A June 29th at FIJM: Hiromi, Kingfish, Aftab-Iyer-Ismaily, Misc, Hawa B, etc.

by Rédaction PAN M 360

At the Festival international de jazz de Montréal, PAN M 360’s experts attend all the concerts that shake up music lovers. Follow our team!

Hiromi // Victor Diaz Lamich
Courtesy of Festival International De Jazz De Montreal

Hiromi, somewhere in between Oscar Peterson and Joe Hisaishi

Somewhere in between Oscar Peterson and Joe Hisaishi you’ll find the music of Hiromi Uehara. Armed with a virtuosic classical technique and
formidable fluency in the jazz language, watching Hiromi is like seeing an athlete at the top of their game. Returning to Montréal after six years, Hiromi’s concert at Théâtre Maisonneuve tonight was something of a special occasion. With PUBLiquartet, a string quartet from New York, she performed the entirety of her “Silver Lining Suite”, a work which seamlessly blends jazz, classical, and fusion. The evening thus had a classical air to
it and there was plenty of Beethoven-esque drama.

What is truly amazing to see is the electric energy that Hiromi is able to harness from the piano as well from the crowd. Her fingers effortlessly navigated the intricate orchestral passages, executing lightning-fast runs and intricate melodic lines with precision and clarity. There were moments of applause throughout the pieces as people simply couldn’t hold their excitement any longer. Yet, at a moment’s notice she could arrive at the tenderest pianissimo. While she may be too much of a showman for some, it is undeniable that Hiromi’s musicality is something truly special.

Varun Swarup

The Kingfish leaves the Rogers stage in AWE

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram at Rogers Stage / Victor Diaz Lamich
Courtesy of Festival International De Jazz De Montreal

After some fantastic jazzy afrobeats courtesy of London, UK’s Kokoroko, I walked over to the Rogers’ stage for a night of bluesy wildness. As the lights dimmed, a band started playing some standard 12-bar blues with organ, drums, and bass, and a fierce lead guitar took over the speakers. For the next five minutes, there was no player on stage, until the beast of a man—or boy, as I just learned he’s 24 years old…—Christone “Kingfish” Ingram—walked onto the stage wielding his gorgeous purple Telecaster. He took the mic and let out a voice that would give B.B. King a run for his money. As if Howling Wolf and Muddy Waters had a secret lock-and-key Mississipi grandson they decided to never tell the world about.

For the next hour, the Kingfish toyed with the crowd, only actually playing five or six songs, but with solo interludes that went on and on for 15 minutes with facial expressions too good to ignore. And it was sublime. Kingfish’s solo style is one built around a narrative. I can only imagine he’s a shy guy at heart who lets his lead guitar-playing do the talking, confessing his deepest, darkest secrets. The highlight of the show was when the Kingfish left the stage and let his band jam for a few minutes until the ghost guitar playing took the speakers again. Fans whipped their heads and saw Kingfish playing within the crowd, bullets of sweat dripping off his forehead.

“I’ll see y’all back at 10 when we play another set.” It was 9:50 p.m … Kingfish came back to the microphone. “I’ll see y’all at 11!” That’s right, he was going to do this all again in an hour. This kid’s skill is unquestionable and there is chatter he will be playing with the one and only Buddy Guy for a later performance. That will be something to not miss.

Stephan Boissonneault

Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer, Shahzad Ismaily: tension and release in North America… and South Asia

Piano, Fender Rhodes, synths, human voice, electric bass. Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer and Shahzad Ismaily would normally have filled the Monument National given the critical success of their recent album Love In Exile. In front of an audience a little too sparse for the singer’s taste, we’re treated to four heartfelt improvisations, spread over just over an hour. Too short? A little too short, but generally conclusive.

To reduce this concert to a meditation session would be simplistic. As the artists explain in their interview, what we’re really talking about is a subtle tension-release dialectic, which doesn’t exclude rises in intensity and volume. We’re sure you’ll appreciate this in the final sections of this rich performance. Another deconstruction of clichés: no, this is not Indo-Pakistani music revisited in a jazz context, but rather a cultural interweaving in the context of a global expression.

Arooj Aftab is not a singer of qawwalî, Carnatic or Hindustani music; her vocal technique has little to do with the classical music of South Asia. Instead, we have before us a talented autodidact who has managed to evolve her vocal organ and find a voice inspired by Western pop singing. What’s more, her deadpan posture, sometimes bordering on the cynical, her wine ball in hand and her modern clothes would defy any traditionalism in Pakistan.

As has been pointed out many times in the past, Vijay Iyer is not a classical Indian musician either, although he certainly knows the melodic scales. What he’s looking for is something else, not excluding some of the colors of his parents’ culture. The son of Pakistani immigrants, Shahzad Ismaily evolves in the same open territory, harmonically rich and conducive to magnificent textural research.

Alain Brunet

In the Midst of Misc

After free performances by Britain’s Kokoroko and France’s Ibrahim Maalouf, those who weren’t quite drunk on music could head to the TD studio to hear Quebec trio MISC. The mostly young audience didn’t regret it for a second. MISC is keyboardist Jérome Beaulieu, drummer William Coté and bassist (acoustic and electric) Frédéric Roy.

“I’m extraordinarily lucky to be playing with my two best friends,” exclaimed Beaulieu two-thirds of the way through the show. This complicity is musically obvious. MISC is the antithesis of Brad Meldhau’s trio.

There are no long solos or deluge of notes. The three friends play more percussive jazz. Even Beaulieu’s piano is percussive. We often flirt with rock, but it’s the overall sound that comes first. They also use a lot of reverb and electronic fiddling. A number of pieces were taken from the 2021 album Partager l’aAmbulance. But the trio has become much more cohesive and innovative since its release.

William Coté plays the cymbals like a skilled jazz drummer, but can also go full throttle into heavier rhythms, but never without subtlety. The same goes for bassist Frédéric Roy, who alternates between double bass and electric bass, sometimes even in the same piece. Jérome Beaulieu, who also works with several groups, including Daniel Bélanger’s, is constantly gaining in maturity. There are hundreds of piano, bass, and drum trios. It’s not easy to make your way through this dense jazz jungle.  

But if MISC is playing near you, go for it! You’ll have a great time.

Michel Labrecque

The Franklin Electric Inaugurates MTelus

The rumor mill at MTELUS was abuzz as the audience waited, patiently or otherwise, for the arrival of this collective band created and led by Jon Matte.

The concert was dedicated to the new album, Oh Brother, released a few hours later. The first half of the show served to let us feel the wind of these new songs, after which we allowed ourselves to go back in time. At one point, Jon Matte sat down at the piano and asked if there were any questions from the audience. Obviously, the first question was “Can you do your old songs?” to which Matte replied, “Yes … but you just stole the punch, man!” 

With a full band and three violinists, the folk-pop songs shone with a twilight quality and their atmosphere filled the room. Jon Matte is also vocally adept, as much at rendering his more textually dense passages as his melodic outbursts. He also has a fine head voice, which he used to try and get the crowd to sing along to some of the songs.

In short, the show was surprising in places, such as when Matte brought out his trumpet for solos, and touching in others, such as the acoustic pieces with just him and his guitarist, in harmony.

Théo Reinhardt

Hawa B Meanders on the Esplanade

The Place des Arts Esplanade was fairly free on Thursday evening, just before 7pm … but that didn’t last long. HAWA B turned heads and stopped the hurry-ups in their tracks.

The group, led by singer-songwriter Nadia Hawa Baldé, presents a seamless blend of alternative rock, R&B, jazz, and soul. A wide range of influences—from Radiohead to Beyoncé—are wonderfully encapsulated in songs with an evolving structure, surprising chord progressions, and a mostly restrained character, allowing the musicians to shine and the crazy flights of fancy when they come.

The artist seems to have carved out a comfortable stage niche for herself between nonchalance and intensity. She moves slowly, but decisively, crouching or bending in half to reach notes at the high end of her register, twirling her hair, stepping off stage several times to join the crowd, throwing her mic stand downstage, kicking her stool around … all in a curiously detached, almost robotic way, but one that is also purely spontaneous. It’s like watching an explosion in slow motion. All the intensity is there, but you can savour every chemical exchange, feel the discharge of energy that reaches you, and live the experience without being blown away in the moment, remaining transfixed.

Théo Reinhardt

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