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

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Montreal Guitarmania 2008 (Martin Taylor, D. Ross, J. Officer etc
Montreal Jazz Festival 2005 EMI Classics







Piano Keyboard


Montreal International Jazz Festival

Jacques-André Dupont - Montreal Guitar Show founding father

There is something about the Montreal Guitar Show and Guitarmania (June 26-29), that approaches perfection -- the former comprised of workshops and mini concerts, the latter, the mini guitar festival that takes place inside the huge Montreal Jazz Festival.

Now in its second year and already big enough to hold its own from SIMM -- the Montreal Musical Instrument Show (July 3-6) -- the Guitar Show runs for three solid days, featuring a fabulous mix of guitars and guitarists who convene to showcase not only their playing and original material, but especially their love of the instrument. If some events are designated special, the Montreal Guitar Show is simply precious.

© Marcel Dubois of Martin  TaylorIt begins everyday at noon and continues until the last concert which wraps up Round Midnight. The workshops, interviews and mini concerts take place in the special salon wing of the Hyatt Regency (jazzfest headquarters) where you’ll be treated to non-stop guitar activity that includes close encounters with headline guitarists such as Michael Taylor, the amazing Jake Shimabukuro (ukulele) and Pierre Bensusan; and in the Grand Salon you’ll be bowled over by masterworks from more than 100 luthiers who have come from all over the world to display the musical equivalent of 'manna' from heaven -- guitars to die for or go into long term debt. Youngsters and teens attending this event will be hard pressed not to want to take up the instrument after a few hours wandering from one inspired salon to the next, in awe of musicians making a living by making music.

Aside from the music and the artfully crafted instruments that make the notes possible, what resonates most about the Montreal Guitar Show is the ambience the event generates. If the Montreal Jazz Fest represents the rousing, jubilant, extroverted expression of the city and its music, the Guitar Show is like a retreat or sanctuary: the former is electric and volt impressive, the latter irresistibly unplugged, and depending on the kind of day you’ve had, its serene acoustic falls on the ear like, pace Mr. Zappa, ‘blessed relief.’ Think of the big cities in Thailand or India, the unnerving heat and humidity, the incessant honking of horns, the rage and roar of trucks, all of it horribly housed under a toxic pall that affronts the ear and waters the eye. And then you turn into one of the many exquisite temples that are on your must see list, and just like that you have entered a new world where the horrors of the outside world have been replaced by the easy cadence of your breathing and the whisper of footsteps that are relishing the cool of the marble floor. And the glory that is the silence you find yourself in washes over you like scarves of silk only the gods could have invented, and you ‘want to travel with it and you want to travel far’ for as long as it lasts. This best describes the marvelous effect and seduction of the Montreal Guitar Show, which harkens back to an era when the music you heard was the music you played.

How quickly we hard-wired techno-junkies forget that before the Industrial Revolution almost everyone, as a matter of course, learned, out of dire musical necessity, how to play a musical instrument: if you wanted to hear music you had to produce it. Today, in a world ‘too much with us’ and too much acquainted with the musical path of least resistance whose latest attraction is the iPod, we have largely abandoned the art of making music, the fact of which has not been lost on the organizers of the Montreal Guitar Show who, more than just presenting music, want to encourage as many people as possible to try out the guitar, an instrument that is both portable and pocket-book friendly compared to the piano or harp.© Marcel Dubois of John Jorgenson

During the day, in salons that can accommodate no more than 100 people, you’ll be treated to what is best about the guitar, where the sound is small and the effects are large and possibly life transforming. There’s no predicting what might happen during an encounter with the beauty, civility and grace notes produced by the guitar, whose vibe, like the butterfly, seems to travel on wings. And it’s not nearly as complicated as it seems or sounds. After all, as someone once observed, what is Country & Western music but 'three chords and the truth' -– a truth almost anyone can make his or her own.

© Marcel Dubois of Jordon OfficerAt the end of the day, the salon activity deferred to the Guitarmania concerts at the 5ième Salle in Place des Arts that convened some of the most talented guitarists on the planet. Martin Taylor, whom Pat Metheny describes as one of "the most awesome solo guitar players in the history of the instrument" left no doubt that Pat knows what he's talking about. Marrying an Art Tatum feel for the fast ascent and descent with Joe Pass-like transitional chords and the percussive and contrapuntal effects and humour of Tommy Emmanuel, Taylor has taken finger picking to another level. He was but one of many Guitarmania highlights that included John Jorgenson and Jordon Officer, and from the salons, Emmanuel Rossfelder, Alejandro Cervantes, Larry Pattis and Michael Dunn.© Marcel Dubois ofPierre Bensusan

So if you're looking for some down time or safe harbour or simply temporary respite from the big crowds the Montreal Jazz Festival generates like no other, then taking in the Montreal Guitar Show & Guitarmania is for you. Its organizer, Jacques-André Dupont, is to be congratulated for not only providing and elegantly shaping the guitar concept but identifying the need, which from day one has found a captive and captivated audience that continues to grow.

Report filed by Robert J. Lewis
Photo Credits: © Marcel Dubois




Wes Montgomery
Paco de Lucia
Joe Pass
Django Reinhardt
George Benson
John Scofield
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