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Montreal Anti-Jazz Police Festival at URSA – Day 1

par Frédéric Cardin

We were promised a festival without blinkers, free from the uptight purism of the ‘Jazz Police’ (the snobs of the genre). A promise made, a promise kept. The first night of the inaugural edition of the new jazz festival founded by Martha Wainwright, with the invaluable help of drummer Tommy Crane and the entire Ursa team, is sure to be a success that will make music lovers happy and confident. 

Listen to my interview (in French) with Martha Wainwright about the Montreal Anti-Jazz Police Festival


The evening, like all the others to come at the festival, is divided into three acts. The first concert takes place at around 5.30pm (approx, because we’re all about the fluidity of experience here. No stopwatch…), the second at around 8.30pm, and the third at 11pm. Three acts, then, and three dissimilar universes, only the second of which can be linked fairly directly to the world of jazz.

It all kicks off with Montreal’s Edwin de Goeij, who gets the festivities off to a gentle start with a soaring instrumental sound supported by a combination of lo-fi (background music generated by a 4-track cassette, as they used to say in the old days) and hi-fi with modern synthetic equipment. A cosmic keyboard floats above it all. It’s a neo-kitsch ambience, with no big surprises, but a very pleasant one. After this chill intro, Erika Angell introduces herself and reprises some of what she gave us at the launch of her album The Obsession with Her Voice at Ausgang Plaza two weeks ago. Against de Goeij’s rather placid interstellar cloud, Erika’s music is a fascinating extra-dimensional nebula of sound. The originality perceived on listening to the album and the launch show is confirmed beyond any doubt. Here is a proposal of ferociously new and impressive artistic uniqueness and audacity that deserves to make the rounds of the world of the most advanced indie music of our time.

When the break comes, we order tacos made and served by Martha Wainwright herself! If you want to live the experience, you’ve got three nights left! The second concert is by Californian saxophonist David Binney, a musical UFO who can combine avant-garde dazzle with Musakian levitation or tight post-bop. After an intro with Martha on guitar (she’s promised to sing one of her songs every night, so be there for the next ones), Binney sets off in a muscular quartet, accompanied by a double bass (Morgan Moore, an amazing virtuoso) and two… drumsets! Yes, TWO drumsets, one held by Tommy Crane and the other by Andrew Barr. The groove, which is totally acoustic but packs a punch of power and square decibels, is simply thrilling. You’re swept off your feet by the sheer force of the sound, and Biney’s free-flowing, stratospheric flights are as exciting as they come. A few calmer pauses balanced out a memorable show (split into two sets) that will live long in the memory. OMG, that was some seriously good shit!

11pm arrives and we’re ready to continue the adventure, although our tushes are a little grumpy (the benches and chairs are a little ‘hard’ for such long sessions, the only downside to this excellent first impression). This time, we’re back to less exalted feelings, with a surprising trio: two beautiful voices (Sarah Rossy and Eugénie Jobim) and drums/percussion (Aaron Dolman). We find ourselves immersed in a post/avant-folk with ghostly softness and unexpected melodic lines, at times almost atonal. You could almost imagine the Boulay Sisters (famous Quebec folk singers) singing Schoenberg! The choice was well thought out, for this first evening ends in calm, serenity and intellectual and emotional nourishment that satiate us, just enough to look forward to the second evening. 

I’m talking about a qualitative success here, but it’s also worth noting the quantitative success of this first evening of the brand new festival. The hall was full, from quite so to packed tight, for every concert! That’s very encouraging. 

DETAILS, PROGRAMME AND TICKETS AVAILABLE ON THE FESTIVAL WEBSITE

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