Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 8, No. 3, 2009

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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
  Contributing Editors
Bernard Dubé
Sylvain Richard
Robert Rotondo
Marissa Consglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Diane Gordon
Emanuel Pordes
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
Coral Egan
Martin Taylor
Jordon Officer
Melody Gardot
Jean Vanasse

2009 Montreal Guitarissimo 2008 (Russell Malone, Stanley Jordan, Monte Montgomery, Sylvain Provost etc
Montreal Jazz Festival 2005 EMI Classics








Piano Keyboard


Montreal International Jazz Festival


A retreat is a place affording peace, quietude and sanctuary; it's an environment conducive to the replenishment of body and mind. Think of a Zen retreat around which a community of like-minded people gathers in pursuit of a common goal or purpose.

United in an over-riding passion for the guitar, people from all over the world come to Montreal to share their love of the instrument and the very particular music it generates. For three consecutive days, in a venue all to itself (Montreal’s Palais des congrès), the Montreal Guitar Show (MGS) concentrates what is best in the guitar in both its arduous production (one hand-made guitar at a time), and the very special ambience the generic guitar sound produces.

The guitar sets itself apart from all other instruments by the manner in which its string-generated pluck so easily and naturally suffuses with the invisible world around us. When wood, that has been meticulously treated, and string are purposefully married, the guitar, like no other instrument, is able to articulate the fragility and delicacy of acoustic space. It’s as if the guitar sound was invented to dissolve the indifference that separates us from the spaces we always inhabit. Creating an environment that disposes the visitor to avail himself to what is sublime in the guitar is perhaps the MGS’s most endearing accomplishment.

Walking the two short blocks from the Montreal Jazz Festival site to the MGS this year, I was accompanied by the ever-present unruly background din and cacophony common to all big cities. Then up the escalator and into the alt-world of the guitar salons and I immediately felt healed and restored, and privy to a sea breeze of sounds that cannot be produced by even the most loving relationship between metal and human breath (trumpet, sax, trombone). When a fledging bird takes aim at the skies, we look to the guitar, and not the trumpet, to describe that first fragile fluttering of wing.

MGS founder and guitar junkie, Jacques-André Dupont, believes the 3-day event, which includes exhibitors, salons, workshops, guitar lessons, mini concerts, is one of the most comprehensive in the world -- and it’s only in its 3rd year and growing exponentially. Embedded in the world famous Montreal International Jazz Festival, it has taken on a life and personality of its own and deservingly so.

The guitar in its present form dates back to 15th century Spain, having borrowed what is best from the more medieval lute and mandolin. As such, its long history has been mostly acoustic, and for the first two years of the MGS, the salons reflected that long and illustrious tradition. But the electrification of the guitar, as an historical advent, has been revolutionary, and Jacques-André felt that a room dedicated to its emergence and pre-eminence was in order. If music has always been the medium of choice through which we confess our most private, unedited feelings, the electric guitar has become the instrument of choice in trying to make sense of a world whose rapid pace of change is the defining challenge of our times. In consideration of the almost infinite variety of sounds and feelings the electric guitar is able to generate, we now look to it -- above all other instruments -- to parry and particularize the effects modernity. So with the addition of the electric guitar salon, the MSG is more inclusive than ever in bringing together a range of guitar sounds and effects that tell a story (our story) -- a work in progress.

© Marcel Dubois - Muriel AndersonThe centrepiece of the MGS is its luthiers. The best in the world are pre-selected and invited to come to Montreal and exhibit axes bold as love to die for. Last year’s show resulted in approximately 2 million dollars in sales, such is the quality of the workmanship and our propensity to buy what some of us can’t afford and cannot refuse.

And if you’re a junkie for guitar talk, the luthiers are only too happy to share their secrets. Made-to-measure takes on new dimensions when it comes to fitting someone up with a guitar. In sizing up the quality and texture of sound made by the finger striking the string, the luthier will consider the brittleness of the client’s fingernails as well as their curvature.

If a singer is more comfortable singing in C (guitars are constructed in E), a luthier may suggest a longer neck with added frets (for the reverse capo effect), provided the fingers can handle the additional stretching. And if the musician plays unplugged, the luthier will remind the player that down tuning to C requires a loosening of the strings which results in a significant reduction in the projection of the sound.

It goes without saying the guitar world’s small details play big in attracting huge numbers to the MGS. And at the end of the day, they are rewarded with a handsome selection of concerts delivered by some of the best guitarists in the world.

This year’s Guitarissimo series featured nine concerts running over three days. The programmers (J.A. Dupont and Frédéric Poulin) made sure the full dynamic and expressive range of the guitar was on full display. Audiences were treated to memorable solo concerts from chording master Russell Malone and the inimitable Stanley Jordon. The traditional classical sound was warmly provided by Muriel Anderson and Valérie Duchâteau. Shred master Monte Montgomery dazzled with his combination of finger and pick style playing: He recently made Guitar Player’s list of top 50 guitarists of all time. Frank Vignola and his trio reminded us why the standards are forever. Sylvain Provost expertly navigated between playing it softy and electric: his fusion solos were series highlights. Local guitarist Oliver Langevin made a strong case for the Guitar Hero playing style, delivering rich and sensuous, multi-layered melody lines dipped in sonic acid and molten metal. Following in the fevered footsteps of Joe Satriani et al, Langevin turned the polite venue (Cinquième Salle) into a post-industrial sound chamber to the delight of loyal following and new converts alike.

In recognition of the incredible contribution the greatest international guitarists have made to the instrument and the music, the MGS organizers created the Tribute Award, which this year went to future Hall of Famer Jeff Beck, one of the most respected players in the guitar pantheon.

And with that, a fitting conclusion to yet another remarkable Montreal Guitar Show and a reminder to stay the course with those passing chords to the 2010 edition.

Interview of Frédéric Poulin - Music Festival Programmer

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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