Oh my. What an astonishing array of talent at the upcoming Montreal Jazz Festival 2012. From the pre-opening concert with warm and fuzzy folk icon James Taylor to a dazzling closing concert with beautiful Norah Jones – and headliners Seal, Liza Minnelli, Melody Gardot, Esperanza Spalding, and the fabulous Wayne Shorter in between – this is the biggest and the best jazz festival in North America, and a great reason to visit Montreal.
No matter your age or musical taste, it doesn’t get any better.
The beat goes on.
This annual magical musical tour includes blues, world music, jazz, folk, pop, be-bop, reggae, klezmer, and edgy newcomers. It’s a hybrid greatest-hits album without a B-side. “Drop the needle anywhere to experience the festival’s infinite richness,” says festival founder Andres Menard, “We’re ready to welcome all fans and engage their musical passions!”
I’m heading up on the early end to catch Patricia Barber and Kenny Werner in a transcendent duet of piano jazz and Barber’s smooth voice. This magical evening will be followed by superstar offspring, Ziggy Marley – I’ll try to catch his performance, too, if I’m not in a dead swoon.
In addition to the annual who’s-who of jazz, there’s Kelly Joe Phelps, a Delta bluesman with some of the best slide guitar you’ll ever hear, and GRUBB, the humanitarian klezmer mash-up that so deeply moved us all at last year’s festival. And I don’t want to miss all-star “Spectrum Road” with Jack Bruce, Cindy Blackman, John Medeski and Vernon Reid, wow.
The beautiful Province of Québec is well represented by Adrian Vedady whose Gods of Taste is a personal favorite, plus the beautiful Misstress Barbara, Jorane and I Musici, Rémi Bolduc, and smooth saxophonist Frank Lozano and his Montreal Quartet, and many more. An amazing lineup in any language, mais oui.
With a 40-year career, virtuoso saxophonist-composer Wayne Shorter and his quartet make their highly anticipated return to the festival and I can’t wait. I wish I could stick around long enough to see the wonderful Stanley Clarke with soloist and composer Victor Wooten. Trumpeter Chris Botti and the collective known as “Miles Smiles” will cast a glow on festival audiences with their tribute to the unforgettable Miles Davis.
With its cobbled streets, old-world architecture and rich French heritage, jazz fans will discover the flavor of Montreal at bakeries, cheese shops, paté boutiques and more. I love “L’Express,” a classic old-world bistro with jars of cornichons and coarse mustard on every table. Try the duck and chicken liver paté with chewy baguette. There is no sign, so be sure to remember the address: 3927 Rue Saint-Denis. This is the heart, soul, and saveur of Montreal.
Or try Le Club Chasse et Pesce (Hunting and Fishing Club), a flavorful and deeply memorable way savor the French influence on Montreal’s culinary tradition. In summer, “Le Club” moves into the historic Chateau Ramezay garden, a green oasis. Le Club, c’est magnifique!
Fast forward to July 3 when Montreal reveals Be Part of My Dream with my personal festival favorite, Sophie Hunger, singing Bob Dylan. Her version of “Like a Rolling Stone” gives me goose bumps. “She’s a natural, she’s got it all,” says festival founder Andres Menard, and I agree. Sophie rocks the house.
A bientot. •