It’s the 30th annual Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. MAGNET’s Mitch Myers translates the action.
Diversity is the key, and world music represents nothing if not diversity. I say this because Montreal’s International Jazz Festival features a lot of world music. For example, in the next few days the Metropolis Ballroom will have hosted King Sunny Adé & Femi Kuti, Alpha Blondy & Olmou Sangare and Burning Spear & Toots And The Maytals. And on Monday, I was lucky enough to catch a rehearsal for the festival’s big Rocksteady extravaganza, which coincides with the showing of the documentary Rocksteady: The Roots Of Reggae.
The Rocksteady film, directed by Swiss filmmaker Stascha Bader, traces the post-ska roots of reggae music to the rocksteady movement of the mid-’60s and features a number of Jamaican music luminaries including Ernest Ranglin, Marcia Griffiths, Ken Boothe, Judy Mowatt and Leroy Sibbles, to name a few. The Rocksteady concert will bring a number of these reggae greats back to the stage, and it was great to see the Tamlins crooning “Stop That Train” and Boothe singing the Desmond Dekker classic “Shanty Town.” Sibbles, an original member of the mighty Heptones, was also on hand, and the singers were backed by a top-notch band of veteran Jamaican musicians. If you like reggae music, this show will be a blast, and the Canadians are hungry for reggae!
While all this rocksteady business was going on, Jeff Beck (pictured) was just a couple of blocks away accepting the first annual Montreal Guitar Show Tribute Award. The Montreal Guitar Show runs simultaneously with the jazz fest, and let me just say that Canada really, really loves its guitars! Beck was patient, soft-spoken and thoughtful as he fielded questions about his amazing career, and it was nice to see the human side of this designated guitar hero. Beck has been hitting his stride the last few years and is playing better than ever, as evidenced on the recent Performing This Week: Live At Ronnie Scott’s CD and DVD. Beck’s two sold-out shows on Monday night at the gigantic Salle Wilfrid Pelletier auditorium were crowd-pleasing affairs. Beck was flawless at the early show, opening with the rousing clarion call of “Beck’s Bolero” and running through a catalog of his great instrumental repertoire. His touring band features monster drummer Vinne Colaiuta, bassist Tal Wilkenfeld and keyboardist Jason Rebello. In case you don’t know, Tal Wilkenfeld is the cutest little lady bassist you’re likely to see (this side of Esperanza Spalding) and was featured in a wild segment where she and Beck play her bass simultaneously. It was fun, and Beck obviously adores her.
Concluding his three-night run as the featured artist of the festival’s Invitation Series, Joshua Redman and his Double Trio put on an ambitious, well-conceived performance at the Théâtre Maisonneuve, which is a far larger venue than the Gesù where he’d played the previous two nights. This was an event, as the band has only played together onstage a few times, and Redmond was totally in control of this all-star ensemble. Flanked on his right by bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Brian Blade, and on his left by bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Greg Hutchinson, Redman played tenor and soprano with great intensity. He led the band through a series of breathtaking performances, shifting through different combinations of his master musicians and drawing tunes from the recent Compass. Clearly, Redman and the musicians around him are poised to remain at the top of the jazz world for years to come, and they probably will. Nuff said.