The organizers of the 31st Montreal International Jazz Festival, which takes place from June 25 to July 6, have just announced the bulk of the shows happening this summer. Herbie Hancock, Smokey Robinson, George Clinton, The Moody Blues, Cyndi Lauper are just the tip of the iceberg…
Trying to come up with a comprehensive list of everyone you need to see this summer is near impossible. As is making a list that appeals to an audience as varied as the one that attend the Jazz fest. Plus, the Fest’s website lets you make up your own schedule. So all I’ll do here is attempt pull some shows out of the list that I think are worth checking out…
Miles Davis: For one obvious reason (death), the legendary trumpeter will not be in attendance this summer. But his music will. A great group of musicians will be covering his album Bitches Brew, trumpeter Ron Di Lauro will tackle Porgy and Bess and the uncut version of “Miles Davis à Montréal” will be screened.
Smokey Robinson: The type of musical legend you can often only catch at the Jazz Fest, Smokey Robinson should not be missed. The one-time member of Miracles has won all the accolades one can, but for me, it always just comes back to that incredible voice.
Ninja Tune showcase: The incredibly influential electronic music label, with deep roots in Montreal, is celebrating its 20-year anniversary with a night featuring Spank Rock, Kid Koala and DJ Food. Might be the best party of the fest.
Afro-Cuban All Stars : What better way to immerse yourself in the incredible music of Cuba than with some of its greatest musical talents at the helm. Juan de Marcos González (Buena Vista Social Club) leads a “dream team” of players through the lively sounds of salsa, rumba, bolero and more.
Daniel Lanois’s Black Dub : The famed Quebecois producer Daniel Lanois (Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel, U2) returns to the fest with a new quartet called Black Dub. Drummer Brian Blade, bassist Jim Wilson and singer Trixie Whitley round out Lanois’ impeccable musical vision.
Plants and Animals and The Besnard Lakes: A perfect slice of the Montreal indie (whatever that means these days) rock pie. The Besnard Lakes are the psych-tinged rock outfit who’ve been internationally recognized names for several years, while Plants and Animals are an up-and-coming group who are as good a live band as the city has.
Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack Dejohnette : Pianist, bassist and drummer, these three jazz legends have already demonstrated how well they can play together. As a failed pianist, I’d like to point out that Jarrett is one of the most creative and innovative musicians to ever tickle the ivory.
Rakim : This show was originally supposed to be headlined by Guru, the groundbreaking rapper who recently passed away. It’s only fitting that Rakim, genuinely agreed to be one of rap’s all-time greats, stepped up to fill in.
Jamie Cullum : You may not have heard of this UK pianist and vocalist, but you probably will soon. A new school crooner, Cullum manages to meld together jazz, pop, soul and rap into something fairly unique.
Taj Mahal : Even though I may already over-used the word, “legendary” is the best way of describing bluesman Taj Mahal. During the course of a more than 40 year career, he’s played as many instruments as he has styles of music, but sometimes all he wants to do is go fishing.