Saturday, June 27, 2015

Montreal Jazz Festival: No mystery

The Stanley Clarke Band

Jazz can come across as mysterious to many people. From movie soundtracks to jazz-age novels - this music has a sort of mystique to it. Yet, when jazz is heard in the context of the world's largest jazz festival - the Montreal Jazz Festival - there is no mystery why it is loved internationally. 

Read about my adventures at the 2014 Montreal Jazz FestivalDay 1Day 2Day 3Review of Bobby McFerrin.

Montreal Jazz Festival: No mystery 

Hot Pepper Dixie

The first band I saw today was a local group called "Hot Pepper Dixie." The group played classic New Orleans songs such as "Basin Street Blues," "St. James Infirmary," and "When The Saints Go Marching In."

Listen to Louis Armstrong play, "Basin Street Blues":

Hot Pepper Dixie played in the street while people sat, crowded around, and walked by to hear them. It is amazing how this more informal concert was still heavily attended, and featured superior musicianship. New Orleans style jazz is always a pleasure to listen to, and this group brought so much energy to the crowd by dancing, singing, and passing along soaring solos. 

Sousaphonist from Hot Pepper Dixie

Afterwards I went to the "Place De Arts" where every year there is a free art gallery. Each piece in the gallery is inspired by jazz or created by a musician. Artwork by Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, and Tony Bennett were showcased. Also Yves Archambault, the Montreal Jazz Festival artist, had many works displayed. As someone that loves to draw jazz concerts, this exhibit was especially fun to attend - the colors, shapes, and impressions of jazz will surely inspire my own art!

Yves Archambault's art is used in logos

Another free concert I attended today was "Montreal Dixie." A New Orleans style band, this group played jazz standards such as "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "Blue Monk," and "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?".

Watch Billie Holiday perform, "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?":

Montreal Dixie played in an outdoor style club. This allowed people to sit down in tables, while still having the music drift down the street as people ate ice cream or bought souvenirs. It was interesting to hear how New Orleans jazz could be reinterpreted, with added instrumentation, and a different songbook. Whereas Hot Pepper Dixie played classic dixieland songs, Montreal Dixie played songs outside of that canon with works by Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk.

Montreal Dixie

The Montreal Jazz Festival has many amusement activities such as photo booths and lottery style games. One photo booth had a "rock star" theme, which my dad and I went to.

My dad and I

In the evening, I had the out of this world opportunity to see the Stanley Clarke Band in concert. Stanley Clarke is an innovative bassist known as a bandleader, composer, and a sideman from Chick Corea's 'Return To Forever' band.

Stanley Clarke sold out a giant theater, and people were screaming when he came out like he was a rock star. Coyly Stanley responded by saying, "Thank you, my name is Louis Armstrong."

Watch the Stanley Clarke Band perform "No Mystery":

Stanley played an assortment of songs from his latest album, "Up." The band consisted of Stanley on acoustic and electric bass, Beka Gochiashvili on piano and keyboards, Michael Mitchell on drums, Cameron Graves on synthesizer. Beka and Michael are 19 and 20 respectively - seeing people my own age performing at such a high level inspires me and motivates me as a musician. 

The Stanley Clarke Band

Stanley's music was definitely some of the most high voltage music I have ever listened to. Period. Stanley's style of bass playing was not only virtuosic, it was percussive - he would physically slap all areas of the bass from the strings to the wood to create different sounds. From holding down bass lines to creating call and response in his solos - Stanley showcased the delicateness of a Bach Cello Suite with the punchiness of funky jazz fusion. 

Watch the Stanley Clarke Band - The Making of "Up":

The compositions were highly arranged and accented with hits lining up on every instrument. What struck me was the immense contrast between sections of the song. The synth player used a multitude of different sounds, from flute to xylophone to more ambient sounds. These different colors allowed for intense contrast in songs - from a soaring flute line to a film score-esque synth pad - the instrumentation allowed the music to breath and build. 

My sketch of Stanley Clarke

I truly learned what it means to 'build' your solo at this concert. Each musician started their solo quite stark with a lot of space. The music would grow outrageously soft, and the musicians would play simple lines. Then, over the course of many choruses, the solo would have this Everest-like arc that would climb in intensity. This type of energy not only caused the audience to erupt in clapping - it caused the audience to clap so much there were two encore performances!

Watch the Stanley Clarke Band perform "Last Train To Sanity":

Final Thoughts:
My family listening to live jazz
With such great music, there is no mystery why jazz is so enthralling.

This experience inspired my poem, "No Mystery " on my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem".

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Throughout this entire experience I want to hear why do you love jazz? Comment down below.

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