Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 13, No.2, 2014

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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nancy Snipper
Farzana Hassan
Daniel Charchuk
Samuel Burd
Andrée Lafontaine
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Serge Gamache Emanuel Pordes
Diane Gordon
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
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
Coral Egan
Martin Taylor
Jordan Officer
Melody Gardot
Jean Vanasse
Yves Léveillé
Sylvain Provost
Louciana Souza
Patricia Barber
Jill Barber
Corrine Bailey Rae
Chet Doxas
François Bourassa
Sylvain Luc
Neil Cowley
Marianne Trudel
Florence K
Terez Montcalm
Cyrus Chestnut
Tord Gustavsen
Sarah MK
Julie Lamontagne
Vincent Gagnon
2010 Montreal Guitar Show (Sylvan Luc)
2008 Jazz en Rafale Festival (Montreal) - Mar. 27th - April 5th -- Tél. 514-490-9613 ext-101 (featuring David Binney)
Montreal Jazz Festival 2010







Piano Keyboard

from Montreal




There’s nothing like the first jazz festival of the year to warm up a city suffering through an exceptionally long and cold winter.

This year’s 14th edition of Jazz En Rafale, entitled Molto Piano, brought together some of Canada’s finest jazz pianists (François Bourassa) as well as an international contingent which included Abraham Barrera from Mexico, Shai Maestro from Israel, Baptiste Trotignon from France and Michel Reis from Luxembourg. Celebrating the instrument for its depth and breadth, one of the persistent themes of this year’s festival was that melody is alive and well in jazz.

From beginning to end, the festival was a lyrical delight which was somewhat offset by the disappointing attendance. If jazz remains a hard sell in Montreal, it is not because of the extraordinary efforts of Alain Bédard, the festival organizer and co-founder of Effendi, one of Canada’s most prestigious jazz labels.

What do you get when you combine a slam-dunk of Ginger Baker with an infusion of Wagner with half an Indian raga topped off with a dollop of Köln-à-la-Jarrett = The Shai Maestro Trio. Or, if you’re not comfortable with quadratic equations, what is the square root of The Bad Plus + Neil Cowley Trio? That the music was on the outskirts of jazz was to completely miss the point.


From the first note that began as minimalist vibration transmuted into a dazzling, mesmerizing wave, it was all about melody and the meticulous shaping of sound -- much like an opera singer shapes and contours a note. The musicians got high playing together and most of the audience got high listening. The threesome created a colourful tapestry of spaces and just as importantly allowed for lots of space. In deference to the concept, the drummer muffled his sound by laying a towel over his snare and made his bass drum frontpiece-and-center of music that transcended category.

The trio was a festival highlight. In the spirit and energy of Neil Cowley et al, we need more groups like Shai Maestro, these vital links to jazz.

From Luxembourg, the Reis-Demuth-Wiltgen trio provided an uncomplicated, heart-felt set of songs. They left no doubt that it is indeed possible to explore continuous melody through jazz. Listeners were offered huge but very wieldy blocks of melody that went straight to their target, basic tunes that we all recognize but refracted and refined through the taps and touch we associate with jazz percussion and bass.

Among the festival’s many creative highlights was the Robert Flood Octet, winner of the 2013 New Talent Contest and a precious (work in progress) recording contract with Effendi. Last year’s sextet (more classically oriented) has persuasivly morphed into a free-wheeling, adventuresome octet that gravitates to the more open-ended architecture of jazz. But what remains a delectable constant are the exceptionally mature arrangements and compositional skills of bassist Alan Mackie. His uncanny and uncommon feel for composition (its non-circumventable directionality) and harmonic development predicts that he will be a major presence in the Canadian music landscape.

After a long apprenticeship circling an invisible moving target, pianist Rafael Zaldivar appears to have found his authentic voice in the Cuban sound. Staying within himself, his simple but thoughtfully conceived and exquisitely limpid runs buoyed a percussion-flavoured set lit up by a Havana moon and then sautéed in the generic Santana sound. The lesson we learn from Zaldivar's evolution is that wanting to be a jazz musician should not take precedence over wanting to be yourself in your music – regardless of where it takes you.

Once again Jazz En Rafale showcased, to coin a Dinah Washington lyric, that it “got what it takes” and promises to deliver more of the same in 2015 for its 15th edition.




Photos © Hanna Donato



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