A July 3 at FIJM: Herbie Hancock, Domi & JD Beck, Nate Smith, Emmet Cohen, Focus & Elements…

by Rédaction PAN M 360

At the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, PAN M 360 experts attend concerts that shake up music lovers. Follow our team!

Herbie Hancock, Phenomenal Greenness!

The piano is an instrument conducive to the longevity of its user, as Herbie Hancock brilliantly demonstrated on Monday evening at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier. Undiminished by his age (83!!), the most respected living pianist on the jazz planet displayed phenomenal verve, exemplary articulation, and unparalleled wit. We could have forgiven him for a few shortcomings, but we really didn’t have to.

Herbie began with an ambitious Overture, introduced by an electro-acoustic passage (not as “weird” as its creator had announced), accompanied by elements, riffs, or themes from his immense repertoire, familiar to any self-respecting jazzophile – “Butterfly,” “Chameleon,” “Rockit,” etc. Some of the works on the program were played by the musicians themselves.

Some of the works on the program were played in their entirety and transformed by the sidemen, and not the least: trumpeter Terence Blanchard, guitarist Lionel Loueke, bassist James Genus and drummer Jaylen Petiniaud lent their respective personalities to the work of the coolest octogenarian active on the jazz planet.

A tribute to Wayne Shorter, a lifelong friend with whom he had played Footprints, a standard by the late saxophonist and composer, once magnified by the Miles Davis Quintet of which they were both prominent members, was to be expected.

Less predictable, however, was the fact that a small part of the program was made up of jazz-funk pieces, including Actual Proof (Thrust album) and Come Running to Me (Sunlight) with Vocoder, the ancestor of Autotune.

To conclude? The mega tube “Chameleon” (Headhunters, homonymous album), of course. For this, the leader chose to sling his synth over his shoulder and improvise with each of his colleagues rather than perform at the piano in the bridge. Some would have preferred the structure of the original recording, but our monumental Herbie has opted for the risk of a full-scale re-reading, for better or for worse.

But isn’t that what you’d expect from a great jazzman?

Alain Brunet

Domi & JD Beck, the phenomenon of the hour

They’re the talk of the town, far beyond the jazz world. The viral propulsion of these two artists barely out of their teens is matched only by their talent. Domi (Domitille Degalle), originally from Nancy, and JD Beck, from Dallas, who met in the USA while studying at Berklee College of Music, were already the subject of a real buzz.

A rather clumsy, lazy, and disjointed concert by Robert Glasper had led me to migrate to this most refreshing of concerts, given in a packed Club Soda. It was not long after the release of Not Tight, a debut album that appealed to a wide audience, far beyond the jazz world.

A year later, the phenomenon has taken off. Anderson. Paak, Snoop Dog, Thundercat, and even Ariana Grande recorded with them, which goes to show their appeal.

We were treated to much the same material as on Monday at Wilfrid’s, when Domi multiplied the prowess of her right hand, extreme speed and extreme precision of articulation, and dazzled with her left hand, which she uses in the manner of electric bass, notably when she plays Jaco Pastorius, Weather Report era, or Wayne Shorter with Endangered Species (Atlantis album).

How to explain this buzz? By the youthfulness of its protagonists, by the visual aesthetics with their naïve backgrounds, by their teenage looks that don’t give a damn about anything… and above all by this hallucinating virtuosity acquired at such a young age – around twenty. JD Beck has already absorbed and mastered many of the techniques of his predecessors, and his small drum kit and borrowings from electronic music are impressive. Anyone who appreciates instrumentalists of this level is sure to be delighted, even with the technical problems they had to face in front of Herbie Hancock’s audience.

Alain Brunet

Nate Smith and the spirit of groove

On the second night of his three-concert road trip, super-drummer Nate Smith produced the desired effect: delighting groove fans with material from an obscure “beat tape” he’d recorded for his 40th birthday, “a few years ago” as he quipped. Alongside specialists in this exercise, keyboardist Kiefer and bassist CARRTOONS, Nate Smith brought this soul-funk minimalism to the fore.

The approach consists of repeating a very simple, soul/R&B-inspired harmonic progression for ten minutes or more. Simplistic? Redundant? Nay. Nate Smith and his seasoned colleagues are quick to make you appreciate the micro-variations of these grooves, bringing out all their suavity. This has been the case since the heyday of CTI in the ’70s, a label with a penchant for jazzifying soul.

The comeback of instrumental soul/R&B via hip hop in the jazz world is accompanied by related phenomena, including this one, reinvigorated by instrumentalists doubling as beatmakers, armed with a vast culture of African-American popular music in the digital age. Who’s going to complain?

Alain Brunet

Emmet Cohen, the reincarnation of swing

I’d be lying if I were to write a full concert review for the Emmet Cohen Trio. Upon arriving at Studio TD almost an hour before the 10PM show, the line-up was already very large. For an artist so deeply rooted in the now almost hundred-year-old tradition of swing, this was a nice surprise, but perhaps no surprise really. With his electrifying performances and his strong online presence, Emmet is now something of a piano icon whose mission is to keep the spirit of swing alive.

Upon arriving about halfway during their set, there was a special feeling in the air. Somewhere the spirit of Ahmad Jamal was present, as the band channeled the elegance and drama of Jamal’s minimalist-maximalist trio arrangements. The trio’s dedication to engaging the audience was commendable too. Cohen made it a point to make the crowd really feel a part of the show, sharing anecdotes and insights into the music they were about to perform. To end the evening, their third encore, they absolutely rocked the Ellington classic, “Satin Doll,” and by the end of the show we all knew we were aside from something special.

Varun Swarup

Focus and Elements : Cynic and Atheist finally reunited

Yesterday, on the fringes of the Jazz Festival, Montreal hosted two luminaries of jazz fusion-infused progressive metal. Cynic and Atheist, both with a 35-year track record, respectively presented the entirety of Focus (1993), as well as selections from Piece of Time (1990), Unquestionable Presence (1991) and Elements (1993). In front of a packed Fairmount Theatre, both bands delivered flawless performances of their repertoire. Atheist impressed with their inexhaustible energy, easily matched by the complexity of the songs they played. In

deed, it’s rare to see such a successful combination of instrumental technicality and fierce stage presence. Singer Kelly Schaeffer, the only original member of the band, has surrounded himself with young musicians half his age to form his latest band. However, his bandmates’ enthusiasm was matched only by his own, as Schaeffer has clearly lost none of his charisma and madness. While replaying the classics might have been more than enough, especially for a quiet Monday night, Atheist far exceeded expectations.

Cynic then kicked off their show with a chronological rendering of their debut album, which has become a cult death metal staple. More angular and aggressive than the band’s more recent material, these compositions were interpreted with all the desired nuance. In particular, the interplay between vocoder-sung and screamed vocals was true to the album. As for the guitar timbres, these were carefully crafted and adapted to each musical section via digital processors. After a brief incense tribute to the late Sein Reinert (drums) and Sean Malone (bass), Cynic followed up with four tracks from their more recent discography. These pieces, sometimes serene, sometimes intense, but always very dynamic, closed the evening well, even if the audience was left wanting more.

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