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Montreal Jazz Festival 2015: A Balance


By Sergio Martinez – mtltimes.ca



John Pizzarelli made the public share the emotional atmosphere of his interpretations
John Pizzarelli made the public share the emotional atmosphere of his interpretations

The smiling faces of the bosses of the 36th edition of the Montreal International Jazz Festival said it all this past Saturday during the press conference in which they made a balance of the event. A great success, there is no question on that, both artistically and financially. Although Founding President Alain Simard pointed out to some decline in revenues in the kiosks on site, a constant phenomenon he added. The percentage of tickets sold however was high enough to satisfy the organizers who also remarked the overall benefits for the city and especially the area now officially known as the Quartier des spectacles: the downtown sector between St. Laurent Blvd. on the east, Bleury on the west, René Levesque on the south, and Ontario and President Kennedy on the north. Simard calculated that the overall contribution of the festival to the local economy could be around 63 million.


But beyond the figures, what is most important is the atmosphere created by the Jazz Fest, “it is already a Montreal institution” remarked Simard. Director General Jacques André Dupont for his part indicated that the event provides a “world reference” for Montreal. He mentioned the international impact of the festival, exemplifying this fact with the partnership with the BBC which recorded the Jamie Cullum show.


Catalan artist Giulia Valle at the Jazz Club stage
Catalan artist Giulia Valle at the Jazz Club stage

“In the end this festival is for music fans” remarked VP and Co-Founder André Menard who also mentioned the great reception of the public to some shows such as the Flamenco Vivo series featuring Luis de la Carrasca, the energy displayed by Rodrigo and Gabriela, the extraordinary genius of Jimmy Cullum whom he characterized as a “music giant” and the contagious rhythm of The Mavericks. Laurent Saulnier, VP of Programming for his part shared the general view on the performances and took the occasion to thank his team for the impeccable selection.


Regarding my own personal balance I should start by pointing at the great surprise that was the flamenco show featuring Luis de la Carrasca. What happens with this music genre is that in spite of the absorbing energy that traditionally flamenco groups display on stage, after a while their music starts to sound a little bit reiterative. But that is not the case with de la Carrasca’s “Lo Esencial” which was presented at the Cinquième salle. The group made up of de la Carrasca, two other musicians and two dancers, engaged the audience from beginning to end providing a sample of flamenco music faithful to its Andalusian roots yet open to a more contemporary approach and style.


Rodrigo and Gabriela delivered an exciting performance
Rodrigo and Gabriela delivered an exciting performance

Rodrigo and Gabriela a duo of Mexican guitar players presented a show that they themselves don’t dare place in any particular genre: one can certainly identify elements of heavy metal (they were originally involved in a heavy metal band), but as the show continued there were also some echoes of flamenco, jazz and even some—perhaps distant—sonorities of the melodic tunes of Mexican bolero. All of that while mastering their guitars not only as string instruments but, very often, as percussion instruments too.


Then John Pizzarelli and his quartet delivered an exquisite selection that included pieces by great authors like Duke Ellington, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and of course Paul McCartney since the concert had been titled “McCartney and More.” This is an artist that creates a very pleasant relation with his audience and makes the spectators share not only the taste for the music he was playing but also the emotional atmosphere in which his interpretations were created.


Of the outdoor concerts I should finally mention the great performance delivered by Florence K, who with her particular blend of jazz, Latin rhythms and rock managed to keep the public congregated in the Place des Festivals following her songs with special attention, something not so easy to achieve when you are performing to an audience in an outdoor site.


The 37th of the Jazz Fest will take place next year from June 30 to July 9.

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