2005 will, by year's end, be remembered for a pair of releases of previously undiscovered material of the rarest variety, releases that will elate the jazz fan. I speak of two rather amazing finds, one a Dizzy Gillespie Charlie Parker, New York Town Hall Concert from June 22, 1945, a professionally recorded outing by these two giants of bebop at the very top of their game. The others involved on that magical Friday evening were Don Byas, Al Haig, Curley Russell, Max Roach, and a special guest, drummer Big Sid Catlett. The material is now available in the U.S. on the Uptown label, owned by Montreal-based doctor Bob Sunenblick. The other is a November 29, 1957, Carnegie Hall Concert by the Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane, Ahmed Abdul-Malik and Shadow Wilson, one that will be released in the fall, on CD by Blue Note and on vinyl by Mosaic. The material was discovered in the Library of Congress by Larry Applebaum, who I had the pleasure of meeting in Montreal during the Jazz Festival. He calls this his "two minutes of fame." Both are musts for the serious record collector!
JAZZ FESTIVAL(S) HIGHLIGHTS
THE OTTAWA INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL
We arrived in Ottawa on June 24th, the second day of the 25th Anniversary edition of the Ottawa International Jazz Festival. The evening in Confederation Park began with a concert featuring an Ottawa veteran, saxophonist Hugh O'Connor with strings arranged by Mark Ferguson, who also hosted the nightly jam sessions at the nearby Holiday Inn. VEJI, the Vancouver-based large ensemble led by Hugh Fraser, was next with some wonderful compositions, including a commission from the Festival. There were also solos of note from the likes of Campbell Ryga, Perry White, Ross Taggart, Mike Herriott and the voice of Christine Duncan abetted by Hugh on piano with Ken Lister on bass, Dave Robbins on drums, and percussionist Jack Duncan. These two, and the following night's appearance by a big band led by pianist Lorraine Desmarais, were recorded for broadcast on Radio Canada and they imported Dorothee Berryman to host the events. After VEJI, it was off to the Studio of the National Art Centre for a superb concert by guitarist Andrew Scott, which included Terry Lukiwski, Ryan Oliver, Bernie Senensky, Duncan Hopkins, and Joel Haynes in a number of combinations. The afternoon of the 25th began with an impressive late-afternoon concert in the National Library by drummer Ed Thigpen with his "Scantet," a quintet from Scandinavia that included Tomas Franck on tenor and Jens Winther on trumpet. Then to the Park for Lorraine's Big Band featuring the cream of the crop from the Montreal jazz scene. The next afternoon at the Library there was a strong performance by the Moutin Reunion Quartet made up of twin brothers Francois and Louis Moutin on bass and drums, Pierre de Bethmann on piano and the tenor of Rick Margitza. Then came one of the main reasons for being in Ottawa, an appearance by the man I consider to be the world's greatest living jazz musician, Sonny Rollins accompanied by trombonist Clifton Anderson, guitarist Bobby Broom, sometime Montreal resident Bob Cranshaw on electric bass, Steve Jordan on drums, and Kimati Dorizulu on percussion Sonny didn't disappoint. Monday was also a musical delight, we heard singer Karen Oxorn in the Park at noon and then a wonderfully musical recital by Bud Shank and Bill Mays at the Library and then, after a wonderful meal at Café Paradiso, a superb Benny Golson Quartet outing in the Park wherein he returned to many of the compositions that have become jazz standards, "Stablemates," "I Remember Clifford," and "Killer Joe" among them.
THE OFF JAZZ FESTIVAL
Back in Montreal, we took in two nights at the Lion d'Or. A Daniel Lessard concert was somewhat of a disjointed disappointment, as the program promised three bassists and three vocalists and that's not what we got. Michel Donato, we were told, cancelled and wasn't replaced, and the other bassist Shane McKenzie had another gig and wasn't heard until the second set which came after a looooooong intermission. Of the singers, Sienna, Martine Carriere, and Monique Fauteux, the latter (suffering from a sore throat) was by far the highlight of the night, especially with Lessard's piano accompaniment. Best known as a bassist, his piano is that of a musician who really listens to the person he's accompanying. With McKenzie on stage and a fourth singer, Sonia Johnson, added, the finale, "Centerpiece" was a great deal of fun. The next night was another story, a wonderful Mingus tribute put together by Normand Guilbeault with Jean Derome (celebrating his 50th birthday), Mathieu Belanger, Ivanhoe Jolicoeur, and Claude Lavergne. It was music that was both powerful and beautiful.
THE MONTREAL INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL
The 26th edition may have been lighter on the jazz side than in recent years but there were many memorable concerts with just a few of them of the bad variety. Thankfully I didn't attend the Madeleine Peyroux concerts. I overheard someone, whose opinion I respect, say that she was a performer with no voice who appeared to be terrified to be on stage ah, the wonders of the recording studio! And why was a full house Salle Wilfred Pelletier audience forced to sit through a rank amateur and very LONG set by Bet.E and Carlos Placeres while awaiting a wonderful set by the magnificent Omara Portuondo and her musicians and Montreal's I Musici. Omara and company finally hit the stage at 10:30 it was an 8:30 start. An example of everything you shouldn't do on stage followed by what you should. Omara, a consummate pro, was completely in control of things, a wonderful, memorable performance.
Other highlights include the Dave Holland Big Band with Mark Turner in the Chris Potter chair plus other fine soloists like Gary Smulyan, Antonio Hart, Steve Nelson, Josh Roseman, Robin and Duane Eubanks, Alex Sipiagin, and Mark Gross. I especially enjoyed a chart by Kenny Wheeler. Later that night there was a Charles Lloyd Quartet with Geri Allen, Larry Grenadier, and Eric Harland. The latter played a most musical drum solo, the first of two heard during the Festival. The next night there was another magical show with Randy Weston, Alex Blake, and Neil Clarke joined by the ever-young Candido Camero in a heartfelt evening dedicated to the memory of Chano Pozo. The Theatre Maisonneuve was the site of another gorgeous evening of music from "Land of the Sun" featuring Charlie Haden, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and Antonio Sanchez joined in different configurations by such wonderful players as Miguel Zenon, Tony Malaby, and Michael Rodriguez. After a superb meal at the Theatre du Nouveau Monde, it was off to Salle Gesu for a set from the trio of pianist Bill Charlap with Kenny Washington and, replacing Peter Washington in Europe with Lewis Nash Ben Wolfe in a wonderful program for the most part different from what we heard in two sets in Burlington, Vermont in June, a program that included George Wallington's "Godchild," Rodgers and Hart's "Nobody's Heart," and Bernstein's "Glitter and Be Gay." Charlap must have been happy with Wolfe's playing as he identified him as Peter Washington. The aforementioned Omara performance occurred the following night. A monsoon rain storm had us writing off the next night's Metheny appearance at the Spectrum. We got our first taste of Pat the next night when he and a wonderful Paulo Fresnu guested on a duo program featuring Toots Thielemans and Kenny Werner, more first-class music. Just enough time was available for soup and a salad and then off to hear the same Sonny Rollins band that was heard outdoors in Ottawa. The sound in Place des Arts improved after a rocky start and again Sonny was magical. Coming out of that concert we caught a taste of Annie Sellick, a great little singer from Nashville who did a pair of street concerts. Metheny hooked up with Haden the next night for "Beyond the Missouri Sky" and the following night Pat was part of, a sort of, the Gary Burton Quartet reunion with Steve Swallow and Antonio Sanchez. Thirty-seven years earlier the quartet with Burton, Swallow, Larry Coryell, and Roy Haynes had been heard in big hall of Place des Arts. It was great hearing things like "Syndrome," "I'm Your Pal," and "Walter L" again. In the only appearance that I got to take in at Club Soda, Claudia Acuna was impressive with a group that included Jason Lindner and John Benitez. Later I got to hang out with Frank Kimbrough, Matt Wilson, and former Montrealer John Menegon backstage at Gesu prior to a wonderful appearance by a quartet led by Dewey Redman, who I had the pleasure of conversing with as well. An early wake-up call to do my radio show the next day prevented me from hearing all of this one, but what I heard was special and the Festival's second drum solo of a most musical nature came from Wilson. There was a lot less jazz than in prior years but certainly plenty of it was in the musically memorable category.
Jazz continues all year round in many Montreal spots with Upstairs, Modavie (in town and in Brossard) and House of Jazz presenting groups on a nightly basis. I'm involved in six hours of jazz on radio here in Montreal every weekend, as host of "Dobbin's Den" on CKUT, 90.3 FM, Sundays at 11a.m. and as a researcher for Dorothee Berryman's two fine shows on "Espace Musique" on Radio Canada, 100.7 FM on Saturdays and Sundays beginning at 6:05. Dorothee both chooses the music for and hosts these shows.