The past couple of years have certainly been a strange time, and the music industry has been adapting to these pandemic circumstances. Live music events have returned, and this summer, the Montreal Jazz Festival, officially called Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (FIJM) was completely live once again. Before this year, the last fully scheduled live Festival was held in 2019. There was a virtual Festival in 2020, and an abbreviated live local Festival in September of 2021, with only Canadian musicians.
Finally, in 2022, the FIJM returned as an international event. From June 30 to July 9, 2022, FIJM hosted hundreds of free outdoor and ticketed indoor concerts and welcomed visitors from all over the world. FIJM looked almost normal, because most people were not wearing masks. Although there is still debate about masking, safety was stressed by careful protocols and vaccination confirmation via the website Arrive Canada for crossing the Canadian border.
Of course, there were some changes. Both the city of Montréal and FIJM have been marked by the upheaval of the pandemic. Some long-existing businesses are gone, and the blue Festival mascot, Ste-Cat, was replaced by a giant balloon dog, Fido. However, the essence of FIJM, the music, has survived, and there was an abundance of great shows for Festival goers to enjoy. There were also family-friendly activities (including a big keyboard that children danced on to make music, like the one in the film Big), souvenirs, and lots of food. FIJM was blessed with great weather, with many warm days, and cool clear nights. There was a unique art display, Nick Cave L’Exposition, showcasing the life and art of Australian musician/composer/poet Nick Cave.
There was a joyful atmosphere evident everywhere, and people were certainly happy to see FIJM return. A charming couple from Montréal, Sabine and Daniel, with an adorable dog, Billy Whisky, said the following about FIJM’s return. “We missed it so much. The Festival is part of Montréal…When you think of Montréal, you think of the Jazz Festival, and to have all these artists back…When you look around, you see people all relaxing. You know, Montréal is like the European city of North America…It’s like a merge of so many cultures…It’s something really special to have this feeling back in town, to be able to enjoy it, especially after two years due to Covid.”
Another enthusiastic attendee, Miriam, came to the big outdoor Scène TD stage about 10:30 am every day to get a place at the front, hanging out all day to wait until the shows started at 6:00 pm! With the free outdoor concerts including Samara Joy, Kellylee Evans, Corinne Bailey Rae, Kamasi Washington, Lee Fields, Malika Tirolien, and The Roots, it’s not surprising that they drew huge crowds! Also, many of the ticketed indoor shows were at near capacity or sold out.
Something else new this year was the presentation of daily free shows at Le Studio TD, (formerly the ticketed-event club L’Astral), at 6:00 pm and 10:00 pm. Concerts included Julian Lage, Keyon Harrold, Joel Ross, Marianne Trudel and John Hollenbeck, Larnell Lewis, and Marquis Hill, so it was no wonder that all shows had standing-room audiences every day!
Other notable FIJM concerts included: Christian McBride and Kenny Barron, Makaya McCraven, Jordan Officer, Lee Fields, Connie Han, Robert Glasper, Al Di Meola, Ravi Coltrane, Cory Wong, Meshell Ndegeocello, Gunhild Carling, They Call Me Rico, Christine and Ingrid Jensen, Tord Gustavsen, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Brubeck Brothers Quartet, Michel Donato, Marcus Miller, Ron Di Lauro, Pink Martini, and Eliane Elias.
Urban Science Brass Band
At 5:00 pm every day, the Urban Science Brass Band (USBB) started their New Orleans-style parade of musicians, dancers, singers, and MCs, traveling in the Quartier des Spectacles, along the Boulevard de Maisonneuve for several blocks, ending at the Place des Festivals in front of the Scène TD stage. The band plays classic hip-hop with a rhythm and blues and jazzy vibe.
Their palpable energy drew throngs who followed them with children in tow or on parents’ shoulders, and occasionally bystanders were given a microphone. Many USBB members are in-demand musicians, who also perform with notable artists. The Musical Director is alto saxophonist Vincent Stephen-Ong, and the group included sousaphonist Julie Richard, vocalist Meryem Saci, flautist Anh Phung, percussionists Anthony Pageot and Jean Daniel Thibeault-Desbiens, dancers Lakesshia, Anaïs (Rise), and J. Style, MCs Scynikal, Gino Deca, Helmé, Darkus, Shem G., trumpeters Izzy G. and Dr. Lex French, and baritone saxophonist Melissa Pipe, just to name a few. The USBB parade was the perfect catalyst to get each evening’s shows started.
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis
The opening act for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra show was The Ariane Racicot Trio, who started with a lovely minor-key mixture of ballad and swing. Their second song, “Bicycle Ride,” was a pulsating tune that featured Montreal pianist Ariane Racicot’s nimble, excellent chops. She was joined by bassist Carl Mayotte and drummer Guillaume Picard. “Coffee and Cigarettes,” from her recently released recording Envolée, was a somber ballad with a melancholy coda. The group followed with exciting improvisations by all three players, and they were a fine opener for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra was led by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. They began with “Conglomerate” by pianist Christopher Crenshaw, that highlighted the big-band sound, with harmonious additions from the brass section. Also featured was a moving bass solo by Carlos Henriquez. The group included trombonist Vincent Gardner, Dan Block on tenor saxophone, trumpeter Marcus Printup, drummer Obed Calvaire, and guitarist Charles Altura.
Charles Mingus’ “Freedom” was a bluesy, resounding number with a strong spoken word segment that moved into bebop. The band played with passion, then the song reverted to some funky blues. Billy Strayhorn’s “Blood Count” showed off Sherman Irby’s warm, expressive tone on the saxophone.
Marsalis’ composition, “The Shanghai Suite: The Monkey King’s March,” was a unique piece that brought multiple images to vivid life. Kenny Dorham’s “Stage West” was a rapid-fire song that swept the audience up on a swinging ride. “Jo Jo’s Mojo” from the CD Rock Chalk Suite, was a spirited, crowd-thrilling improvisational gem in homage to basketball legend Jo Jo White.
There was such an extended standing ovation, that the orchestra returned for two encores. First was some scintillating bebop that blew the listeners away! The second encore had Wynton’s outstanding trumpet skills at the forefront. The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra is world renowned, and it’s easy to understand why.
On a warm night at La Taversée Molson Export Stage, pianist Christian Sands played two shows. The first set started with the duo of Christian and his brother Ryan on drums. Bassist Yasushi Nakamura would later join the group, after a flight delay. The two did an extended blending of “Thou Swell” and “Stompin’ at the Savoy.” The second tune was Sand’s original song “Crash,” from his 2020 album Be Water, inspired by crashing waves on a Connecticut beach. Nakamura showed up mid-set, and the trio played a beautiful cover of Steve Winwood’s “Can’t Find My Way Home,” which featured Nakamura’s fine bass solo. The first set closed with Christian and Ryan having fun pushing the pace on some freewheeling bebop.
At the second set, when several people raised their hands after Christian asked who had been to the earlier show, he said, “So that means we did okay, since you came back!…Without you, there is no us.” Sands began with one of his original songs, which was alternately sprightly and introspective. Thelonious Monk’s “Light Blue” was a leisurely meditation that was soothing to the spirit, with a fine bass interlude by Nakamura. “In a Sentimental Mood” was a gorgeous, contemplative ballad. Christian said, “I like playing for you guys. This is so much fun!” The final serving was another of Christian’s compositions, a lovely denouement to a jewel of a set.
Corinne Bailey Rae
Fans of multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae were buzzing in anticipation of her concert on a perfect summer night at the Scène TD stage on Canada Day. She has performed at FIJM before, and this stop on her Sunlight/Sunlight! tour was full of gems from her three albums. After her introduction, she sang a beautiful “Been to the Moon” and flowed nicely into “Closer” from her 2010 album The Sea. She encouraged audience participation on “Green Aphrodisiac,” then sang a beguiling “Hey, I Won’t Break Your Heart,” both from the 2016 album The Heart Speaks in Whispers.
Corinne’s easy, soulful style captivated the audience with her hits “Put Your Records On,” “Like a Star,” Breathless,” and “Trouble Sleeping” from her self-titled 2006 album. The concert also included “Paris Nights/New York Mornings” and Corinne’s Grammy-winning cover of the Bob Marley and The Wailers song “Is This Love.” Corinne Bailey Rae has an inviting stage presence and seems to immerse her soul completely into whatever she’s singing. She has beautiful rapport with her musicians: drummer Mikey Wilson, guitarist/vocalist John McCallum, and Corinne’s husband, keyboardist/organist Steve Brown. This outdoor concert wasn’t a listed tour stop on Corinne’s website, so it was a nice surprise for thousands of fans lucky enough to see this free show.
As premiere saxophonist Kamasi Washington and his band took their positions on the Scène TD stage, Washington greeted thousands of music lovers with, “What up Montreal? Wow! Y’all ready to have some fun?” Then the band jumped into “The Garden Path” from the 2022 album of the same name, that included an extended sax solo from Washington. Joining Kamasi were his father, Ricky Washington on flute/clarinet, vocalist Patrice Quinn, trombonist Ryan Porter, pianist Cameron Graves, bassist Miles Mosley, and drummers Tony Austin and Ronald Bruner Jr.
The band performed Kamasi’s tribute to his daughter, “Sun Kissed Child,” highlighted by Patrice Quinn’s beautiful vocals. Next was “Truth,” beginning with Graves, Austin, and Bruner’s lovely intro that flowed seamlessly into the entire band’s contributions. The piece continued to build towards Washington’s sax improvisation and ended with a delightfully harmonious crescendo.
Great conversations were exchanged during the band’s cover of Curtis Fuller’s “The Egyptian.” The concert included the driving percussive pace and vocal harmonies of “Street Fighter Mas” and “Fists of Fury” from the album Heaven and Earth. Both melodies have a nostalgic feeling of ‘70s fight film themes in their pulse and similar grooves, and Mosley’s bass was highlighted throughout the night. Pianist Cameron Graves’ thought-provoking piece “The End of Corporatism,” from his 2017 Planetary Prince album, was a perfect addition to this set. There was great lucidity in the flow of songs that emphasized the virtuosity of each musician’s skills. This concert clearly showcased what Kamasi Washington brings to the future direction of jazz.
Gregory Porter has the warmest, smoothest voice, which he presented at Maison Symphonique de Montréal. Looking sharp in a white jacket, Porter started with an impassioned “Holding On.” Joined by saxophonist Tivon Pennicott, pianist Chip Crawford, trumpeter Keyon Harrold, drummer Emmanuel Harrold, Hammond B3 player Ondřej Pevic, and bassist Jahmal Nichols, he continued with an emotional “On My Way to Harlem” featuring Pennicott’s first-rate sax riffs. Gregory said, “I’m so glad we’re back to gathering again…it’s a reunion for musicians as well…Over the last couple of years, we have realized the most important thing in our lives is not the fancy car, not the diamond rings and the bank accounts, but the people we love, and the love we show.”
Introducing the next song, he said, “If love is overrated, give me overrated!” A remarkably romantic ballad, “If Love is Overrated” was performed by Gregory with great yearning, and his bandmates gave him perfect accompaniment. Porter recalled the small storefront church of his youth, and remembered a song that was 45 minutes long, with the congregation clapping the whole time! Gregory quipped that he wouldn’t ask the crowd to clap for 45 minutes, maybe four. “Liquid Spirit” was so soulful and moving, that the audience did indeed clap with fervor, even following Porter on a syncopated beat at the end.
Gregory Porter’s songs deliver meaningful narratives, and he’s a gifted musical storyteller. “Be Good” (with a “Mr. Bojangles” riff at the beginning) told a moving tale. All the musicians left the stage, except Gregory and pianist Chip Crawford, who teamed up for a duet on “Illusion,” where Porter’s powerful voice filled the room. Gregory then said, “It’s interesting how the meaning of a song can change over time.” Porter described writing “Water Under Bridges,” after getting dumped by a girlfriend, but now the song’s meaning is different. He discussed the unconditional love of family, and noted that his brother, actor/entrepreneur Lloyd Cornelius Porter, had encouraged him to get over the broken relationship, and that his brother died during the Covid pandemic. Now Gregory feels like the song is about his lost brother, and he imbued it with a heartbreaking depth of feeling.
Bassist Jahmal Nichols returned and played a great bass solo that segued into the Temptations’ “My Girl,” and Gregory sang his heart out on this Motown classic. The rest of the musicians rejoined Porter when the song transitioned into another Temptations hit, “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” Even without the multi-part harmony associated with these tunes, the band put their own excellent spin on them.
The power of “Musical Genocide” entranced the audience, and “Hey Laura” told the anguished tale of love gone wrong, with stellar support from the sidemen. Gregory got a big laugh when he said, “I’m sorry if we haven’t done your song tonight. But we already have your money!” “No Love Dying” was a beautiful, church-infused song where Porter encouraged the audience to sing along. It was followed by such an explosive ovation that Porter had to come back for an encore, “Mister Holland,” that really rocked the house! Gregory Porter and his band gave a powerhouse show, and the crowd fully appreciated their artistry.
Cécile McLorin Salvant
The opening act for Cécile McLorin Salvant was the Gentiane MG Trio. Pianist Gentiane MG was joined by drummer Louis-Vincent Hamel and bassist Levi Dover, and they began with the elegant “Flowers Laugh Without Uttering a Word,” a minor-key beauty punctuated by steady rhythms. Jazz can evoke many emotions, and overall, the feeling from this group was relaxation. It was a nice change for festival goers who’d been dashing from event to event. This talented trio gave the audience a chance to slow down and catch their collective breath. They were a lovely introduction to Cécile McLorin Salvant’s set.
Cécile McLorin Salvant was clad in a colorful swing dress and statement necklace, making a striking first impression. That striking impression continued when she and her band, drummer Keita Ogawa, bassist Paul Sikivie, guitarist Marvin Sewell, and pianist Sullivan Fortner, performed “Fog.” Salvant started the song with her soaring voice, while producing an intimate style. “Thunderclouds” was an ode to love and romance. Although Cécile spoke fluent French to the audience (having a Haitian father and a French mother), her music was so strong that it transcended language. She takes music from many genres and periods and puts her own distinctive spin on them. “Obligation” was a forceful story of the complications of romantic entanglements, and Salvant sang like she really knew about these complications. Most of her concert explored different aspects of love.
A beautiful duet with Salvant and Fortner was all about unrequited love and displayed Cécile’s stellar ability to intimately tell a song’s story. A new composition by the chanteuse had a delightful calypso feeling, with impressive improvisations from her cohorts, especially Fortner’s piano. “Mista” by Dianne Reeves began with driving guitar licks by Marvin Sewell. It was an ironic tune about the vagaries of relationships, sung by Salvant with exuberance. “Barbara Song” from Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera, was a lament of love gone wrong, rendered in a heart-tugging, emotional way. “If” began with a delicate piano solo by Fortner, then changed to a syncopated piece that gave each musician a moment in the spotlight. The much-applauded encore, Salvant’s composition “Wuthering Heights,” began a cappella and the band slowly joined in, with her voice staying front and center. Due to Cécile’s sparkling stage presence, her remarkable voice, and her gifted sidemen, this was one of the highlights of FIJM.
Dee Dee Bridgewater and Bill Charlap
Celebrated vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater and acclaimed pianist Bill Charlap performed as a duo at the Monument-National theater. Dee Dee made a dazzling statement with her clothes, wearing a colorful print dress and a spectacular hat. Of the two on stage, she joked, “The rest of the band will be here tomorrow.” Bridgewater switched back and forth between English and French, and quipped that she was going to speak French so Bill wouldn’t know what she was saying! On “I’m Beginning to See the Light,” Dee Dee’s trills and runs were so exciting, the audience started clapping mid-song.
Bridgewater said, “Thank you. It is great to be back in Montréal…the best festival in the whole wide world!” Bridgewater and Charlap continued with “Caravan,” and they were so on point that the audience did not miss a combo. The two musicians owned the venue with their musicianship! Next came a blues-infused “Mood Indigo,” where both artists got down and dirty in the best possible way. They continued with the sweetest, charming “Honeysuckle Rose.” Dee Dee’s scatting on this song was so effective that it was like having an extra instrument on stage.
Dee Dee stood behind Bill on an exhilarating “In the Still of the Night.” She jokingly flirted with him when she was singing, while Bill’s fingers flew across those 88 keys! The duo’s rendition of “Lush Life” explored the nuance of every word of this jazz classic. A sly and alluring “Love For Sale,” had Dee Dee practically seducing the whole audience with her sensuous singing and sexy on-stage frolics!
On “’S Wonderful,” the pair communicated beautifully on this romantic tune. Dee Dee got a big laugh when she sang part of the song in a flowery, over-the-top, operatic voice. Continuing in a humorous vein, Bridgewater started “The Man I Love” in a super-dramatic way that really tickled the crowd and continued to a high crescendo. Of her antics on stage, Dee Dee said, “After a certain age, you really don’t give a damn.” Dee Dee is clearly comfortable in her skin, and it showed throughout the concert with her playfulness, ease, and musical professionalism. Bill Charlap made the perfect straight man, with just the right amount of calm mixed with amusement. A unique spin on “It Was Just One of Those Things” was as a ballad that slowed things down considerably. “Come Rain or Come Shine” began with Bridgewater reciting the lyrics, then she and Charlap segued into a funky version.
Bridgewater showed her vocal dexterity on an all-scatting melody where Charlap matched her note for note. Dee Dee said, “Thank you so much for this amazing evening!” Bridgewater wisecracked that they were going to make everyone cry now. “We can’t leave on a high note.” “Here’s That Rainy Day” really was touching and sentimental. This duo could do it all!
Holly Cole’s opening act was the Taurey Butler Trio, with pianist Taurey Butler, bassist Morgan Moore, and drummer Wali Muhammad. The trio began with a funky jazz piece, “One of the Others,” that captured the audience’s attention and featured tremendous solos from each player. The next number was a charming, lilting song, “Artis’ Truth,” that paid homage to two incredible North American women, Canadian visual artist Artis Lane, and suffragette/activist Sojourner Truth. Lane’s sculpture of Truth, commissioned by the Obama administration, now sits in the White House, and Taurey’s piano skills were really at the forefront of this tune. Next was a bluesy toe-tapper, where Morgan Moore tore it up on the bass. Taurey thanked FIJM, Holly Cole, and the audience for coming, saying, “Without you, this is a rehearsal!” The trio’s last song, “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from the film Mary Poppins, was a fast-paced, fresh, jazzy update of the original. It started with some strong classical piano riffs by the talented Taurey, who is a devotee of Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones. This set was great lead-in for Holly Cole.
Vocalist Holly Cole’s back-up musicians included bassist George Koller, pianist Aaron Davis, and guitarist Kevin Breit. She packed a lot of music in her show, starting with “Take Me Home,” where her smooth, self-assured voice caressed each note. Holly’s composition “Cry (If You Want To)” was a deeply emotional tale about comforting someone in pain. “Losing My Mind” was an affecting ballad with great band support. “Down, Down, Down” an up-tempo, honky-tonk tune, showed off George Koller’s bass skills. “Girl Talk” was a languid, soulful musing on women’s discussions. “Whatever Lola Wants” was played as a sensual tango-Influenced number where Holly employed her voice’s lower register in a wonderfully dramatic way.
The group performed “The Waters of March” as an energetic rock-influenced piece. “How Long Has This Been Going On” was slow and sentimental. Koller joined Cole on a charming duet of “Bye Bye Blackbird.” The pace slowed down for the mournful “Same Girl,” then “Me and My Shadow” included great guitar riffs by Kevin Breit. They followed with a dark and smoldering take on “Que Sera, Sera.” An emotive “I Can See Clearly Now” had an excellent piano solo by Aaron Davis and impassioned vocals by Cole. This jam-packed set finished with an encore, a fun, lively “Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard.”
Drummer Larnell Lewis was joined by guitarist Elmer Ferrer, keyboardist Jeremy Ledbetter, trumpeter Andrew McAnsh, bassist Rich Brown, and Rob Christian on flute and saxophone. They played songs from Lewis’ latest recording, Relive the Moment. Their first song was a high-energy hybrid of funk, jazz, and rock, making quite an incendiary start. The audience was encouraged to clap at the beginning of the second song, another energetic number with fiery licks from each musician, and an especially fine drum solo from Larnell. The show was hosted by Stanley Pean of CBC Radio and was broadcast live across Canada. Guest star steel drummer Joy Lapps performed “Lulu’s Dream” with the band, adding a distinctly island feeling.
Joy’s composition “Serena” was about Lapps’ time studying in Paris and riding bikes through the city with her friend Serena. Larnell almost beat the skins off the drums, while the others added their own excellent touches. The tune was salsa-inspired, in tribute to Serena and Joy dancing in Paris salsa clubs. The next song was dedicated to Lewis’ two children, “Slice of Life,” an enthusiastic piece about a father’s love that had wonderful input by Rob Christian on flute and saxophone.
Larnell expressed his appreciation to FIJM, saying, “I want to thank the Montréal Jazz Festival for having us. This is the BEST festival!” Lewis is an excellent storyteller with a lot of stage presence. Introducing “To Forgive,” he discussed forgiveness of other people and of himself. The song was a thoughtful, minor-key piece with a superb keyboard solo by Jeremy Ledbetter. By the way, Joy Lapps is Larnell’s wife, a fact that he surprised the audience with mid-concert. Joy returned to the stage for “Josie’s Smile,” a jubilant number where the band played at the top of their game. They finished with “Sharifa the Great,” dedicated to Joy’s sister, describing her as a fierce protector – caring, and thoughtful. Larnell Lewis and his group were compelling and entertaining!
On last day of FIJM, Malika Tirolien’s band and guest artists set the Scène TD stage ablaze. Guadeloupe-born Tirolien has lived in Montréal since enrolling at the University of Montréal, where she received a B.A. in jazz interpretation in 2005. She has since been an in-demand artist on the music scene. Providing vocals on Snarky Puppy’s Grammy-winning album Family Dinner – Volume 1, Tirolien began an ongoing collaboration with the band’s leader Michael League, including tours with Snarky Puppy and Bokanté. This was not Tirolien’s first time at FIJM, including being one of the few artists to perform live at club L’Astral during the pandemic virtual Festival in 2020.
Malika’s concert was largely music from her album Higher. She was accompanied by backup vocalists Nancy Dassas and Nadia Hawa Baldé, guitarist Philippe L’Allier, keyboardist Jean-Michel Frédéric, and drummer Frantz-Lee Leonard. Malika’s set began with her vengeful rap lyrics and hip-hop groove on “No Mercy.” Tirolien reunited with Meryem Saci on their duet “Sisters.” Fredy V added his unique rap flavor to her hit “Grow.” Tirolien was joined by singer Guerschon Auguste on a duet and on background vocals. All the guest artists returned for the closing piece “Rise.” This concert was a perfect primer for The Roots.
FIJM Vice President Laurent Saulnier introduced The Roots, who gave the last big outdoor show at the packed Scène TD area. The Roots have been the official house band for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon since 2014. The group’s members included lead vocalist/rapper Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, drummer/beatboxer Questlove, guitarist/vocalist “Captain” Kirk Douglas, trumpeter Dave Guy, saxophonist Ian Hendrickson-Smith, multi-instrumentalist Damon “Tuba Gooding Jr.” Bryson, and keyboardists Kamal Gray and Ray Angry. The concert started with a funky jam that got things off to an exciting beginning.
Rapper Black Thought gave shout-outs to other groups, like Heavy D and the Boyz, then the group jumped into a red-hot version of Kool & The Gang’s “Jungle Boogie.” They also performed Tupac’s “Got My Mind Made Up,” Manu Dibango’s “Soul Makossa,” “The Next Movement,” “Rock Creek Park,” “You Got Me,” “The Seed (2.0),” Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up,” and several other tunes. Black Thought rapped with impassioned fervor and had a superior flow throughout the show. The band was tight, playing their instruments with intensity and dedication. This spontaneously combustive concert had the band moving from song to song with barely a breath in between. The final ovation from the crowd was deafening, as The Roots had whipped the audience into the perfect musical frenzy. This show closed the 2022 FIJM with a spectacular bang!
Rising star vibraphonist Joel Ross began with a haunting solo, then his band, drummer Jeremy Dutton, bassist Kanoa Mendenhall, and saxophonist Godwin Louis, joined in on a superbly somber song. Their second tune had an avant garde feeling with a lot of style and great licks from each musician. In the packed Le Studio TD club, they followed with some bebop, where the band went on a whirlwind ride. Next was a lushly romantic song that was melodic at times, yet atonal at others. Joel started one piece with a bravura display of his vibe skills that stunned the crowd. Then the band joined him for a reflective, yet spellbinding song. After a well-deserved ovation, the band played “Gato’s Gift” as a glowing encore.
Opening act for Dominique Fils-Aimé was Hanorah, a Montréal singer/songwriter used her big voice keep the crowd enthralled. Hanorah’s music is often about the trauma of a sexual assault she experienced at 18 years old. Her compositions include “Solution,” and have served as a way to recovery for her, and self-empowerment for many of her fans. She was a fine opener for Dominique Fils-Aimé.
Canadian singer Dominique Fils-Aimé is a Juno-Award winner who gave a lovely, emotion-filled show that included “The Healing Song,” “Tall Lion Down” and “Could It Be.” The set featured a wide range of influences, including gospel, African chants, call-and-response, 1970’s soul, and big band jazz, that Fils-Aimé performed with her strong, striking vocals. Although Dominique did not introduce her band, she said that they were pretty great, and indeed they were. The music was uniformly excellent, and much appreciated by the audience.
Terri Lyne Carrington and Aaron Parks
In one of her three shows at FIJM, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington was joined by pianist Aaron Parks. Terri started with an expressive drum solo, and the next song had an experimental feel. Despite any obstacles she’s faced as a female drummer, Carrington can hold her own on any jazz stage. At one point, the duo played all out, to shouts of appreciation. Terri said, “Thank you Aaron, that was so much fun!”
“Drummer’s Song,” by Geri Allen, was powerfully percussive. Carrington quoted Wayne Shorter, who said, “We should play or compose, not because something works, but to see what’s going to happen.” “Bells” from the CD Waiting Game, was a lovely, mellow piece. Terri told the audience, “Thank you for coming to spend your time this evening. I hope you enjoyed it.” Their encore was some swinging bebop performed with the excellence that characterized the whole concert.
Django Festival All-Stars
The Django Festival All-Stars featured guitarist Samson Schmitt, violinist Pierre Blanchard, guitarist Michael Harris, Ludovic Beier on accordion, guitarist Doudou Cuillerier, and bassist Antonio Lucasti. They play in the style of the late, legendary Romani jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and keep his legacy alive. The first song began with a pretty guitar solo by Doudou Cuillerier and transitioned into a swift-moving piece with fantastic solos by violinist Pierre Blanchard and accordionist Ludovic Beier.
The musicians joked with each other and kept the audience in stitches. Next came a sweetly romantic ballad with a melting violin interlude. Their tribute to Charlie Chaplin that was a fun, lively romp. On “The Sheik of Araby,” accordionist Ludovic Beier picked up a harmonica and performed an affecting solo on this homage to Toots Thielemans. Clearly, this group had as much fun playing as the audience had listening.
The Manhattan Transfer
The Manhattan Transfer entered Théâtre Maisonneuve’s stage to rousing applause. Although the group has undergone personnel changes during its half-century existence, the current line-up, Alan Paul, Janis Seigel, Cheryl Bentyne, and Trist Curless, are doing a great job of keeping the group’s legacy alive, making splendid music in four-part harmony.
“Swing Balboa” was followed by Count Basie’s “Study in Brown.” Next came “Route 66,” and all were performed with breathtaking clarity. Dedicated to late group founder Tim Hauser, “Java Jive” was a languid delight, and “Tuxedo Junction” was the perfect follow-up. Ella Fitzgerald’s “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” was done with sass and great scatting. Fast-moving doo-wop “Tell Me How Long Will This Rain Last” carried the crowd away! Beautiful vocalese, “Sing Joy Spring” came next, and lovely bossa nova, “Sometimes I Do” was followed by “Cantaloop (Flip Out!)” and a spectacular “Birdland.” For a much-welcomed encore, they performed a spirited “Tequila” with lots of crowd participation.
John Roney – Chick Corea Re-imagined
Pianist John Roney started with haunting solo in this retrospective of the late Chick Corea’s music. Joined by vibraphonist Guy St. Onge, the duo’s improvisations segued into an exciting “Armando’s Rhumba.” Roney discussed Corea’s successful collaborations, including trios with drummer Roy Haynes and bassist Miroslav Vitouš, and drummer Brian Blade and bassist Christian McBride. John then introduced bassist Morgan Moore and drummer Kevin Warren. Roney’s original composition, “Chick Corea,” was written at 17, inspired by Chick’s big influence. Next, Kevin Warren added heat with an outstanding drum solo on “Got a Match?”
John added Juno Award-winning vocalist Caity Gyorgy and guest saxophonist from Italy, Federico Milone for “You’re Everything,” followed by Corea’s classic “Spain.” The encore was a merging of “Sometime Ago” and “Love Castle.” This superb concert was a wonderful tribute to iconic jazz pianist/composer, Chick Corea!
Laura Anglade Quartet
On the penultimate day of FIJM, it was glorious weather, and at the Scène TD stage the Laura Anglade Quartet performed. Anglade’s group included bassist Jonathan Chapman, and she presented music from a wide variety of influences. The show included “On a Clear Day,” “June’s a Word,” “Dearly Beloved,” “Old Devil Moon,” “A Social Call,” and “You Go to My Head.” Laura closed the show by beautifully singing “I Wish You Love” in French.
This set encapsulated what’s so great about a summer jazz festival. People were able to chill while listening to fine music in wonderful weather, enjoying the idyllic setting.
Lorraine Desmarais and Guests
Canadian pianist Lorraine Desmarais, recipient of the Order of Canada in 2012, celebrated her 40-year career. Her first song was a poignant piano solo. Then, brilliant bassist Alain Caron joined her and added a blistering bass solo to the next piece. Lorraine’s composition, “No Vacancy” featured award-winning trombonist Alain Trudel. “When I Fall in Love” was intimately romantic.
Then Lorraine brought out a big band that included saxophonists Jean-Pierre Zanella and André Leroux, and trumpeter Ron Di Lauro, and the group was really swinging with tremendous harmony. One tune included a gorgeous, soaring solo by Jean-Pierre Zanella, and another had a dynamic saxophone duel by Jean-Pierre and André. The audience really raised the roof at the end of this outstanding show at Monument-National theater, so enthusiastic was the ovation!
2022 FIJM Awards
The Oliver Jones Award was created to recognize student musicians who identify as a visible minority. The award was created in honor of legendary Montréal jazz pianist Oliver Jones, who has a long history of mentoring young musicians. The 2022 winner of the Oliver Jones Award is recent Concordia University graduate and drummer Christina Beaudry-Cárdenas, who performs a fusion of jazz and Peruvian music with a mix of standards, as well as her own compositions.
The B.B. King Award was named after blues legend B.B. King to honor artists of exceptional talent who’ve made a lasting mark on the blues scene. The 2022 winner of the B.B. King Award is guitarist Colin James, whose 30-year career includes 20 albums. He thrills audiences with his music that includes rock, swing, and blues.
The Antônio Carlos Jobim Award was established at FIJM’s 25th anniversary and was named for iconic Brazilian composer/arranger/pianist/guitarist/singer Antônio Carlos Jobim. The Antônio Carlos Jobim Award recognizes world music performers who’ve made an impact on the evolution of jazz. Grammy-nominated Brazilian singer/songwriter Bebel Gilberto, who is strongly associated with bossa nova, is the 2022 winner of this award.
The Miles Davis Award was created in 1994 and named for the legendary jazz trumpeter/composer/bandleader Miles Davis to honor an international jazz musician for their entire body of work and influence on the genre of jazz. This year’s honoree is four-time Grammy Award winner, pianist/record producer/songwriter/arranger Robert Glasper, who has had several notable collaborations, and made a huge impact on jazz and R&B.
The Oscar Peterson Award was founded in 1989 and named after renowned pianist Oscar Peterson. It recognizes a Canadian performer’s musicianship and contributions to the development of jazz. This year’s recipient is jazz pioneer, vocalist Ranee Lee, who has brought together jazz and Broadway fans in her 40-year career. She has recorded a dozen hit albums and had collaborations with jazz greats Oliver Jones and Clark Terry.
The Ella Fitzgerald Award was named after celebrated icon, Ella Fitzgerald. The award is bestowed upon a jazz singer of significant talent who has demonstrated a large impact on the international scene. The 2022 winner is singer/songwriter China Forbes, who sings in over 20 languages, and has performed with the group Pink Martini in 20 sold-out FIJM concerts.
The Bruce Lundvall Award was created to honor the late Bruce Lundvall, CEO of Blue Note Records. It is presented to a non-musician who has left a big mark on the jazz world through media, concerts, or the recording industry. This year’s recipient is journalist and radio host Stanley Péan, who has hosted the radio broadcast Quand le jazz est là for 10 years. He is also a noted novelist and songwriter, and a major contributor to the Canadian jazz scene.
The Montréal Jazz Festival Spirit Award honors a popular artist’s exceptional contributions to the world of music. This year’s recipient is drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of The Roots. This has been a big year for the co-founder of The Roots. Questlove won an Academy Award in 2022 for Best Documentary for the acclaimed film Summer of Soul.
The 2022 Rising Stars Jazz Award went to saxophonist/composer Immanuel Wilkins. Wilkins has worked with Jason Moran, Gerald Clayton, Gretchen Parlato, Solange Knowles, Wynton Marsalis, Bob Dylan, and many others. Through his compositions and collaborations, Immanuel is really making a name for himself in jazz world, he and is worthy of this honor.
The 2022 Festival International de Jazz de Montréal was a big success, and despite the ongoing pandemic, FIJM admirably rose to the occasion.
FIJM has a history of presenting fantastic line-ups of iconic artists and up-and-coming musicians. They’ve also had several notable surprise performers, like Corinne Bailey Rae this year, Prince’s four-hour show in 2011, and Stevie Wonder’s legendary free concert that kicked off 2009’s FIJM. That tradition is certain to continue at upcoming Festivals. The 43rd edition of FIJM will take place from June 29 to July 8, 2023. For more information on upcoming events, go to www.montrealjazzfest.com.