"Big City"

by Bob Putignano

Montreal Jazz Fest 2006

My trip to Montreal, albeit shorter than usual this year, was filled with several outstanding performances, highlights being The Family Stone Project, Maceo Parker, Sue Foley, The Neville Brothers, but not David Clayton-Thomas (more about him later.)

I was looking forward to seeing Etta James, but tickets were not available for this reviewer, but it was great to see and chat with Etta's guitarist Bobby Murray at the always wonderful pressroom- which is second to none in the music industry.

The Neville Brothers were on fire and stormed though a far more traditional NOLA set than I have seen them perform in quite some time. Kudos to the Festival production personnel who had video and audio monitors setup at strategic vantage points- far from the stage, which made it possible to see and hear the Neville's over the top performance from blocks away from the stage.

Ottawa based Canadian Sue Foley as a trio (I missed seeing her regular pianist Graham Guest,) also delivered a very spirited set, and was well received by the enthusiastic crowd as she performed tracks from her latest Ruf Records CD "New Used Car" plus several tributes from Ruf's "Blues Guitar Women."

Maceo Parker was (as expected) oh so funky! The James Brown graduate obviously learned volumes from the Godfather of Soul, and has been taken it to another more sophisticated level for decades now. It was so great to see old & young fans dancing & partying to the solid groove, which further proves that this music is so elastic and timeless, and its one of the rarest of roots art-forms that spans and consistently satisfies many generations or music fans, and will probably do so- till our passing years. Catch this originator/pioneer of the Soul-Funk groove, as these guys are not getting any younger, and let's hope that younger musicians carry on the Funk torch that Maceo, Fred Wesley, Pee Wee Ellis, and all the disciples of JB created.

I had my doubts about the opening band for Maceo who called themselves the "Family Stone Experience" but they featured three Sly Stone original members (including Sister Rose Stone & Jerry Martini) and each and every new additional member performed at a extremely high level of quality, musicianship, with outstanding arrangements of all the classic Sly Stone tunes. The crowd loved the performance, as did I. Should this band roll into your town, do not hesitate to check them out. I do suspect that the Family Stone Project will tour the Casino circuit, as the musical demographics would work perfectly for the gambling baby boomers, but this band is far better than your typical classic hit cover band.

Speaking of cover bands, David Clayton-Thomas was by far the biggest disappointment of the festival, and basically strolled through his musical past. Even with a six piece horn section- Thomas and his band generated very little excitement, and Thomas often sounded flat and at times off key. Furthermore: Mr. Thomas did not make this NYC reviewer happy, when he stated on stage- "that the guys he used on the early Blood Sweat & Tears recordings, were just NYC session player hired guns, and those hired guns did not have the passion of his current band" WHAT? I think David Clayton-Thomas needs to re-read the BS&T bio, or check his memory banks, as it was those so called NYC hired guns of BS&T who hired David Clayton-Thomas, only after the departure of that other BS&T founder, that being Al Kooper. By the way, BS&T's first 1968 recording "Child Is Father to the Man" without David Clayton Thomas- continues to outsell any of the BS&T recordings that Mr. Thomas was on. Put that in your pipe Mr. David Clayton Thomas who obviously ticked me off, and should have realized that their may have been a few nearby New York City visitors in the crowd- geesh!

Keep checking www.MontrealJazzFest.com for the 2007 lineup, as I am sure you will not be disappointed, and I hope to be back next year, and continue my reports about the Montreal Jazz Festival.

Bob Putignano, www.SoundsofBlue.com

Until next time.......

Bob Putignano www.SoundsofBlue.com

Bob Putignano
Radio Host WFDU's "Sounds of Blue"
President of the NY Blues and Jazz Society