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Festival International de Jazz de Montréal 1997


bullet    Festival Overview
bullet   Tony Bennett

le 6 juillet, 1997 by "Toomey" Bonardelli



Montréal (APS): The transformation of Montréal begins at the end of June and continues for two weeks. That is when the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (FIJM) dazzles both Montréalers and visitors alike with jazz and blues to please every taste. With nine free stages and nine paid venues, FIJM is the festival of the summer. The music along with food vendors, an art show, a cinema, and plenty of beer and wine contribute to this exquisite festival.

However, in spite of this ambiance, some of the best names in jazz and blues, and its proximity to the U.S. market, it remains quite an underrated festival. This festival has grown over its eighteen years, and now includes many world-class performers, but other festivals, such as Montreux, maintain world attention.

Nevertheless, the visitor to the FIJM will not be disappointed. With shows like Tony Bennett, the Count Basie Orchestra, Manhattan Transfer, Buddy Guy, Zachary Richard, George Benson, Nancy Wilson, Herbie Hancock among the many stars, one cannot go wrong. In addition, the free stages present a variety of blues and world music from places as far-away as Algeria and Cameroon. Music from Dixieland to Rai (musique algeriènne), to salsa and latino exist for your listening pleasure.

As Tony Bennett mentioned, "This is the most organised festival I’ve been to, from both the standpoint of the artist and the public. The people are so friendly and everyone is having a great time." This is the key to the success of the Montréal festival. Four blocks of downtown are closed off for the duration, and checkpoints are maintained at the entrance to the festival.

To guarantee that there are free stages at the festival, organisers insist on no backpacks full of beer or alcoholic beverages-a small price to pay for quality free shows. And do not expect muscle-bound bouncers at the festival entrances; you will be greeted with "Bonjour au festival" from the young and friendly red-shirted men and women. Such "politesse" will shock most American tourists used to rougher security personnel.

Walk up the terrace of Place des Arts, the focal point of the festival, and one finds several stages along with the art exhibit and official souvenir stands. Behind Place des Arts, you find other free stages, like the ever-popular blues stage. Walk a little further and, at your disposal, are food booths offering a variety of snacks for all tastes.

Probably the best deal of the festival, besides the multitude of free shows, is the "Les amis de festival" card. For $8 Canadian, you receive a CD record, entrance to the two jazz movies shown daily at the Cinema Québécoise, free entrance to the midnight blues shows at the Spectrum, a popular Montréal nightspot, and a chance to win a Jetta automobile. The Spectrum showcases blues for this year`s festival, with bands such as L’il Ed and the Imperial Flames, Charlie Musselwhite, Little Charlie and the Nightcats, and Jimmy Johnson, among others.

This year’s main event, reflecting the theme of the festival, was a free show at the scène duMaurier, highlighting Cubanisma, a Latin salsa band. Over 120,000 people jammed rue Ste.-Catherine to dance and party through the night. The PA was boosted; TV screens were set-up at the extremities of the area to guarantee a view for all. Dancing girls and a percussion unit were added on nearby rooftops. "Quelle soirée"!

For the serious jazz fan or even the summer tourist, FIJM is the place to be for those two weeks in June and July. The friendliness of the locals and the accommodations provided in this multi-cultural city guarantee a European-style vacation in North America.


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le 2 juillet, 1997 by "Toomey" Bonardelli



Montréal (APS): Tony Bennett, the timeless crooner, performed for two-plus hours at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (FIJM). The show, at Montréal’s Place des Arts, was a second show since demand for tickets were overwhelming. Tony Bennett, performed songs by Duke Ellington, Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, and also played a tribute to Billie Holliday. The Billie Holliday tunes come from his recent release "Bennett on Holiday".

Every tune, from the show opener "The Best Is Yet to Come", was sung exquisitely in Bennett style to the sound of his famous trio. Ralph Sharon, Bennett’s piano player and longtime friend, tapped the tunes along with an upright bass and a guest drummer. The trio performed until the last song of the set, when Bennett put down his microphone to sing a capella "Fly Me to the Moon". The hall remained silent throughout the song! During the third encore, the audience was silenced once again while Bennett performed Holiday’s "God Bless the Child" and Sinatra’s "The Music Never Ends".

Bennett’s popularity seems to grow every year. Ever popular with the older crowd for years, he has made inroads with the MTV generation. His son and manager landed him a spot on the Simpsons’ and then SCTV, a Canadian comedy show, and even as a opening act for alternative rockers Porno For Pyros. Youthful audiences gazed in awe as Bennett would sing his regular set. Then came the video, "Steppin’ Out with My Baby", and Bennett is now known by people from 8 to 80.

Part of his charm is his genuine positive approach to life. At the press conference the day before his performance, Bennett praised the so-called Generation X and said they ought to be encouraged in their pursuit of music, especially jazz. He went on to complement his musical colleagues, such as Duke Ellington and Bill Evans along with today’s popular stars like Madonna.

Bennett admitted that he is not a songwriter, but he interprets the songs. "There are so many great composers and I can’t write like they do" was his response to a young reporter. And how does he know a good song? "The music hits you emotionally and the words hit you intellectually"; an extremely short response, but it sums up his philosophy.

Transcending the artistry of music, Bennett is also becoming a well-known painter. Duke Ellington told him to do two things in life, not one, so he took up painting. Over the years, this hobby has led to art exhibits and a growing demand by the public for his art. Bennett considers his painting time as meditation: 4 hours is like 4 minutes when he paints.

When asked about his performance schedule, Bennett was quick to praise the FIJM and Montréal itself. "This is the best organized festival where they let you do your show", he said and then touted that the public is beautiful here. Always a kind word from this charming fellow. It makes you enjoy his music all the more.


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