Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 7, No. 3, 2008

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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
  Contributing Editors
Bernard Dubé
Phil Nixon
Robert Rotondo
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Emanuel Pordes
Diane Gordon
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Jazz Contributors

Tommy Emmanuel
John Stetch
Susie Arioli
Coral Egan
Diana Krall
Stacey Kent
Carol Welsman
Aldo Romano
Denzal Sinclaire
Madeleine Peyroux
Bireli Lagrene
Sonido Isleño
Provost & Lachapelle
Kevin Breit
Sophie Milman
Annie Poulain
Badi Assad
Donato & Bouchard
Ingrid Jensen
John Roney
Russell Malone
David Binney
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Mimi Fox
Voo Doo Scat

EMI Classics

2008 Jazz en Rafale Festival (Montreal) - Mar. 27th - April 5th -- Tél. 514-490-9613 ext-101 (featuring David Binney)
Montreal Jazz Festival 2006







Piano Keyboard

from Montreal



report filed by Robert J. Lewis and Marcel Dubois

© Marcel Dubois - Norman Guilbeault's "Projet Riel"

Why a nine day jazz festival just before the Montreal Jazz Festival, the biggest and most celebrated in the world? The simple answer is Aretha Franklin, Steely Dan, Daniel Lanois, Al Green, Public Enemy, Lewis Furey and Tortured Soul, names which have very little or nothing to do with jazz, especially in the original sense of the word, a deficit creatively addressed by Montreal’s gritty Off Jazz Festival that begins mid-June.

© Marcel Dubois - QuartetskiWith the Grand Prix traditionally inaugurating the summer and festival season, the great city of Montreal offers everything and more that go so well with its music: the cafes and bars have moved their tables and chairs outside, there’s a whiff of Europe in the air, the striking architecture has warmed up to the sun and the most beautiful women on the continent are strutting their stuff before appreciative onlookers, some of whom make it a point of attending the Off Jazz Festival.

The Off’s founding philosophy is to provide space for original music that deserves a wider audience while stretching the boundaries of what we commonly refer to as jazz. At the same time, it refuses to cater to audiences whose tastes have been informed by the popular music of the time. What The Off does so well like no other jazz festival is to challenge our conventional views on what constitutes music and asks what is the nature of the relationship between vibrations of sound and aesthetics.© Marcel Dubois - Tom Gossage

On any given night you might find yourself listening to controlled variations on the theme of radio static, appositely punctuated with air notes blown through a saxophone, backed up by turntabling and a percussionist who creates his sounds through friction as opposed to tapping: rubbing a drum stick against a wired cymbal. Such was the music offered by Philippe Lauzier’s Quartet, whose playlist will appeal to listeners trying to situate themselves in a world that is rapidly turning into an unrecognizable habitat.

The group Quarteski featured a bass player who ingeniously turned his instrument into the equivalent of Jackson Pollack’s brush strokes: Pierre-Yves Martel made his bow behave like a machete as he cut and hacked at his upright bass’s thick and unwieldy strings to the effect that the voice that exploded out of his instrument sounded like an angry god looking down at his botched creation. © Marcel Dubois - Dave HollinsFrom Sun Ra to the groups mentioned above, the dictum that jazz is an acquired taste goes unchallenged.

The festival took place in four venues, with the Pub Saint-Ciboire and Dieze Onze offering more conventional jazz; the city's celebrated alternative music venue, La Sala Rossa, was reserved for special events (Sun Ra), while the Lion d’Or, that featured two concerts/evening, was a potpourri of straight jazz, free jazz, Arabic, classical, musical and poetry – representing a daunting and daring programming that left no doubt that jazz continues to renew and reinvent itself, the sine qua non of any vital music.

Musical highlights were provided by 5ieme Route Bleue, whose music was based on the Arabic© Marcel Dubois - Peter Herbert interval but wonderfully receptive to the western temperament. The inspired listening between the musicians was just as important as the playing. Austrian Peter Herbert provided the best bass solo of the year, and single handedly turned bass solo detractors into believers. Einmalig, ausgezeichnet, I say.

Saxophonist Chet Doxas and his group BYPRODUCT, winners of the festival’s coveted Francois-Marcaurelle Prize, expanded into a septet (trio + string section) for his memorable homage to existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre. Doxas radiantly demonstrated the natural compatibility between complex literary and philosophical ideas and their musical counterparts. © Marcel Dubois - Chet DoxasThere’s no telling how far Doxas -- not yet 30 -- as a player and composer can go. The highly affecting outer movements of his new work were written in the strict classical tradition. Given the disarrayed state of modern classical, some of us, I’m sure, are hoping that Doxas will make the 4-movement symphony his next project.

In “Project Riel” bassist/composer Norman Guilbeault combined theatre and music to rehabilitate the image of Louis Riel. Two actors, reading from archival material, were backed up by 11 musicians, who appealed to the folk music of the time as well as modern motifs in support of the riveting dialogue. “Project Riel,” as a pedagogical tour de force that has already traveled across Canada, definitely deserves major consideration for the History Channel or Bravo TV.

To President Christophe Papadimitriou and those who helped program the festival, they are to be congratulated for their vision and leadership role in making available challenging music that curious and willing listeners might otherwise be deprived of. Musicians on the cutting edge need all the support and exposure they can get; they© Marcel Dubois - Dave Lang dedicate their lives to fighting audiences whose tastes have been informed by music whose often first effect is to dull the ear. At the same time, to help novitiates better choose their music, the organizers might want to consider packaging the concerts by themes and category as well as providing more precise information in their booklet.

If there was a single musical theme that emerged from this year’s 9th edition of The Off , it was exhibited in the many highly original and arresting musical portraits of the times we live in, where tough truths that some © Marcel Dubois - Norman Guilbeaultof us would rather not face got their room with a view -- and more, in large part because the Off musicians were provided the space and latitude to dedicate themselves to the task of finding their own voice and identity in a world where conformity has never been so impositional.

Those who attended this year’s Off emerged wiser and more tolerant of both music and life, a hard earned result that speaks to the transformative power of art.


© Marcel Dubois - Lars Hollmer et la Fanfare Pourpour



John Coltrane
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