[Home] [Economic Self] [Rock n' Roll Self] [Photos] [Links]

Festival International de Jazz de Montréal 2001


bullet    Festival Overview
bullet    Irma Thomas, Marcia Bell, Tracy Nelson



June, 2001


by "Toomey" Bonardelli



Montréal, Québec (APS): On the beautiful island in the St. Lawrence River, the summer festivals continue with the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (FIJM) at the end of June. Between June 28 and July 8, jazz, blues and world music come to the downtown streets, bars, and concert halls of the city. With the prestigious Place des Arts at its center, the FIJM boasts 150 indoor concerts and 500 free shows on twelve stages. The music along with food vendors, an art show, a cinema, and plenty of beer and wine contribute to this exquisite festival.

As the festival has grown over the years, it has become world-renowned among music aficionados. When performers leave this site, they will head to some of Europe’s great festivals. Big names of jazz, blues, and world music now come up to Montréal to be part of the festival. Even before the official opening some shows are already sold out, like Diana Krall, Wayne Shorter, Charlie Haden and Prince. But do not fret, Michael Brecker, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Michel LeGrand, along with bluesmen Steve Barry, Jimmy James, George Thorogood, and Jo Hell and the Red Roosters will perform at the fest. That is not all. Dixieland to Latin to African sounds are here too with the likes of the Buena Vista Social Club, L’esprit de Nouvelle-Orleans, and more. The visitor to the FIJM will not be disappointed. In addition, this year brings two new series to two venues. The Salle de Gesù, hosts Jazz Europa, dedicated to Italian jazz while Club Soda will the exclusive venue to women vocalists in the new Chanteuses series.

The key to the success of the Montréal festival is organisation and support from the people of the city. Four blocks of downtown are closed off for the duration, and checkpoints are maintained at the entrance to the festival. To provide music free of charge at the festival, organisers insist that no backpacks full of beer or alcoholic beverages enter the area -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.

The support of the community is exhibited by the success of the "La Carte des Amis" card. For $10 Canadian, you receive a Verve CD record, and a chance to win a 2002 GM automobile or a trip to Louisiana on US Airways or a GIC (certificate of deposit) from Banque Nationale. The card also gives you 10% discount on some wine labels at the SAQ (Québec Liquor Commission). This money goes to pay for the performers at the free stages.

The eastern part of downtown comes alive for two weeks. Walk up the terrace of Place des Arts, and one finds several stages, official souvenir stands, along with the art exhibit. This year the Galerie du Festival will showcase the festival poster, designed by Yves Archambault and Jean-François Gratton along with the silk-screens by Miles Davis including his original one used in the 1988 festival and later recast in bronze. 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.

Every year, FIJM puts on a huge free show sponsored by General Motors. This year, Groove alla Turca provides traditional Turkish music melded with American Funk, performed by Burhan Öçal and Jamaaladeen Tacuma. Rue Ste.-Catherine is packed with dancers and partyers throughout the night. As with last year’s big event, the PA size will be boosted and TV screens will be set-up at the extremities of the area to guarantee a view for all.

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.


Back To Top


July 1, 1998


by "Toomey" Bonardelli

New Orleans R&B Women Unite for Montréal Festival


Montréal, Québec (APS) Marcia Ball and Tracy Nelson joined Rhythm and Blues great Irma Thomas at the Spectrum July 1, 1998, as part of this year’s Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (FIJM). These women took turns singing some of their own hits along with honoring Irma Thomas with renditions of Thomas’ most famous tunes. The show had the audience attentive, even dancing, in spite of the early 6 o’clock stage call. The horn section included trumpet player Frank Parker, the New Orleans expatriate now living in Springfield, Illinois.

Over the course of the evening, the tempo changed several times and the rhythm section was hot as it kept pace with the three singers. Ball occasionally played the piano and sang as Nelson and Thomas walked off-stage. Then they would perform together, but by the end of the show it was Irma and her audience. But they each joined together for the final songs. The two hours flew by, the show ended, and the crowd walked out into the daylight.

The uniting of these three Rounder Records recording artists began as an admiration between the two younger artists, Ball and Nelson, and Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans. Marcia recalls, "the first time I saw Irma was at the [New Orleans] Municipal Auditorium.... She was pregnant out there, but she came out dancing and blew my mind."

A fund-raiser in New Orleans brought the three together, which began talk of working together again. The culmination of the project has been this touring band, an Austin City Limits TV special, a live broadcast from the House of Blues, and a new record released in early 1998.

All three have great R&B credentials. Ball has roots in both Austin and New Orleans, and has been a fixture at the Blues and Heritage Festival since 1978. Marcia Ball has five records out on the Rounder label including her 1997 release Let Me Play with Your Poodle.

Tracy Nelson’s style is unique! Don’t compare her to others since those powerful vocals appear familiar. She has spent four decades developing her songwriting and singing. She has always been a big fan of Irma Thomas. Nelson’s first record on Rounder in 1993, In the Here and Now, included Irma on vocals. To date, Nelson has recorded nine of Thomas’ famous songs.

You have heard tunes made famous by Irma Thomas, even if you were not aware of it. In the 1960s, she teamed up with Alain Toussaint, and they produced such memorable tunes as "I Done Got over It", "It’s Raining", and "Time Is on My Side". She also produced a gospel album in 1994, while her latest effort is the 1997 The Story of My Life, one of her six Rounder albums.

After attending the Spectrum concert at FIJM, one can only hope that this project, put together by this trio, will continue to tour and will offer us another record soon.


Back To Top


Send The Web Master an article of Toomey's

Last Updated  August 24, 2003
August 26, 2004
Copyright© 2003 - 2004 Bonardelli.com
No content or graphics may be used without author's written permission.
Web Developer