Rant ‘N’ Roll: Travel Section – Oh! Canada!

The 2004 Guinness Book Of World Records listed the Montreal International Jazz Festival as the largest jazz fest in the world. Event organizers claim roughly two million people pass through its free and paid concerts every year with hundreds of shows spread out over 11 days. This year, from June 26 to July 5, The Stanley Clarke Band, Erykah Badu, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Cibo Matto, Robert Glaspar, Madeleine Peyroux and Joss Stone might be the hippest of the hip but Rodrigo y Gabriela (pictured), Bobby Bazini with special guest Booker T. Jones, Lucinda Williams with Justin Townes Earle, Taj Mahal/John Mayall/James Cotton, the Wayne Shorter Quartet, solo John Medeski, tributes to Edith Piaf and Billie Holiday, King Sunny Ade and two super groups (NeTTwork with Stanley Jordan, Jeff Tain Watts and Charnett Moffett and Heads Of State with Buster Williams, Gary Bartz, Larry Willis and Al Foster) are on my wish list.

I’m headin’ north!

Yeah, baby, after heading south (New Orleans) and west (Las Vegas), I’m actually leaving the good old U.S.A. for the first time since I went to Amsterdam in the ‘80s and cried ascending the stairs at the house where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis.

The heart of the Montreal jazz fest are the free shows. So, sure, I’m in for the brilliant American trumpeter/composer/producer Christian Scott, 32, whose eight CDs in 13 years show a maturation almost unequaled in the history of modern music (not to mention the unique spark he’s contributed to the CDs of 14 other artists since he was a mere 16), but what gets my juices going are the free shows like…

* Montreal Dixie who swing Latin

* Sweden’s Hell’s Kitchen whose industrial rock is an attempt to, as they say, “de-Claptonize the blues.”

* Gruv’n Brass, a world-music nonet

* Jazzmatik Avec Un Cas, a brass-filled fusion of jazz and hip-hop

* L’ esprit de la Nouvelle-Orleans, trumpet, banjo, sousaphone, drums and clarinet in “Big Easy” joy

* Hot Pepper Dixie, ditto

* Sunday Orkestra Severni (Klezmer, Moldavian, Serbian, Bulgarian and Turkish traditional)

* Tevet Sela, Middle-Eastern jazz from a saxophone and flute maestro

* Speakeasy Electro Swing, conceptual dance music marrying prohibition-era hot jazz (like on Boardwalk Empire) with 21st century technology

* Urban Science #Lecypher, a bastardization of beatboxers, rappers, MCs, audience jammers and covers of Kanye West and A Tribe Called Quest

* Gypsophilia, a melange of Gypsy Jazz like Django Reinhardt [1910-1953], Stephane Grappelli [1908-1997] plus funk, reggae, samba and salsa

It may be ambitious and I may keel over after Day #1 but I’ve been assured my hotel is in walking distance, my hosts speak English, the dollar is particularly strong right now and I have been promised the time of my life.

I’m so there.

They’ve been doing this for 35 years. Over 3,000 artists from 30 countries are expected this year. 450 of the 650 concerts are free at the 10 indoor and 10 outdoor stages. A major part of Montreal’s downtown area is closed to vehicular traffic during the fest. Its 1980 debut starred Ray Charles, Chick Corea and Gary Burton. A four-CD boxed set of selected live performances was released in 2000. A huge free blow-out blues bash in honor of B.B. King, who died May 14, 2015 at the age of 89, is still in the planning stages, will end this year’s proceedings. A flight from the Tri-State Area of NY/NJ/PA is a mere 90 minutes. You can get there from here by car in just over six hours.

For further information, montrealjazzfest.com is a good place to start.

See you there!