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Here is my shortlist for paid shows at the 40th annual Montreal International Jazz Festival. I listened to samples of some 190 artists, narrowing that down to 40 acts, then refining it to this longlist of 20 artists.

A forewarning on musical taste
Many would argue that the Festival has strayed too far from the traditions of jazz, but I say that stretching the genre and integrating other styles can only draw people closer to jazz music itself. Far from an abandonment of its roots, the Festival is an open invitation to embrace the genre.

My taste bends toward the outer limits of jazz into electronic, funk, rock, alternative, Latin, “world music” and hip hop. More traditional jazz aficionados are welcome to throw shade at my omissions and blues fans will feel left out.

Big names like The Strumbellas, Pink Martini and Jeremy Dutcher, Nora Jones and many others did not make my longlist, while I’m very excited about others including Lee Fields, Cinematic Orchestra and Mercury Rev. (First Aid Kit unfortunately had to cancel for health reasons.)

The Longlist

(*astrix indicates a definite inclusion in my shortlist)

*Dummy: 25 Years of Trip Hop
An homage to trip hop, the silky cool gener of the 1990s that continues to evolve today.

Alan Parsons
The 11-time Grammy Award nominee and sound engineer on the Beatles’ Let It Be and Abbey Road albums and on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon – is in Montreal to present The Secret, his latest album.

I was introduced to this funky rock band in 2013 and it’s exciting to welcome them to Montreal.

Nebraska Project
Bruce Springsteen’s classic album is reimagined.

The Toronto-born artist brings cool indie rock and good summer vibes.

Bebel Gilberto

Classical, sensual bossa nova infused with new sensibilities and creative ventures, this is a taste of summer. Worth going to hear the classic “Samba da Bencao” alone.  

Beverly Glenn Copeland
The great artist, a trans man, known to many as a character on the beloved TV show Mr. Dress Up, offers a singular vocal jazz-folk, accented by his classical training.

*Cinematic Orchestra

If I attend one paid show, this would be it. After a 12 year haitus, the band return with To Believe, seven sublime orchestral pieces, to which Moses Sumney and rapper Roots Manuva lend their voices.

*Connan Mockasin
I like the music and would go for the sheer spectacle. One of the more interesting acts at the Festival, Connan is known for bending genres and collaborating with artists like James Blake, MGMT, and Charlotte Gainsbourg and Radiohead and Neil & Liam Finn (Crowded House), the surrealist musician continues assembling a cult-like following around his solo material alongside Jassbusters and life with Bostyn ’n Dobsyn episodes.

Francophone hip hop artist from Montreal with politically conscious lyrics like this scathing track, Combien de morts, about racial profiling, calling out the police for the death of Freddy Villaneuva and others.

Lucioles with guests: Marie-Pierre Arthur et Lisa Iwanycki-Moore
A jazz tribute to Nirvana that should draw a solid base of the grunge band’s Montréal fans.

*Lee Fields
What an incredible voice! Fields had a big impact on me in the early 2010s. “An icon of soul-funk, Lee Fields is celebrating his 50th year in music and the 10th anniversary of his band, the Expressions in 2019. In April, they’ll release their 7th album, It Rains Love, at once a tribute to the bandleader’s conjugal happiness and a response to the currently gloomy global mood.”

*Mercury Rev
This retro pop-psych band had a big influence on me in the late 2000s and I have vivid memories of listening to them alongside the Pixies on my regular jogs through a lush park in Swansea, Wales.

The famous London trip hop band will be a trip down memory lane for fans of Massive Attack and Portishead, but they are fresh and enjoyable for new audiences too.

Omara Portuondo
A legendary Cuban jazz figure of the Buena Vista Social Club, Omara will celebrate  her life and 70 years music during a farewell tour that will stop in our city.

Peter Frampton
One of the great rock legends of all time, Frampton has played with the likes of George Harrison, David Bowie, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ringo Starr, Stevie Nicks, Greg Allman, Ringo Starr, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Steve Miller Band, and plenty more. In 2014 he was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame. If his Tiny Desk show didn’t bring you to tears, this gig surely will.

PJ Morton
The R&B music video for “When we first began” oozes love and charm, reminding me of Stevie Wonder while providing ample reason to make the longlist cut.

Richard Reed Parry
Arcade Fire may be taking a well-deserved break, but musician Richard Reed Parry isn’t sitting around idle. Quiet River of Dust Vol.2 presents his solo experimental approach, where the sounds of nature, Japanese traditions and Buddhism blend with Anglo-Saxon folklore. This will be an immersive show with 360 degree projections in the SAT, one of my favourite Montreal venues.

*Rodrigo Amarante
High on the longlist, guaranteed shortlist and known for creating the credits song of the Narcos series, the Brazilian singer-songwriter combines Brazilian saudade, tropicália and alternative rock.

*Steel Pulse
Legendary figures in roots reggae, Steel Pulse has been fighting the negativity of modern times and documenting it head-on with brilliant tracks. Their new opus, Mass Manipulation, marks the return of the band as it’s their first studio album in 15 years.

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