While the lineup for free shows at Jazz Fest is pretty tasty this year (see HERE for our picks), the paid shows are the stuff of legends. And by legend, well, I don’t need to tell anyone to see Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, or Diana Ross. However, there are plenty of other paid shows worth seeing that are a little less obvious.
Here’s some of the shows we’d gladly shell out for.
Home Grown Secret
The pipes of local Montreal girl makes good Nikki Yanofsky are not to be trifled with. Yanofsky started performing at the age of 12 at the jazz fest in 2006 (did she make a deal with the devil?) and now the young sprout is under the wing of Quincy Jones. Since, she’s been touring the world, recording for Disney, and the Olympics, but also doing a few good things too, like creating scholarships at McGill and raising funds for Haiti and charitable organization that aims to reduce youth violence, LOVE (Leave Out Violence Everywhere). However, when it comes to singing, she’s charismatic with an accessible group of songs. She’s also a lot more grounded than her less-talented, diva-esque child prodigies peers who tend to rely on overt sexuality to get noticed. Niki Yanofsky plays at Metropolis (59 St Catherine E) on June 27. 8:30 p.m. $32-67.
For a real improvisational jazz experience, drum-lovers will be in awe of the skills of Joey Baron, who is joining up with not-so-shabby-either bassist Gary Peacock and pianist Marc Copland. These guys are the kind of musicians who make it look easy to be great and then show how much further they can push it. Instrument-transcendentalists, one might say. They’ve played with all the greats, and together form one of those temporary powerhouses. Now This: Gary Peacock, Marc Copland, and Joey Baron play at the Gesu (1200 Bleury) on June 28. 10:30 p.m. $48.
Of all the shows I’m excited to see, Quantic is my pick o’ them all. Quantic is Will Holland and Mr. Holland wears quite a few different hats, performing solo as well as the Quantic Soul Orchestra, Flowering Inferno, and Quantic and the Combo Barbaro. They’re all solid, a mix of soul, cumbia, reggae, jazz, but also that down-tempo electro sound that sizzles when mixed with anything. Quantic plays Club Soda (1225 St Laurent) on June 29. 11 p.m. $30.
Growing New Fruit From Old Seeds
With striking looks and Medusa-esque hair, it’s hard to believe that Valerie June is our swamp-n-bluegrass pick. But give this little lady a guitar and she’ll light up a room with her fresh take on folk. She brings the south up north to us with a rootsy tunes and smart lyrics. Her music feels as if it taps into old roots, but is so sincere, lovely, and original that June is harvesting a new fruit. Valerie June plays L’Astral (305 St. Catherine W) On July 1. 9 p.m. $39.
The Punker Side of Jazz?
Okay, so maybe the label “jazz” is quite possibly one of the last labels that leaps to mind when thinking of the Violent Femmes (country, gospel, punk… sure… but jazz???). However, they’re here and it’s jazz fest time, so they’re in the line up. If you were born in the 70s and slightly left of centre, chances are Blister in the Sun was an anthem at some point in life. Don’t confuse their simple songs with lack of skill. Lead singer Gordon Gano is a talented multi-instrumentalist. I don’t know where I heard it, but I once heard that he’s a lefty, but is known to play right handed to get a dirtier, grittier sound. Now how totally jazz is that? The Violent Femmes play Metropolis (29 St. Catherine E) on July 3. 8:30 p.m. $43.
Classy, Classic, and Charismatic
Jill Barber is simply lovely and has the ability to enchant with her grace and class. She’s poised in the sepia-toned grace of yesteryear. Her songs can be wistful, teasing, sultry, and even otherworldly – but all will have a sense of cabaret grandeur with a few zingers thrown in to bring everyone back to earth. Jill Barber plays at Club Soda (1225 St Laurent) on July 4. $45.
What’s Always On My MP3? Now You Know
DJ/producer Simon Green (aka Bonobo) is the king of NPR outros. I hear snatches of his music behind more public radio shows than I can keep track of (and, to be clear, they play really cool, moody, evocative music on NPR – this is in no way meant as an insult). The reason I can eardrum a bar or two of Bonobo’s music is because his downtempo albums have been the soundtrack to my life for the last few years. On his records, he plays every instrument with loving precision. He’s been touring the world with the North Borders for a while now, so the band he’s assembled should be tight with Green leading from the bass. Bonobo plays Metropolis (59 St. Catherine E) on July 5. $43.
Montreal Jazz Fest takes place until July 5. Schedule can be found HERE.