It’s halfway through the Montreal International Jazzfest and, judging from what took place this weekend, the second half of the program is just as likely to heat things up as the first. If you decided to take in some of the almost overwhelming number of performances taking place throughout the city, you might have caught the likes of Aaron Parks, Brian Blade and Joshua Redman – three very different composers, yet each worth seeing for unique reasons of his own.
Parks, for one, is all over the festival this year, but Friday night was devoted only to his compositions as played by his trio. He performed at l’Astral, the new space opened just this year and the intimate setting made his show close and very personal. His rendition of “Siren” can truly convince you that, just as you are sitting in an ambient jazz club, so too during this piece are you being ever so gently sailed towards roaring, churning waters where you’ll only realize the danger too late. It’s been noted elsewhere that Parks is one of the most accomplished musicians for his age, that age being very young. But the power of his playing is truly exceptional – and that goes for performers of any age group. His latest album Invisible Cinema is worth checking out, particularly for “Travelers”, a song on heavy rotation on my playlist.
More accomplished and possibly the single best show of the festival thus far was Saturday night’s outing with Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band at Gesù — Centre de créativité. For anyone unfamiliar with this spidery drummer, his beats are quite simply insane. They are melodic tattoos that bypass speech and language and lead the music insistently from the chaotic world of creation into this one. His is a rare talent and the musicians he has assembled are perfect interpreters of the songs from both Season of Changes and his latest album, Mama Rosa. The easy dance between the bass-clarinet and tenor on “Improvisation” is an unusual and yet perfectly balanced composition that deftly invites the wild percussion that inflects and balances it.
Joshua Redman performed last night with his quintet which includes, for one time only, the legendary Joe Lovano. Hearing J-Lo live is a treat as it is, but the way the two tenors meshed together was uncanny. Unlike the Monterey Quartet performance, where it was difficult to identify between melody and solos, this performance was almost a call and response between the two horns. The piano, bass and drums weren’t in the spotlight, but it all worked together as a cohesive group.
This week has lots more treats, so for those of you who sadly have to pick just a few shows to go to rather than checking out every tempting tidbit, make a point of catching Samuel Blais on the 12th. He’s a local boy who now lives in New York and his latest album, Where To Go will remind you why you like alto sax in the first place. For those who prefer guitar to brass, Bill Frisell is featured on the 8th with his quartet.
For full festival details and tickets, go to the jazz festival site