Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Jun 10th 2010 5:00PM by Tad Hendrickson
Running June 25-July 6, this year will continue the high standards, including Sonny Rollins (pictured), George Benson, Keith Jarrett, David Sanborn, John Zorn (in two nights in varying lineups including one with Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson). All told, there will be almost 700 performances by 3,000 musicians seen by 2.5 million people. There are other non-jazz artists like the Doobie Brothers, Steve Miller Band and Lionel Richie, as well. Not only does this 12-day extravaganza book top talent, it also brings in groups who don't tour specifically for an once-in-a-lifetime concert experiences.
"We always trying to differentiate ourselves by getting drop-ins who never play the United States or to play in special aggregations," says André Ménard, the festival's artistic director. "In the past we've done special events where two artists each get several days to do different things, but this year we fragmented it a bit with three nights of Paolo Fresu, Manu Katché, Robert Glasper and Allen Toussaint. These are fun to do, but you have to fly people in from everywhere. We never refrain from giving ourselves problems."
Located in the heart of the city, performances are held throughout the entertainment district in 14 rooms ranging from the city's grand orchestra hall spaces to the hippest clubs. But what really makes this event stand out from so many other festivals is the number of free concerts – nearly 500 of the shows are free, held on 10 outdoor stages set up around the festival's main square. Between the indoor and the outdoor shows, it's more like two different festivals for the price of one.
"The outdoor concerts grew pretty organically," Ménard explains. "At one point it grew so we wondered if it would be detrimental to the indoor shows, but it never worked out that way. The more free shows we had, the better we did with the paying concerts. The first time [famed festival producer and jazz pianist] George Wein played here in 1987, he asked us we would compete with ourselves. He thought the whole thing was pretty mysterious" [laughs].
For a complete lineup of who is playing and where, go here. Some highlights will no doubt be Sonny Rollins (who continues to play great live sets), Cassandra Wilson, Keith Jarrett with his standards trio, David Sanborn with Joey DeFrancesco, and the Allen Toussaint/Trombone Shorty outdoor gig. There is also the Montreal Guitar Show and a Wall-to-Wall Guitar Weekend (July 2-4), as well as a dizzying array of other things that add to the possibilities.
But it always comes down to the music. According to Ménard, "This is an event that is very inclusive. It's not for the initiated or the elite. I see whole families coming to the festival where the grandparents go see the Big Band performances, the parents go see Diana Krall, and the kids go to the outdoor groove stage. We are very naively trying to please everyone, which we can never achieve, but we are getting there."
Some of my brightest memories involve just walking around and catching the outdoor acts. In 2005, I came across a yet-to-be-discovered stars like Esperanza Spalding and Jolie Holland. There were countless other musicians who caused me to stop as I walked the site, as well. Of the ticketed events, I saw Pat Metheny in an amazing duet with guitarist Mick Goodrick (a guitarists' guitarist whom I'd never heard of) and then a second set with Metheny and the Dewey Redman's quartet not long before the saxophonist died. Another highlight was rare live performance by a vocal trio featuring Gerald Toto, Richard Bona and Lokua Kanza.
As someone who has been there since the beginning, Ménard has seen it all, but he still has a few highlights that stand out. At the top of the list are sets by Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald because they were great and epitomized, for him, what jazz is. But his third choice was a more recent and ostensibly non-jazz choice.
"I have to say that the Prince show six or seven years ago was pretty exciting, too," he adds. "There was a story in the local paper the morning of the show that said it was bad booking and he shouldn't play a jazz festival, so Prince spent the first hour playing improvised music with the bassist Larry Graham from Sly and the Family Stone [laughs]. He had the lights down and his back turned to the crowd. Then he took a 15-minute break and came back out and said, "Who was that guy playing that s---, we're here to play rock 'n' roll," and he played all the hits."'
Here's what our friends at All About Jazz have been up to:
Jazz Goes Green: Musical Explorations on a Secondary Color of Note
Norwegian Jazz 101b: JazzNorway in a Nutshell 2010
31st Annual Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland
Susan Tedeschi: Dreams and Legends
David S. Ware: Gravitation