of the most overlooked aspects of jazz is its natural ability
to combine with other genres of music. From gypsy to rock, or
classical to rap, when music looks hard at its DNA, it invariably
discovers itself in some sort of relationship with jazz. This
fact was very much in evidence during Montreal’s
10th Off Jazz Festival, a relatively small festival
that puts a big emphasis on its no holds barred programming –
which makes it a favourite of musicians who want to try out new
concepts and listeners who are tired of what is formulaic in music.
year festival featured over 200 musicians and 36 concerts, many
of them memorable. Unlike any other festival, the OFF is a referendum
on the status of melody. Every group voiced an opinion on it.
At one extreme, the avant-garde insisted that melody has nothing
to do with the disjoined
times we live in, while at the other end of the rainbow there
were musicians who made the case that melody is as dear to the
ear as oxygen is to the lungs. Whatever your views, the OFF guaranteed
the spectrum of views got their fair hearing, without ever compromising
the exploratory sprit of jazz.
this year’s festival highlights were the dazzling, Zappaesque
guitar work of Stephen
Johnston; the creative musicianship of Jean Vanasse
and his Sextet, the thoughtful invention of saxophonist Chet Doxas
and his trio, and a revelatory tribute to the creative genius
of Charlie Mingus.
the most interesting evenings was dedicated to the spoken word,
accompanied by music. If the test of any jazz musician’s
mettle is measured by his ability to listen in order to more effectively
participate in the overall musical experience, bassist (and festival
organizer) Christophe Papadimitriou accompaniment was both
note and word perfect.
© Marcel Dubois