Culture & Conversation

Saving Best For Last

Saturday was a night to remember at the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal. Canadian piano aficionado Amanda Tosoff played on the TD Stage early in the evening. She won the jazz grand prix last year and easily impresses on any stage. Choosing between Keith Jarrett and Mr. Scruff is hard enough, but with the Mistress Barbara the next night and Vanessa Rodrigues and Chris Gale at Upstairs last night, it’s fair to say the festival saved the best for last.

Amanda Tosoff talks about her hit, Julia’s Song. She calls it a nine-dollar song because that’s how much she gets when it plays on the CBC. Listen to this woman play, she’s worth more than nine bucks. Way more. She has a playfulness about her that keeps the intense music light, but penetrating. Her sound stays with you. She is joined by Evan Arntzen who performed with the October Trio on the CBC stage earlier in the festival. He has a big enough sound to play alongside Tosoff, he blows wide on her set. Loud and strong.

After the John Zorn incident, it was surprising to hear another artist in a loud and spectacular disagreement with the audience. Keith Jarrett has long made it clear how he feels about flash photography during shows and according to at least one person at the show, members of his band are photosensitive. Nevertheless, the concert was part of a festival filled with tourists and it can’t have come as a huge surprise when someone snapped a shot. Immediately, Jarrett deputized the rest of the audience to take the camera away and walked off stage. He’s an incredible pianist, easily one of the best in the world at present, and it would seem that he knows it.

Mr. Scruff played an incredible set, for once sharing the stage with a contemporary, Bonobo. Big B sounded like a live version of his album, replete with live flute, tenor, soprano sax, keyboards and drums. And Andreya Triana was amazing. Scruff was more localized; he was alone in a command centre worthy of NASA – science or hip-hop, take your pick – but his show was tailored to the affair. He broke mad beats with an unexpected Afro-Cuban vibe that wound around the very appreciative audience. Each was a stunning performance and it’s unlikely to experience these two musicians together again anytime soon.

As a pleasant surprise, Montreal’s Parc X Trio won the Jazz Grand Prix this year, and it couldn’t come to a more deserving group of local boys. Gabriel Vinuela-Pelletier (piano), Alex Lefaivre (bass) and Mark Nelson (drums) mix pop with jazz in what they call cinematic music. Anyone who takes cues from Wayne Shorter is fine in my books, but you’ll have to decide for yourself. See them on July 11th at Lac Des Deux Montagnes, or pick up their album on cd baby.

Jazzfest was a huge success this year, building on 31 years of excellence. Here’s to at least three more decades of music in Montreal.

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