Feeding the Beast at the Montreal International Jazz Festival

Jul 11, 2017

Especially at the finale of a great concert, an audience can become what I call The Beast. Insatiable.  Ravenous. Wanting more. And more. And more.

Artists often have an encore plotted, often playing the greatest of the greatest hits. But sometimes encores can become anti-climactic.

The best encore I remember through the years at the jazzfest happened after Elvin Jones and McCoy Tyner played with their groups. For an encore, everything but the piano was pulled off the stage, and drums rolled in on a platform. McCoy and Elvin played "Naima." Beautifully. Rhapsodically. And then they whipped up a storm! McCoy's lightning. Elvin's thunder. I was awestruck. And the audience howled for more.

"No More!" I actually shouted. I could not imagine music anymore thrilling than that one encore, and I scooted out.

Thomas Morgan and Bill Frisell
Credit courtesy the artists

The best encore I enjoyed this year happened at the Gesu. Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan played intimate guitar/bass duets, a true musical kaleidoscope from a Monk tune to a Sinatra standard to a hoedown and then some, all as if telepathtically. Frisell said, in a recent DownBeat interview, that Morgan somehow knows where the music and going, plays ahead and meets him.  After about an hour non-stop, they played "What The World Needs Now Is Love," deconstructing and reconstructing the melody, tossing in echoes of Wes Montgomery's thumb, variation after variation of one lovely song, one of the festival's most memorable highlights for me. And the audience wanted more.

"How could they have anymore to play?" I wondered, and they came back to play "Goldfinger" So unexpected. So quirky. So cool. And the plug of Frisell's guitar pulled out. He cursed. He laughed. He plugged back into the theme of 007's greatest villain, all the cooler counterpointed by one of the most haunting songs of Bond, "You Only Live Twice." And the audience wanted more.

I scooted out — but then, curious to hear if Frisell and Morgan could actually have more to play, I came back, and they played an exquisite "Moon River."

So ... sometimes you get more ... and more ... and more ...