It’s the 32nd annual Festival International de Jazz de Montreal. MAGNET’s Mitch Myers translates the action.
From what I understand, Christian McBride is one of the busiest bassists in jazz. Certainly a virtuoso and in demand, McBride arrived in Montreal to play the Jazz Festival for the 10th time—and he’s only 40! Playing to a full house at the Gesù Theater, McBride and his group, Inside Straight, got right down to business, performing tunes off of their 2009 CD, Kind Of Brown. This band is frighteningly good: McBride’s stand-up bass work was strong, confident and bracing, alto/soprano saxophonist Steve Wilson’s playing was sharp and his solos were spot on, vibraphonist Warren Wolf is simply amazing, and drummer Carl Allen a true standout. The show was fun, too, as the band played a funky soul/jazz groove thing entitled “Used ‘Ta Could,” as in, “I used ‘ta could do stuff like that.” Unfortunately, they played just over one hour with a quick five-minute encore. It only was about 7:20 p.m., and the crowd was still begging for more, but McBride came out and said that he had to leave immediately to catch a 9 p.m. flight home. Yeah, right. Like I said, Christian McBride is a busy guy.
Pianist Cyrus Chestnut also performed at the Gesù Theater that night, and thankfully he didn’t have anyplace more important that he had to go. Chestnut’s piano trio didn’t draw the largest crowd, but they certainly satisfied the audience and played a series of amazing “spontaneous compositions,” as Chestnut likes to call his group’s improvisations. Bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Neal Smith tread gently and allow Chestnut to run free all over the piano, and my friends noticed his clever sonic references to the TV themes from both Jeopardy and Perry Mason. Chestnut and his band were clearly having fun, their fine show was not cut short, and they didn’t stop playing until midnight.
And the midnight hour was the just the right time to stroll down to the Savoy du Métropolis and get local and get wild with Montreal’s own Nomadic Massive, a multicultural hip-hop collective with conscious messages and crazy rhythms from Africa, the Caribbean, Soul Train and beyond. Rapping and singing in English, Spanish, French, creole and Arabic, this was a party, y’all. The Savoy is a pretty small room, but it was the third of a four-night run for the band, and there was a steady line outside waiting to get in. Still, the Montreal crowd was loose and loving, and I have to admit that these fine people really do know how to enjoy themselves up here. Prediction: Nomadic Massive will inevitably occupy a much larger stage at some future Montreal Jazz Festival, probably quite soon. I can only hope that I’ll be there, too.