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Review by Seth Rogovoy
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Deborah Voigt Headlines Mahaiwe Gala
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Weekend Preview May 12-16
Cultural Highlights of the Berkshire Weekend
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[MUSIC REVIEW] Avalon Quartet in Close Encounters at Mahaiwe
Review by Seth Rogovoy
[MUSIC REVIEW] Avalon Quartet in Close Encounters at Mahaiwe
Review by Seth Rogovoy
[FILM REVIEW] Bill Cunningham New York
Review by Seth Rogovoy
[FILM REVIEW] Bill Cunningham New York
Review by Seth Rogovoy
MONTREAL INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL
DAY FOUR (Thursday, July 3, 2008)
MIGUEL ZENON QUARTET
There are sideshows galore at the festival, but none so creepy as the monster, pictured here. I don't know what it is -- a spider on stilts? In any case, it haunts the plaza, trapping unsuspecting visitors in its clutches and sucking them into its vortex from which none have been known to escape.
I had to see for myself, so I set myself up as bait, and I do believe I got the best picture of the monster's face ever.
It's hard to believe that in twelve hours I'll be headed down to check out of the hotel, flagging a cab to the train station, and heading on the long journey (nine hour train ride plus 45-minute car ride from train) back home.
I feel like I could stay here another week. The weather turned gorgeous this evening. The skies cleared and grew cool; the vibe is always happy and relaxed; there's still a whole weekend of great music to enjoy, and Montreal is still a friendly, welcoming city.
But alas, I have a life, job, family, friends, a book, another job, and other things to which to attend back home. So I'm going to spend an hour pre-packing, and then head out for one final concert: to hear Miguel Zenon in a church basement.
7 p.m., July 3, 2008
Context is everything. Take Richard Thompson, widely considered the greatest guitarist in folk music. Stick him in a jazz festival and suddenly you hear his music differently. Of course! Those signature runs, those bent, warped chords, those ringing effects he get -- all acoustically, mind you, all through his stunning virtuosity -- are nothing if not bebop jazz excursions disguised as folk plucking. He's the Pat Metheny of folk music, it turns out, only better.
He's also of course an amazing songwriter, singer, and performer, and he was on for all of these at tonight's solo show. He knows how to vary and pace a program, mixing in oldies, goodies, new songs, and novelties.
So that tonight we got "Dad's Gonna Kill Me," about Iraq (Dad=BaghDad); "I've Got the Hots for the Smarts," a jazzy, Cole Porter-ish novelty about the delights of smart women; the Richard and Linda Thompson classic, "I Want to See the Bright Lights"; an old Sandy Denny tune from Fairport Convention; and some of his modern classics, including "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" and the punk-folk ode, "I Feel So Good (I'm Gonna Break Someone's Heart Tonight."
Despite seemingly nursing a frog in his throat, whenever he sang his voice was rich and mellifluous, matching his golden guitar tone. He knows how to work an audience in the dark and convey that coffeehouse-like intimacy without overdoing the shtick. In the end he's all about the music, and it's really incredible when you think about how long he's been on the scene. He's an international treasure.
So I had my healthy breakfast (veggie omelet with cheese, home fries, brown bread, and tea) and headed off to the "subterranean city." First stop was this mega department store called La Baie, from which I was told you could enter the city down below.
Tell me, monsieur, what is it about being in another city that makes one easily spend money? Back home, I almost never go clothes shopping, and I balk at shelling out much more than $20 for anything. Now, I'm not going to tell you how much I dropped at La Baie, but I will say that the elevator to the men's floor opened right on the hat department, the likes of which I've never seen anywhere. And anyone who knows me knows I cannot resist a good hat. Or four good hats.
Anyway, I think I'm set for hats for the rest of the summer (I'm still vying for a black felt Borsalino for the fall/winter, hint hint those who love me). I continued through the men's department, and let's just leave it at that for now. Those of you back home might notice a few new items on me once in a while. 'Nuff said.
Then I made my way into the underground. Which, as I feared, is simply a huge networked shopping mall. Don't get me wrong, the shops are great, and there's tons of good stuff down there. You could easily spend a day, or a life, snaking through the place. I did grab a coffee and croissant down there -- plenty of cafes and food, too -- but I'd already shopped myself out. And I thought I might find something a little more ... authentic? urban? Anyway, it's just a different kind of mall, so I made my way back to La Baie and back to the hotel -- stopping briefly to hear some big-band music on the main stage just outside the hotel -- while the rain continued to fall.
A good afternoon to update my blog, I figured. And sorry, I didn't take any pictures of the shopping mall, or of what I bought. Close your eyes and imagine a shopping mall with a low ceiling. That's what it looked like.
Who goes to Montreal to get a tan? I looked in the mirror this morning and apparently I do.
Of course I haven't spent as much time outside walking around in months as I have these few days in the beautiful city of Montreal. So I guess I got a little sun (in spite of my hat, which along with my glasses, has caused me to be accused of being Elvis Costello several times), as the weather has been gorgeous -- sunny and warm, but low humidity.
That is, until today, when the city is enveloped in a gray fog and clouds rule the heavens. I timed it perfectly though -- today is my day to explore the strange and mysterious SUBTERRANEAN city of Montreal! I'm not sure how to get there, or if I'll ever get out, but that's where I'm headed after I boost myself with an old-fashioned diner breakfast of eggs and potatoes.
DAY THREE: DIGGING IN (Tuesday, July 1, 2008)
So I go back to Bistro Pub NYK's. So sue me. I have no idea whether or not Ann will be there; I go back because I liked the place (and, yes, hoping to see Ann again, to tell her about yesterday's blogpost) and I want a good dinner tonight.
So here I am, an out-of-towner whom she has no right or reason to expect ever to see again (unless she caught on somehow to the instant crush I developed on her). So indeed, she is there this evening, as bright and cheery as the day before. She seems pleased but not surprised to see me back. We make a little more small talk this time around.
So when it comes time to order, I ask for the Grilled Salmon, and she repeats, "Salmon?" I say, yes, and she says, "You like salmon."
Now, I have no idea why she says this. I mean, of course I like salmon -- I just ordered it! Why would I have ordered it if I don't like it? Is she trying to say that I shouldn't like salmon? Is she judging me by my like of salmon? Does she hate salmon and everyone who orders it?
Then, of course, it dawns on me: in spite of the dozens if not hundreds of meals she serves a day, she remembers that I ordered salmon for lunch the day before (albeit in a wrap, as lox, not the cooked fish). SHE REMEMBERS WHAT I ORDERED! SHE REMEMBERS ME! I MADE AN IMPRESSION ON HER!
At this point, in my head I begin practicing the phrase, "Ann, je t'aime." I feel so close to her now that we've gotten the salmon thing solved. She knows me so well! She knows I like salmon! And she doesn't hold it against me! And she's very interested to see what I posted on my blog (she wants to see her picture, of course). And me, I just want to invite her to spend the rest of the jazz festival with me. And maybe come home to America with me. Or maybe ask me to move in with her here in Montreal. Je t'aime, Ann Legare, you sunny waitress with the gorgeous eyes at NYK's.
I pay the bill to the other waiter and leave without saying goodbye to Ann. I figure it's best that way. Ann, if you're reading this, don't take it personally. I just hate big goodbye scenes. Whenever I was a boy and my parents would take us somewhere on vacation, I'd always meet a girl and have a crush or fall in love with her. Ann, you will always be my Montreal crush.
July 2, 2008
At Club Soda (great name for a club, huh?) tonight, Orchestra Baobab from Senegal put the Afro back in Afro-Cuban -- or was it the Cuban back in Afro-Cuban? In any case, they rocked the club, coming across as the world's greatest AfroBeat party band.
The group, with roots hailing back to 1970, played an eclectic blend of world-beat music. With a versatile lineup boasting two vocalists (plus others who also play), two saxphonists, two guitarists, and two percussionists, plus several members who double as smooth dancers, the ensemble played a masterful blend of layered Afro-funk with Latin elements.
A capella chanting that recalled qawalli or cantorial singing, boasting gorgeous elisions and melismas, gave way to wah-wah laced guitar and loping reggae, before opening up to big-band township jive with call-and-response vocals.
By the third number, club personnel had cleared away the first few rows of the cabaret-style settings to make way for dancers, and it wasn't long after that the entire club was up on its feet, grooving to the bnad's interlocking, hypnotic polyrhythms.
They were one hell of a bar-mitzvah band, that's for sure.
July 2, 2008
Cabaret Juste Pour Rire
Daniel Lanois is so many things, it's hard to get your arms around him. For our purposes here, let's put aside for a moment that for which he's best known -- as a superstar producer, who with Brian Eno helped create U2 as we know it, and on his own breathed new life into the recording careers of artists including Bob Dylan, the Neville Brothers, and Emmylou Harris.
But today we're talking about Lanois the songwriter and performer, having seen him last night at the Cabaret Juste Pour Rire. It would be really easy to describe Lanois as the Canadian Neil Young (they share a reedy tenor, similar guitar styles, penchant for solid chunky riffs and vocal harmonies). Easy, but stupid, since Neil Young already is the Canadian Neil Young, you bonehead!
But in a way he's not, as Young seems to have Passed into Americanhood in his loyalties,
his home, and his outlook (and don't start in on the "but Canada is part of America" bullshit -- you know exactly what I mean -- America as in the United States -- America as in Canadians and our neighbors to the south want nothing to do with being American.
I'm so glad we've gotten that settled so we can get back to talking about last night's Lanois concert. The singer/guitarist performed with a four-piece band, lined up horizontally on the lip of stage, with the drummer to his right and the electric bassist and guitarist to his left. Lanois performed in biker gear, with leather jacket and wool fisherman's cap, interfering somewhat with allowing him to connect to his audience firsthand (not that you could tell from the worshipful crowd of Daniel-heads). Perhaps he really is more comfortable in the confines of the recording studio than on the rock and roll stage, but man, can he play!
He is in love with the electric guitar in the way Sonic Youth (and Neil Young, who once toured with Sonic Youth as opener) is in love with the instrument -- for all its tonal capacities. He uses it to play chunky, Young-like riffs, but then is off on single-note linear solos interspersed with distortion, feedback, and sheer noise (a favorite gesture is to strum across the neck instead of the bridge, near the pickup), using the guitar noise as percussion a la Sonic Youth.
Lanois' songs were strong, and allowed plenty of room to jam. He tried out a new song he called "Moondog" (dedicated to the idiosyncratic American composer??) that he called "hippie-funk," and indeed, it was a jazzy, spacey jam in the vein of the Grateful Dead (oh, those aren't CSNY harmonies, those are Grateful Dead Harmonies!).
Lanois' voice is his greatest downfall and probably what has kept him from becoming better known as a performer or recording artist on his own in the U.S. It lacks the distinction of, say, Young's reedy tenor, and tends more towards the generic, or at best, similar to Captain Trips aka Jerry Garcia, David Crosby (with his bandmates, he arranged for some CSNY-like harmonies that also recall Los Lobos -- didn't he produce them, too?) and Robbie Robertson (whom he also produced).
His band's dual guitar attack and pounding drums recalled Warren Zevon's attack, and his songs, like Zevon's, made extensive use of minor and unexpected jazz chords. And occasionally his guitarist would do a little chiming thing with his instrument that recalled, uh, the signature of a certain edgy guitarist from a certain world-famous rock band whose records a certain Lanois produces.
Later that evening Chicha Libre played its idiosyncratic brand of spaghetti-western soundtrack music spiced with South of the Border touches by way of Brooklyn, N.Y.
DAY TWO: DAWN OF DISCOVERY (Tuesday, July 1, 2008)
Ann Legare of Bistro Pub NYK's
On 1250 Rue Bluery
This was truly my day of discovery. After a night of walking around in a daze, not really knowing where I was going or what was going on, I caught onto a lot today.
For example, it became clear to me in the early evening after I passed by the stage where the night before I heard Idy Oulo from Cameroon and tonight I heard the fiery, dynamic
Alpha Yaya Diallo, and then passing by the stage where the night before I heard the first few numbers by Canadian bluesman John Nemeth and tonight I heard roaring blues by Canada's Mike Goudreau, that I had an aha! moment. I got it! The stages were THEMED! The Scene Loto-Quebec (I figured out on day three that "scene" means stage, not scene) is the dedicated BLUES stage; the Scene Bell is the dedicated AfroBeat stage, etc.
I also sat down this morning and really studied by Montreal visitors map and made some discoverieS. For example, having been pretty wired last night from the long train trip, after hearing some music I just began walking. I had no idea where I was going, but I was headed down a main drag (appropriate word, as it turned out), and it was a beautiful night, so I just kept walking and walking. There was lots of nightlife; lots of people on the streets, which were blocked off just for pedestrians. Plenty of people at sidewalk cafes and taverns and bistros. Plenty of what we'd call colorful streetlife. And, after a while, I realized, plenty of uncloseted gay life. It was really pretty wonderful to see all this fun being had right out in the open.
So sitting down with my guide this morning I look and, no shit, I swear, it turns out I had walked through "The Village." Yes, that's what they call the gay section of town. Which, of course, raises a whole host of important questions:
Was this a gay part of town originally that was eventually named "The Village" in honor of New York City's gay Village?
Are all gay neighborhoods in cities around the world called "The Village"?
Is this why they call themselves the Village People?
Was this neighborhood always called The Village and gays just gravitated towards it because of the name, thinking it must be gay because of the New York Village connection? And thus creating a gay Village where there once was none?
Or did the city of Montreal just one day decide to call the neighborhood The Village to make the gays hanging out there feel at home?
In any case, I have no answers (but more whimsical questions along these lines), but I'm glad to have discovered The Village.
Today was another beautiful day -- sunny and hot but not humid. It's also July 1st, which in Canada is National Day. In other words, their version of the Fourth of July, except without the American Flag and Neil Young (whom I think is a Republican, which probably means that Bruce Springsteen wants to beat him up). So I took off by foot, wandering somewhat aimlessly, but hoping eventually to make my way to the Old City (The original city was built right near the port. Duh.), where there still are many really old townhouses and apartment houses and galleries and shops and small, winding roads and alleyways.
Somehow I stumbled the right way there, and took tons of photos. Some day I'm going to live here.
I made my way back downtown, and looked for a place for a late lunch, and that's when I stumbled into Bistro Pub NYK's and was greeted by the very joyful, friendly Ann Legare, she of the deep, soulful eyes and the funny smile. It's a pretty hip place, with windows wide open to the street. I had a great lunch of a salmon and cream cheese wrap, which basically was a bagel and lox except instead of the bagel you had the contents in a flour tortilla. That, plus a bottle of Pellegrino, plus the attentions of Ann (whose name I only learned the next day), made it a terrific afternoon.
As noted earlier, in the evening I did the wandering around thing, catching sounds from the open stages planted all around the plaza. The night culminated with a scary gathering of over 200,000 people jamming not only the plaza but also the side streets as far as you could see, all to see the hometown electronic-rock heroes Bran Van 3000 (yeah, that's what I said, but apparently they are like the Beatles of Liverpool, well, I mean, if Montreal were Liverpool, they'd be the Beatles, except no one outside of this place has ever heard of them). They put on quite a spectacle, with animations projected on buildings and the biggest mirror ball in the world.
I'm scared of crowds, so I called it a night.
DAY ONE (Monday, June 30, 2008)
Most of today was spent traveling by train from Hudson, N.Y., to Montreal via Amtrak. It's a nine-hour journey; supposedly twice as long as it can be travelled by automobile. But believe me, I have my reasons. Not least among them are: with my Triple A discount, round-trip train fare was $85. I didn't do the math, but I'm guessing that's less than the cost of gasoline and parking. In any case, my car has 190,000 miles on it, and I want it to last another 100,000 miles, and the way to make that happen is NOT to take long, unnecessary trips.
And because I took the train, I got about two days' worth of writing done for Berkshire Living on the train. My co-editor, Chris Newbound, suggests that I take a cross-country trip later in the summer, saying I could probably get my Bob Dylan book written in a week that way. It's true, I'm always most productive writing and editing on a plane or train.
Also, I HATE driving. Especially to strange new places. The whole point of going to Montreal by train was to be somewhere where I could just explore on foot and, if needed, by occasional public transit or taxicab (it will turn out to be a pedestrian's dream come true).
So having left my house at 9 a.m., I rolled into Montreal around 7 p.m. I quickly got settled into my hotel (the Hyatt Regency, for those who are counting, courtesy of the Montreal International Jazz Festival, by whose authority I am here as an officially credentialed journalist and photographer), and quickly ventured outside to discover to my great pleasure that my hotel forms one wall of the Places des Arts, a huge public square in and around which most of the festival takes place. Literally right out the door is the main plaza with the mainstage, and several smaller stages. Within a five minute walk in any directions I discover stages up and down alleys, on open stretches of land, in parking lots, and squeezed in between buildings. These are all the outdoor stages; the festival also takes place at numerous indoor venues, where ticketed shows take place.
On my first night I'm at the Heineken Pavilion, a riot of a venue. I have no idea what this building is during the year, but it's a sperm-shaped building (the tail being the bar, the body of the sperm being a round area with the stage at the far end) that immediately transports you, well, either into outer space or 1930s Europe. which is totally appropriate for the act I'm seeing, "Belly of a Drunken Piano: Un Spectacle Sur Tom Waits, avec Stewart D'Arrietta. In other words, I'm watching a Tom Waits impersonator.
Two things to say about that: the guy is amazing. He's got Tom down to a 't.' But after a half hour, I ask myself, what am I doing at a jazz festival watching an impersonator? A Tom Waits "tribute" act? So I leave.
It's my first night, and I'm still disoriented, so I just wander around, stopping at open stages and hearing bits and pieces of African, blues, jazz and other music. I take
pictures, too, some of which you'll see here.
Adding to my disorientation is that somehow I have it in my mind that today is June 26, and I'm trying to match up the acts I'm hearing with the ones in the schedule, but they don't match. So for a while I figure, well, maybe things change a lot at the last minute. That's the music business. But of course that's not the case. I finally realize today is June 30, and the people I've been listening to are the amazing Cape Verdean singer Mayra Andrade, the Cameroonian artist Idy Oulo, a Texas-style blues singer and mouth harpist John Nemeth, and Travis Sullivan's Bjorkestra.
I miss Public Enemy because the festival couldn't provide me with a ticket to that show -- this will become a theme of the week, with (in spite of the incredibly hospitable, warm, and friendly press relations people) not even a single ticket available to me for either of two Steely Dan shows, or even for the Israeli-born South African singer Yoav. I did score some tickets to a few general admission rock shows, but once here I realize a) I'm not here to see rock shows, and b) I'm too fucking old for G.A. rock shows.
Anyway, it's getting late, and it's been a long day, so after a few songs of the Bjorkestra, which is really beautiful -- I'm not a Bjorkhead, but the woman doing Bjork sure sounds like her, and the music is gorgeous -- I call it a night and get settled into my room for the evening.
So THIS is a jazz bar!
Le concert de l'artiste IDY OULO a été simplement fantastique ! et nous esperons bien le révoir l'été prochain aux Francofolies de Montréal !
bizzzzz à toute l'équipe
voici les vidéos de concert d'Idy Oulo pour ceux qui ont loupé son show via son myspace !
c'est formidable !!
Laetitia (Université Québec )
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