JAZZ: A WINDOW ON THE WORLD
June 28, 2018
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If you had to name one event that embodies Montreal’s fame as a cultural capital and a visitor magnet, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal would be a great pick. Each year, the festival puts together an eclectic line-up of top-notch artists. The 39th annual jazz fest runs from June 28 to July 7, and once again the program is packed with artists – locals and visitors, legends and up-and-comers – eager to delight jazz fans and music lovers of all stripes. All you need is a desire to hear new and exciting sounds.
We spoke with programmer Maurin Auxéméry about some of this year’s highlights.
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THIS YEAR’S MUST-SEE SHOWS?
The closing concert by The War On Drugs, in Place des Festivals, is definitely this year’s marquee event. The band plays the world’s most important festivals, audiences love them, and they always put on a terrific performance. People should also check out American phenom Moses Sumney at Club Soda, or the very first Montreal concert by international jazz sensation Kamasi Washington. The Festival is also bringing together two music legends – a super-duo who are putting instrumental jazz back in the spotlight: Herbie Hancock and Thundercat.
SPEAKING OF INSTRUMENTAL JAZZ, WHERE DOES JAZZ FIT IN THIS YEAR’S PROGRAM?
It’s always the heart of our program, and this year we’ve given it special attention by programming more young artists. For our concert series at the Monument-National, in particular, many of the opening acts will be local artists like Duo François Jalbert, Jérôme Beaulieu, Provost-Lachapelle, SHPIK, Alexandra Streliski and the Gentiane MG Trio. We’re strong believers in supporting young artists and the local scene.
IS THERE A UNIFYING THEME TO THIS YEAR’S FESTIVAL?
Although we never build the program around a particular theme or geographical region, this year there is a particularly fine selection of African-American music, including a concert at the Maison Symphonique by the illustrious Archie Shepp, whose story is intertwined with those of major African-American movements. The Festival is also presenting a special tribute to Bill Withers (Ain’t No Sunshine, Lean On Me, Lovely Day) at the MTelus featuring Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles. The Sons of Kemet, a quartet fronted by the rising British star Shabaka Hutchings, are also well worth seeing. Their performances, which include elements of jazz, punk, Afro-futurism and electronic music, are a bit like a clairvoyant’s séance!
DOES THIS YEAR’S FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHT ANY MUSIC SCENES WORTH WATCHING?
A great indigenous scene has been growing in recent years, and this year’s program reflects that. For example, don’t miss William Prince, winner of the 2017 Juno for Best Contemporary Roots Album. The singer-songwriter, who hails from the Peguis First Nation, has one of Canada’s most distinctive voices. There’s also a group from Iqaluit, The Jerry Cans, who will perform in the Cinquième salle at Place des Arts, as well as classically trained tenor Jeremy Dutcher, who shifts effortlessly between power-opera, electronic beats and the Wolastoq people’s ancestral songs.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE OUTDOORS AT THIS YEAR’S FESTIVAL?
The outdoor stages are the place to go for a taste of something new. Over the years, as the festival has grown, many people have stopped seeking out specific artists. They go to dance, hang out and hear artists that are new to them. So our task is to make sure festivalgoers have as many options as possible. And that’s why there’s such a huge variety of different sounds coming from the outdoor stages. As in past years, you can see artists from around the world, like Cape Verde’s Elida Almeida, Dutch musician Altin Gün, who takes us back to the late-60s golden age of Turkish rock, Cuban pianist Hilario Duran, the Colombian band La Chiva Gantiva, the amazing Congolese band Jupiter & Okwess, who were discovered by Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz), and the Haitian group Lakou Mizik.
IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT WOULD BE A PERFECT DAY FOR A FESTIVALGOER WHO WANTS TO HAVE THE MOST COMPLETE EXPERIENCE POSSIBLE?
Let’s take June 29, for example. You could start your day by seeing with the winner in the jazz category of the Révélation Radio-Canada 2016-17, Simon Denizart, who’s originally from France, then move on to the duo of John Medeski and Marc Ribot at the Gèsu. Next, take in the performance by Haitian singer Mélissa Laveaux. Afterwards, you could catch an outdoor set by pianist Rémi Panossian and his trio, or the legendary Ry Cooder at Théâtre Maisonneuve, the pop group Metronomy, or Sufjan Stevens’ protégé, Texan singer-songwriter My Brightest Diamond. Now there’s a jazzed-up day!
Festival International de Jazz de Montréal
June 28 to July 7