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    A View From Montreal 2017

    On a rainy day in Montreal, my third time to their festival, even though the music is going strong at 1:00 in the afternoon, just outside these hotel walls, one of the most interesting places to be right now is in front of the Hyatt's hotel lobby, on a couch.

    Beautiful languages, instrument carrying musicians, press from around the world, gather their things to check in, check out and hang about.  I recognize many, I guess on some and I dream of who that person in the corner might be. 

    (Image Courtesy of Festival International de Jazz de Montréal)

    There goes Dan Wilson, Christian McBride's Tip City guitarist, Tigran Hamasyan races by under darkened sunglasses and the hotel's WIFI fattens up with folks connecting to radio, TV and print media from all of the planet.  There is always an excitement that comes with this festival that is rarer than most.  Audiences aren't quiet, but remain respectful and it feels a though the entire city is committed

    The 38th edition of the Montreal Jazz Festival kicked off on June 28th and envelopes the city until July 8th.  In other words, there is still plenty to hear and engage in.  Beyond the free concerts, workshops and family events, the headliner list is full of unique opportunities. 



    I was able to catch saxophonist Colin Stetson, in a solo performance at Maison Symphonique, opening for Armenian pianist Tigran Hamasyan.  Although primarily known for adding that unique extra touch to artists like Arcade Fire, Bon Iver and Tom Waits, Colin on a stage alone, surrounded by reed instruments of all shapes and sizes, creates music that I dreamt the future sounded like when I was a child.  Swirling, echoing sounds with added vocals and rhythmic pulses.  It's not for everyone, but it's hard not to get lost in. 

    Over at the historic Monument National on St. Laurent, Christian McBride brings his Tip City trio to an audience that has adored him, live, for over 26 years.  The relationship between he and his listener is strong and he rolls through similar moments to his earlier Toronto show, with absolute cool.  Let's face it, there really isn't anything that Christian can't do better than most.  His fingers pulse though Joe Henderson, "The Masquerade is Over" and brings a composition written by his brilliant young pianist, Emmet Cohen, into the mix.  Time spent dedicated to this music, a drive to continually challenge himself and a lack of pretence, is a potent presentation. 



    The next night, in a city that should have been exhausted by Canada Day celebrations, was equally fruitful.  After watching the always endearing Ron Sexsmith mesmerize his Club Soda crowd with a retrospective of his songwriting career so far, I raced over to a quainter space beside all of the action called L'Astral.  On a relatively small stage, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel beautifully handed over his audience his latest album Caipi with 6 players, 3 American and 3 Brazilian.  Within Kurt's current exploration, there is still lots of room for his masterful solo meanderings within this wall of gorgeous sound.  I loved it. 

    To wrap up JAZZ.FM91's adventure in La Belle Province, I crowded into a church/art centre to hear Bill Frisell and Bassist Thomas Morgan.  In these moments, even though 3 decades separate them, they are truly connected and the aptly titled "Small Town" album that they have just released, left my imagination with images of country porches and flat farm views.  Pretty. 

    Thank you once again Montreal for a terrific festival, for treating Jazz so well and the hospitality you share!

    Written by Dani Elwell, VP, Creative and JAZZ.FM91 host.







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