When there’s a big ugly snowstorm on the second day of spring, the only thing to do is eat, drink, and listen to music. So Saturday night a friend and I headed to Upstairs Jazz Bar and Grill where Misses Satchmo helped us escape the permanent polar vortex, taking us away musically to a prohibition-era speakeasy where Louis Armstrong was king and Cab Calloway his partner in musical crime.
Misses Satchmo has been on the Montreal jazz scene for a few years now. A quartet comprised of three women (thus the “Misses”) and a dude on drums, the group aims to recreate the music of Louis Armstrong (whose nickname was Satchmo, thus the “Satchmo”) with a modern flavour. Their enthusiasm is infectious, and the full house at Upstairs responded in kind
Led by the charming Lysandre Champagne on trumpet and vocals (like the founding father of jazz himself), the group presented a set that not only brought the musical past to life, but also, as Lysandre explained, told a sort of love story, appropriate for (an admittedly elusive) spring.
After a few laid-back tunes, things started to warm up with classics like “The Man From Harlem,” “Everybody Loves My Baby,” “Mac the Knife,” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” It was fun to hear a few less frequently performed numbers, like “Canal Street Blues” and “As Long as You Live You’ll be Dead if You Die.”
Ms. Champagne has a sweet voice and is obviously in love with this music and capable of conveying that love to the audience; however I would say her trumpet playing is stronger than her singing. On piano, Maude Alain-Cendreau does her part to swing the beat, throwing in some stride and boogie-woogie where appropriate. Her playing on “Yesterdays” was lovely, and she really got going on “Canal Street Blues.” The double bassist (unfortunately the group hasn’t updated their website since 2013 so I can’t provide her name! Or was she standing in for the regular bassist?) had the walking bass lines down pat and contributed some great solos. But for me the star of the show was the drummer, Marton Maderspach. For the most part perfectly understated, his vocal scatting stole the spotlight a couple of times, and I love what he did in “Write Myself a Letter,” where he used the sides of the snare as a woodblock (in the early days of recording a woodblock was often the only percussion used, as the technology had not advanced enough to be able to record the entire drum kit), which also had the effect of sounding like someone tap dancing. Maderspach is also quite an adept whistler.
Misses Satchmo puts on a tight, fun, well-rehearsed, retro show. If that’s your thing, I highly recommend checking them out.
I’d like to add a little shout-out to the hospitable folks at Upstairs—the service at the bar was impeccable, the reasonably priced food very yummy, and the drinks there always hit the spot. Now if only spring would show up…
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