Fr’ed’erique M’enard-Aubin/FIJM Tariq Trotter of the Roots.
Jazz turns up in unexpected places at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. Of course straight-up jazz — the stuff that in the days of record stores was filed somewhere in the corner beneath a John Coltrane poster — is all over the place among the festival’s 700 events, although even that isn’t always easy to classify: Herbie Hancock, for example, brought his John Lennon-inspired “Imagine Project.” But when a jazz festival also includes indie-rock and hip-hop groups, Syrian electro-folk singers, Eastern European-style brass dance bands and banjo-playing former Ramones, it can be surprising where jazz threads turn up, and in five concerts on Wednesday night they turned up all over the place.
Unfortunately too many jazz festival producers and even music fans like to be associated more with the name "jazz" than the actual music. Rock and hip hop acts at a jazz festival? Syrian electro-folk singers and Herbie Hancock, a great jazz musician who often plays other forms of music, but no jazz here, does not to me make a jazz festival. This is not the best of times for jazz. Real jazz, the swinging tradition of early New Orleans jazz, swing, bebop and the avant garde seem to have been pushed aside for forms of pop music where at festivals the name jazz is used purely as a marketing tool. Where are the real jazz festivals of the past where you could hear musicians really show off their chops playing either through chord changes or even outside of them? Maybe its simply that the audience for the swinging tradition of jazz is getting smaller and older. I would like to once again see a jazz festival where all the music presented is simply jazz. I would like to hear your comments.
John H. Armwood
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