Montreal Jazz Fest Lineup Heralds a Return to Live Format

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​Saxophonist Kamasi Washington is slated to play this year’s Montreal Jazz Festival.

(Photo: Courtesy Montreal Jazz Festival)

“The revenge against the pandemic” is how Maurin Auxéméry, director of booking, programming cultural events for the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (FIJM), describes this year’s lineup as FIJM returns to full capacity of live performances June 30–July 9 after two years of regaining its footing amid the coronavirus pandemic. “[The lineup] is so in-your-face. We needed to get back on track and show the people that we are here.”

There’s a noticeable sonic youth blasting though much of this year’s edition of the FIJM, with a robust number of young artists such as saxophonists Kamasi Washington and Sam Gendel; singers Samara Joy and Cécile McLorin Salvant; trumpeters Takuya Kuroda and Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, and sound sculptors and singers Witch Prophet and Madison McFerrin complementing the sprawling lineup, which also includes international headliners such as singers Dee Dee Bridgewater, Melody Gardot and Gregory Porter; bassists Marcus Miller, Meshell Ndgeocello, Avishai Cohen and Christian McBride; keyboardists Robert Glasper, Eliane Elias and Tord Gustavsen; and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, among many others. Australian singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Tash Sultana will open the festival on June 30, while hip-hop royalty the Roots will close it on July 9.

“I’ve never had so many positive comments regarding the lineup,” Auxéméry enthused. “We’ve been thinking a lot about how the festival is evolving. The most interesting aspect of the festival is it being free. So, we really focused on the presenting music outdoors this year, especially on the main stage with people like Kamasi Washington, Corrine Bailey Rae, Lee Fields, the Jireh Gospel Choir and Nathaniel Rateliff. There will be like 25,000 people in front of that main stage.”

Every night, the TD Bank Group (TD) main stage will also host some of Canada’s finest talents such as multi-instrumentalist and TikTok sensation Stacey Ryan; singer and pianist Laila Biali; and electronic music guru Christophe Dubé, better known as Cri.

Auxéméry is also excited about this year’s Invitation Series, featuring two incredibly resourceful drummers — Terri Lyne Carrington and Makaya McCraven — inside the Le Gesù amphithéâtre. McCraven will host the first one from June 30 to July 2; his series will include concerts featuring saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, a duet with fellow sonic explorer Madison McFerrin and a live interpreting of his DJ-centric Blue Note Records debut, Deciphering The Message.

For the Deciphering concert, McCraven will lead a combo that includes guitarist Jeff Parker, vibraphonist Joel Ross, and trumpeter Marquis Hill — all of whom played in reimaginations of some Blue Note Records hard-bop classics by the likes of Hank Mobley, Art Blakey and Dexter Gordon.

“I’m excited about working with that material,” McCraven said. “It’s been fun digging into this material live with a band, because traditionally this music hasn’t been a part of my concert sets. Even though the music has been chopped up, sampled and reimagined on the record, in the live setting, I just want to perform the music.”

During her Invitation Series from July 4 to 6, Carrington will play in duo performances with pianist Aaron Parks and poet and sociopolitical activist Moor Mother; she’ll also showcase her latest ensemble, Art of Living.

Carrington said that the concept behind Art of Living is the acknowledgement that there is no separation between life, music and other artistic disciplines. “This is a concept that my mentors such as Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter always talk about,” she said before explaining that the Art of Living ensemble will be performing music she recently created as part of Henry Threadgill’s 13-album box set, Bakers Dozen Project. “I recorded with some emerging artists that have been my former students. They sound great and I learn from them. That is part of the art of living: taking care of the future, caring for the present and honoring the past.”

“We’ve been rebooking things from the last two years. It’s been very challenging,” Auxéméry said about the process of re-emerging in full capacity. “We’re very happy that some artists such as Gregory Porter, Al Di Meola, Avishai Cohen and Marcus Miller followed through with us during those trying times. This year’s festival is going to be bigger than any of the last 10 editions.” DB



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