOD, SOME NOT SO GOOD
Among some of the concerts, I should mention the excellent show presented by the Montreal Metropolitan Orchestra providing the music for a selection from some of the most memorable films produced by DreamWorks. The DreamWorks Animation in Concert as the show was titled fascinated both, the many children present at the theatre, as well as the adults who were able to appreciate the vital work of assembling music with images, especially in such a dynamic genre as animation.
Some remarks about opening numbers: these presentations, preceding the main course, as we may say, are supposed to prepare the public for what is coming. For the artists involved, it is, of course, an occasion to add to their performing curriculum. Both the public and the artists know that, so their presence could be beneficial for both. A great example of an opening number that managed to captivate the audience was that by Britain’s Ala-Ni before the presentation by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at the Maison Symphonique this Tuesday. The possessor of a beautiful voice and author of beautiful songs, she got a standing ovation at the end of her presentation, and even requests from an encore. The opposite is what the audience experienced Saturday 30, with the opening number at the Chano Dominguez concert: the Provost-Lachapelle duo overstayed their welcome with a show that exceeded the 45 minutes—more than the usual for opening numbers, and their interpretations were monotonous and lacked to connect to the audience. Besides their self-promotion reminders to purchase their records were excessive.
AND FOR A LITTLE OF CONTROVERSY
“Slāv– A theatrical odyssey through slave songs” a very publicized show, was finally cancelled this Wednesday. The event had been marred by controversy from its beginning after it was revealed that the lead singer of these songs, a legacy of black slavery, was to be Betty Bonifassi, a white singer. At the opening night of the event, there were even some small groups of black people picketing the Theatre du Nouveau Monde, where the shows were staged. The Jazz Festival finally decided to throw the towel on this cancelling the show. There is no question, however, that after the cancellation the controversy will linger about the issue of what is called “cultural appropriation” and the ubiquitous notion of “political correctness.”
The Jazz Festival continues until this Saturday, July 7. For detailed information about schedules, artists, prices, and venues go to montrealjazzfest.com