Montreal Jazz Festivale – Saturday (July 8) is the final day of the 38th edition of the Montreal International Jazz Festival. For the past 10 days, jazz music enthusiasts (or music enthusiasts in general) bounced back and forth between outdoor stages and indoor venues to catch top notch and up-and-coming acts that represent several genres of music, and not just jazz and blues.
Since the festival kicked off on June 28, I got to see my fair share of indoor shows, and here are some capsule reviews of some of my jazz festival highlights.
I have seen the future of jazz pianists, and his name is Daniel Clark Bouchard. A protégée of legendary Montreal jazz pianist Oliver Jones, young Bouchard delivered a tight show at the intimate L’Astral venue, as he attacked his baby grand piano as if the spirit of the late Oscar Peterson was possessing his fingers as he was tinkling the ivories. From duets, to interpretations of Peterson’s “Canadian Suite”, Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” and a couple of Michael Jackson’s hits, to good old fashioned boogie woogie, Clark can do it all, and I look forward to when he graduates to performing at larger venues at future jazz festivals.
Watching the nine-member Harlem Gospel Choir perform a repertoire of traditional gospel hymns and popular songs was indeed a rousing, spirited and spiritual experience. These singers – both collectively and individually – know how to get their audience going with their energy and crisp harmonies, as if it was one big church congregation on a Sunday morning. And there was plenty of audience participation, too.
The popular 80s Montreal rock band Men Without Hats dazzled two sets of audiences last weekend at the festival; first as part of the July 1 “Discotheque” special event free outdoor concert, and at their own show the following night at Club Soda.
Their high energy sets, which included their two best known hit songs “Safety Dance” and “Pop Goes the World”, were performed to perfection (as if you heard them for the first time more than 30 years ago) and certainly encouraged both sets of large audiences who gathered to see them to sing and dance along with them.
Perhaps the best double bill I saw at the jazz festival since I caught Lyle Lovett and Chris Isaak nearly five years ago was no doubt that of Melissa Etheridge and Joss Stone. The charming, engaging Stone started the show with an hour-long set that included her hit songs, which were punctuated with her appealing chats with the audience, which shows how unpretentious she is, not to mention how much she appreciates her audience (which she visibly displayed by throwing sunflowers to several lucky spectators).
And what can I say about Etheridge? She delivered a powerful, high-octane performance that combined her greatest hits and songs from her latest album, which pays tribute to the blues and soul hits that were produced by the legendary Stax record label in Memphis. Each song was greeted with loud and enthusiastic ovations (which got increasingly louder and enthusiastic with each successive song that was performed). And to top it off with a bang, Etheridge and Stone performed together for the first time since the 2005 Grammys (when Etheridge was battling breast cancer) in a duet that paid tribute to Janis Joplin. Definitely a show to remember.