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Upstairs Jazz Club

On a continent twelve hours flight from here it is Jazz festival season (preferably flying Air New Zealand, with the Alyn Shipton selected Jazz soundtrack to get you through the long haul north).

Two weeks ago the well-respected San Francisco Jazz festival was held and the San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Festival is winding up about now.The latter is a 4th of July weekend festival and it is the way a lot of West Coast people enjoy Independence Day.   It always seems to get good reviews and part of its appeal is the easy-going vibe, free concerts and food.  My daughter-in law confirmed that it was an endless combination of Jazz , food, and craft stalls and an excellent way to spend long lazy days in the sun (hers is the larger photo).  The festival included the Mingusamungus band (dedicated to Charles Mingus) and the Contemporary Jazz Orchestra (strong Thad Jones/Ellington influence).

Further north and still running at the time of writing this is the worlds biggest Jazz Festival, The Montreal Jazz Festival.   I was in Montreal 7 months ago and caught the small L’off Jazz festival which profiles local Quebec Jazz.  While there I visited as many Jazz clubs as I could cram into a week (two or three a night) but the ‘Upstairs’ was undoubtably my favourite place (off Rue St Catherine).   It is actually in a basement (but the Upstairs neon sign is hung upside down).   It was there I saw a young Montreal based guitarist Carl Naud and his band.    In this group I saw a restless hungry spirit that hinted at Coltrane’s legacy but was reaching well beyond that.   Memories of that fabulous club and that edgy young band will remain with me for a very long time.  The Upstairs is part of the main summer festival and artists like Gary Peacock are appearing there.

This year at the Montreal Jazz Festival much-loved son, Canadian ex-pat Kenny Wheeler has returned as the main attraction.    Kenny is an artist I have loved since I first heard his deep melodic lines and signature stratospheric high-end squalls.   He is more often playing Flugelhorn than trumpet and his sound is unmistakable.    His ‘music for large and small ensembles’ is a Jazz masterpiece and regarded rightly as being a desert-island-disk.  Most often playing in the company of fellow UK resident John Taylor (p) and often with John Surman (s) Palle Danielsson (b) & Peter Erskine – all top rated ECM artists.    This clip is from some years back but it profiles Kenny Wheeler (fh), John Taylor (p), Palle Danielsson (b) , John (Crumbles) Abercrombie (g) and Peter Erskine.

Fillmore in the sun

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