The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (FIJM), finally returning to its quarters after two editions angered by the pandemic, intends to spoil its audience by inviting the crème de la crème of New World jazz.
A pompous show featuring Californian Kamasi Washington at the Place des Festivals, saxophonist and composer Chelsea Carmichael from the vibrant British jazz scene, Makaya McCraven, Chief Adjuah and brilliant pianist and composer Robert Glasper. What they all have in common is the irresistible need to let jazz flow into the music underground while carrying their vision of an inclusive world, an approach that manages to attract new audiences to the genre. Let’s take the pulse of the new generation.
On the phone from Los Angeles, where he lives, the composer and pianist Robert Glasper assures us that he had not planned to offer a third chapter of his militant project black radiothrough which he fuses jazz with rap, soul and contemporary R&B with a sensitivity and intelligence rarely heard before.
“The first two worked well,” the debut album even won a Grammy in 2013. “But I didn’t want to hit the same nail again, so to speak. I felt I had said what I had to say and that was it. But for years everyone asked me when I was going to release the sequel. There was such a need for new music during the pandemic that I felt compelled to give fans what they were asking for when we were already busy listening to music: music and Netflix. And then it hit me…”
I plan to present a lot of material that I’ve never had the opportunity to play with you as it’s been years since I’ve been to Montreal
Black Radio III was released last February after long months of gestation that saw civil rights issues return to the fore in the United States following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
“For me, George Floyd, the protests – I saw rioting just around the corner from my home in Los Angeles! – it was like fuel. These types of events, whether good or bad, are like sparks that ignite my creation,” says Glasper, who wrote the day before his interview with The dutyAt the big concert she gave a strong performance Juneteenth: A Global Celebration for Freedombroadcast live on CNN.
“I feel like I’ve become one of those people that people in music look to to understand what’s going on around us and that’s why Black Radio III begins with two important texts”, In tunerecited by the poet Amir Sulaiman, and Black Superherowith rappers Killer Mike, BJ the Chicago Kid and Big KRIT And at the end there is an excerpt from a conversation with fellow songwriter and trumpeter Chief Adjuah (formerly Christian Scott).
The vision of a new jazz
In terms of content and form, Robert Glasper leads the way. Ever since his debut around the turn of the millennium, the musician has been closely associated with the rap and R&B scene, performing his solo projects and collaborating with artists such as Bilal, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Erykah Badu and Kendrick Lamar. . “This music lives inside me because I’ve been touring with the masters of jazz, the masters of rap and the masters of R&B. So I think when I do these fusions between styles, I do it with honesty, and it shows. This is my personal story. »
The meeting of the worlds of hip-hop and jazz is not new – Herbie Hancock already presented the album in 1983 future shock understand success rock it, with scratches by DJ GrandMixer DXT. Thus, the dialogue between the actors of these scenes has been going on for 40 years, nourishing creativity and inspiring a new generation of musicians at home too.
“People like Glasper or Kamasi Washington have a very big influence on the musicians here,” assures Gary Tremblay, owner of the jazz club Dièse Onze, Rue Saint-Denis. “During the school year, Wednesdays at home are dedicated to compositions by young Montreal artists. I’m in touch with them, I hear their work: they have the knowledge, they have the talent, they have taste, and they are actually influenced by this new scene. »
A member of the collective Nomadic Massive, composer and rapper Waahli – at a concert at FIJM on July 3rd at 7pm – also says he is influenced by these new scenes on the American and British West Coast, where jazz is being shaped by the young stars Chelsea Carmichael, Shabaka Hutchings, Theon Cross or even Moses Boyd. “A lot of the musicians I meet often have the same references. They are experienced artists who make great music but also understand the culture of rap, reggae and R&B. “What they are doing is refreshing. They bring new ideas to the scene through their musical personalities. »
At least Waahli and Gary Tremblay recognize that when these American and British creators influence the musicians here, they don’t get along so clearly. “We’re not going to lie to each other, the jazz scene here is very traditional, especially with jazz teaching at universities, even though today we’re seeing a changing of the guard and younger teachers are being integrated,” says Tremblay. Being open to crossing also requires more open teachers who encourage students to develop their style in other ways. »
Add to that a demographic reality that explains Montreal’s tentative fusion of jazz and so-called “urban” music, which Waahli understands as follows: “Most of my jazz musician friends who went to McGill University and the University of Montreal are white, blacks are still few in number. »
This new vision of a jazz attuned to rap or, in the UK, African and West Indian roots is not only aesthetic, but also reflects the journey of the people creating this music and their hope that the music will too carries a message.
Speaking of our time
“I remember what Nina Simone said before: ‘How can we be artists without saying our time?’ said Robert Glasper. We need to speak out about what’s happening today and speak out about who we are — and especially for black people, because we’ve been championing the civil rights cause from the beginning. I feel compelled to speak out about our time, and my way of doing this well is through music. »
“What’s interesting, Waahli adds, is that even white graduates are also interested in what school didn’t teach them, which is the black experience that traces the evolution of jazz. Today they find it important to learn and understand it. But it’s true that the same movement that’s emerging in Los Angeles and London isn’t as present in Montreal. Its flight here has not yet been made, but more and more musicians understand and are interested in the movement. »
All the more reason to listen to what Kamasi Washington, Chelsea Carmichael and Robert Glasper have to share with us. “I plan to present a lot of material that I’ve never had the opportunity to play with you, since I haven’t been to Montreal in years,” says Glasper, who promises a mix of his famous covers and unreleased compositions and a selection of tracks from the triptych black radio.
“My program really depends on how I feel about the audience there; I always planned two or three songs at the beginning, but then I watch the audience, try to catch them Mood, and that inspires me for the rest of the concert. Robert Glasper is joined by drummer Chris Dave, bassist Burnis Travis and DJ Jahi Sundance.