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Friday, July 7, 2017

Buddy Guy's F-bombs, Afro-Cuban piano explosion, the Pizzarelli family and more

ROLLING: Acrobats, street performers and musicians entertain the crowd during the 11-day International Jazz Festival in Montreal.


MONTREAL -- Buddy Guy, often called the greatest living electric blues guitarist, will turn 81 at the end of the month, so you can imagine my surprise when he dropped several F-bombs during his concert last week.

At the 38th International Jazz Festival, Guy and his band headlined a triple bill that included fellow American Charlie Musselwhite, the electric blues harmonica player.

Guy performed until midnight, at one point walking the long aisles of the nearly 3,000-seat Salle Wilfred-Pelletier, stopping to play his cordless electric guitar for my wife and other audience members, and handing out Buddy Guy guitar picks.

On stage, his long blues runs on the guitar were punctuated by F-this and F-that as he related major points in his career, and how bluesman Muddy Waters discovered him in Chicago.

Michael Bourne, who was broadcasting from Montreal for Newark-based WBGO-FM (Jazz 88), said in an email he can't play Guy's live recordings on air anymore for fear of the F-bombs.

VIDEO: Bluesman Buddy Guy left the stage and walked the aisles playing his cordless electric guitar. To see the video, click here.

11-day festival

Guy was arguably the biggest name in blues and jazz at an 11-day festival that lacked its usual stellar lineup.

At past festivals in this French-speaking city, I heard jazz singers Gregory Porter, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves and Jamie Cullum, but all of them were absent this year.

Even Canada's own jazz pianist and singer, Diana Krall, was a no-show.

BLUE EYES AND BILLY: On July 3, the John Pizzarelli Quartet and jazz singer Catherine Russell responded to a roar of approval from the audience with three encores. They performed songs associated with Frank Sinatra and Billy Holiday.
ALL IN THE FAMILY: On July 4, Pizzarelli was joined by his wife, singer Jessica Molaskey; and daughter, Medeline Pizzarelli, 19, right, an accomplished singer and guitarist. They performed songs of Paul McCartney and Joni Mitchell. 
VIVA CUBA: On July 2, we managed to get two balcony seats at the sold-out concert of Roberto Fonseca, another in the line of great Afro-Cuban pianists from the biggest island in the Caribbean.

More highlights

I also enjoyed the explosive Afro-Cuban jazz piano of Roberto Fonseca, and two concerts by American jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli, who sang and backed singer Catherine Russell one night, and his wife and daughter the next evening.

Of course, the Pizzarelli family is full of talent, including patriarch Bucky Pizzarelli, 91, the American jazz guitarist who was born in Paterson, N.J.

I especially liked John Pizzarelli's recollections of his first meetings with Frank Sinatra and Paul McCartney.

"Eat something, you don't look so good," he recalled Sinatra telling him.

The festival ends on Saturday, when 30 free and ticketed concerts are scheduled.

FREE ELVIS: On July 1, when we couldn't get tickets to the sold-out Gipsy Kings concert, we settled for a free performance by Les Bluebell Sisters' Heartbreak Hotel -- the group sang Elvis Presley songs.
BE-BOP QUARTET: We did better at another free performance, this one by The Silveresque Quartet from Universite Laval, and one of the band's guests, a talented singer whose name I didn't catch, below.
SO LAST CENTURY: Festival organizers boast that two-thirds of the 500 concerts over the 11 days are free, but this group at Club Jazz Casino, above, turned me off with music that sounded at least a century old.