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Jazz Music

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Festival International de Jazz de Montréal
(Montréal Jazz Festival)
Métro Place-des-Arts
Montréal, Québec Canada
June 26th to July 6th 2014
1-855-299-3378 (in North America)
www.montrealjazzfest.com

The last night of Montréal Jazz Festival, officially known as Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, closed on Sunday after eleven days of free and outdoor concert events, ticketed attractions, and lots and lots (and lots) of roaming spectators across the grounds at Place des Arts in Montréal.

The 35th edition of this annual summer festival did not disappoint. The lineup of free and outdoor, or ticketed (with fees) events included a range of artists that were not only rooted in jazz but meandered into the other usual genres such as pop, hip hop and rock. This year’s participants had heavy hitters such as Cassandra Wilson, Angélique Kidjo, Keith Jarrett, married couple Elvis Costello and Diana Krall (who performed individual events), Tony Bennett, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, and Mulatu Astatke; Canadians Rufus Wainwright, Nikki Yanovsky, Coeur de Pirate, Barenaked Ladies, and Michael Bublé; and contemporaries represented by Snoop Dogg, Of Montreal, St. Vincent, frequent participant Ben Harper, Bonobo, and Deltron 3030 who closed the festival with a free outdoor concert.

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Another year, another 10 days of Montréal Jazz Festival (Festival International de Jazz de Montréal). Tonight was hot, humid, and slightly cooled down after a short stint of rain but the weather did not deter the bustle of people at the festival. Per usual, the grounds around Place des Arts were swamped with families, young people, dating couples, and curious visitors of all ages to watch buskers perform circus acts and the many free outdoor concerts held each day.

The festival is the largest jazz festival in the world, boasting 3,000 artists from 30 countries with more than 1,000 concerts, most of which are free. I was lucky to catch The Dynamites & Charles Walker at the Scène TD de la place des Festivals stage on the west side of Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal along rue Jeanne-Mance and Avenue du Président-Kennedy. Watching the numerous band members supporting the charismatic Walker was simply fantastic. What a voice Walker has — he reminds me very much of the classic soul-blues singers such as Bobby “Blue” Bland (R.I.P.) as he swaggered in his full suit, sweat beads accumulating on his forehead. The jacket soon came off, however, with the crowds roaring in approval in the hot summer heat.

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Happy Birthday, Miles Davis!

The notable jazz musician died in 1991 but if he were alive today he would have turned 87 years old. The song in the video, Jeru, appears in Davis’ classic album, Birth of Cool. Birth of Cool, first issued in 1957, was one of the first jazz albums that I purchased and listened to in its entirety, introducing me beyond vocal jazz masters such as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, whom I already loved.

The trumpet player and composer was prolific during the fifty or so years he was active and continues to influence musicians today. Click on the above video for a mellow and easy going tune for a Sunday afternoon.

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If you are a student or someone who likes to work with music, you are in good company. I love music, I played years of classical piano (though not very well), and I love discovering artists both old and new. I once had much more enthusiasm about visiting live music concerts, but nowadays I rely on friends, music streaming services, and music review websites to lead me to new gems. Either way, I am that kind of person who always has ear buds popped into my ears: On my commute to class, working out, studying, and at home doing chores.

Hence, I started this series, Things That Go Thump in the Night, for the purpose of sharing some music favourites to readers and anyone who should stop by in this jungle that is The Internet. The musicians and tracks that I have listed are specifically ones that I lean on for work purposes, since most of my time these days is devoted to school — and this time often runs into the wee hours of the night. I love playlists, and am sort of a nerdy, secret DJ for building soundtracks to various aspects of my life. This means that I have a playlist for when I am happy, when I feel like #@*!, for running, for less intense exercises, when I want to relax, and so on. I also have a playlist that I play for studying purposes. These tracks are usually mainly instrumental, are not too slow in tempo (so that I do not fall asleep face forward in the library), and are of various genres to keep things interesting.

I sometimes get requests from friends for music recommendations for studying purposes. I always end up making these friends a burned CD with various selections from this study music playlist, which leads me to designing the CD cover and case, old school style. So I thought, why not make a few blog posts about this playlist? And here we are, at part four of this music series.

So far, I have covered three lists of favourite music for productivity. Part one covered the electronic genre, part two for alternative music, and jazz for part three. Part four of this segment is an array of different genres and musicians which I did not include in any of the earlier posts for various reasons, mainly because I wanted to minimize the length of each blog post. Hence, here I am covering some other great music resources: Sigur Rós, Phoenix, The Herbaliser, Fantastic Plastic Machine, and Keith Jarrett.

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Today is the third anniversary of fashion designer Alexander McQueen’s untimely death. If there is a silver lining to this sad event it is Björk’s rendition of Gloomy Sunday, which she sang during McQueen’s funeral in London, U.K. Since the Hungarian composer Rezső Seress penned the song in 1933, many notable singers have covered the song including Billie Holiday and Elvis Costello. However, it is Björk’s version that I find the most beautiful and haunting; I feel like the song was made for her powerful and elastic vocal style. What a great tribute to an immensely talented designer and innovator.

Now that it is January, most of us are back to work, back to school, or at least, back to regular programming. My iPhone is plugged back to my favourite instrumental playlists and I am back haunting my preferred study spots in the city. I am also working on my resolutions for the year, but more on that later.

When it comes to my music playlists for work and productivity, I like variety in types of genres to keep things interesting. However, I also require a bit of repetitiveness in terms of the tracks so that I can keep my focus on my tasks. Which brings me to instrumental jazz music. I was first truly introduced to jazz when I was in my late teens and held a part-time job at a music store in Toronto. I was already trained in classical piano but had abandoned it despite my parents’ grievances, and the freedom out of the confines of Chopin and Liszt fuelled me to discover everything else outside nocturnes and sonatas.

I was first drawn to the songstresses Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, which lead me to discover their non-vocal counterparts in swing music. Benny Goodman was one of my favourite discoveries; his clarinet produce playful and bright tunes that got me hooked into finding more gems. I searched further into the jazz genre and I branched out to the jazz-funk melodies of Herbie Hancock’s more recent productions. And from there I found Goodman and Hancock’s contemporaries, including Robert Glasper, Antibalas, and Mulatu Astatke. So here is a listing of my favourite jazz musicians that successfully accompany coffee, late nights, and deadlines in my work and study life.

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It is the end of December and I keep forgetting that it is also the end of the year. So to commemorate the last days of 2012, I have put together a list of several music favourites that is a bit of an atypical listicle instead of a traditional end of year music blog post. Here are the musicians and their albums that were inspiring, addictive, and my favourites for 2012.

ALBUM THAT MAKES YOU BELIEVE IN MUSIC AGAIN

Grimes was everywhere in 2012 and for a good reason. Her fourth effort since 2010, Visions, is utterly fantastic and hypnotic, aptly described as “witch house.” Visions sounds like no other album before but with its lo-fi dance beats and girlish vocals it is still catchy and, in my opinion, very accessible. I can honestly say that her work makes me have hope that talented musicians can still reach the masses without the requirements of booty shaking and Nickelback replications. Other than Nightmusic (video above), also check out Genesis and its wacky Japanese anime and samurai inspired video.

BEST ALBUM FOR PRODUCTIVE DAYS

I love finding musicians and their albums that serve as background music for work days, and Burial makes quite a few great tracks for this purpose. His Kindred EP came out earlier this year with three strong tracks, and Loner (above) is the highlight of this issue. The Mercury Prize nominated artist has two full albums and several EPs, including collaborations with Thom Yorke and Four Tet, and as I am big fans of both Radiohead and Four Tet I am not surprised that the resulting works are solid.

Listen to more tracks and read my previous posts about music for productivity in these November and December posts: Things That Go Bump in the Night Part One (electronic tracks) and Part Two (alternative tracks). Look out for Part Three for instrumental jazz music and Part Four, to conclude the series, in the new year.

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