JULY 9, 2012
North of The Border: Dispatches From The Montreal International Jazz Festival
Part One: Nat Geo Music Checks Out One of North America's Longest-Running Festivalsby Ron Deutsch
Last week marked the 33rd anniversary of the annual Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, the largest jazz festival in the world with over 750 concerts packed into a 10-day period. While "jazz" is the operating word, "international" is equally weighted with over 30 countries represented by the over 3000 performers.
"With that enormous amount of concerts, we have room to present other music that jazz, even if all those kinds of music are one way or another related to jazz," said FIJM Vice-President, Programming and Production, Laurent Saulnier. "World music influenced jazz and jazz influenced world music. So, if you want to understand all the relations between jazz and world music, you have to present jazz and world music."
In addition to jazz masters such as Wayne Shorter, Stanley Clarke, Larry Coryell and Ron Carter, festivalgoers were offered a global mix of world musicians, including Lila Downs (Mexico/US), Los Amigos Invisibles (Venezuela), CéU (Brazil), Souad Massi (Algeria), and Chris Combette (French Guiana/Martinique). Pop and rock acts were also well-represented at the festival with "eclectic" barely describing the range of performers - from Tangerine Dream to Fishbone; Jovanotti to James Taylor; and Janelle Monáe to Liza Minnelli. The festival also served as an ideal showcase for the likes of post-jazz quartet Get the Blessing, featuring drummer Clive Deamer and bassist Jim Barr, formerly the rhythm section of Portishead.
In addition to the many indoor venues, there are 10 free outdoor stages, including one which almost exclusively features world music acts, with a selection of locally-sourced, though international, performers. "The Tropiques series represent the diversity of the Montreal artists," Laurent explained. "[I]t was and still is very important to promote the music from Montreal musicians no matter where they are born." This year will see Montreal transplants Élage Diouf (Senegal), Boogat (Argentina), and Wesli (Haiti) appearing.
Amongst the artists that received a special award this year was Serbian filmmaker/musician Emir Kusturica who received the Antonio Carlos Jobim award for his achievement in world music. "We think that Emir did a lot for the promotion of music from the Balkans - not only with his concerts and records but also with his movies," said Laurant. Kusturica accepted the award and performed with his band, The No-Smoking Orchestra on July 5th.
Nat Geo Music sent correspondent Ron Deutsch to the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal last week and we'll be bringing you his reports and exclusive interviews with some of the musicians in the coming week.