Lee Fields Jazz Fest Festival Montreal

REVIEWS: The 2022 Montreal Jazz Fest, pt.2: Love & (no) thunder

Here’s what made the first half of the week special at the Jazz Fest.

Day 4 and 5 of Jazz Fest were not quite night and day. But they were sunny and lovely, and wet and weird, respectively.

And Holly Cole and Dan Aykroyd might get a little pissed if they’re reading.

Here’s what made the first half of the week special at the Fest.

Monday July 4

Janette King Montreal Jazz Fest Festival review reviews 2022
Janette King at the 2022 Montreal Jazz Fest. Photo by Cindy Lopez

It was a beautiful day to be festive at a festival, and part-time Montreal lover Janette King — who recently returned home to Vancouver, but is considering bi-coastal life — gave Monday’s quitting-time crowd downtown something to celebrate at the Rio Tinto stage.

Soul-pop under the hot sun brought a lot of smiles out. The brightest among them may have been King’s, who premiered a live band with an hour of reworked renditions of songs from 2021’s What We Lost LP, alongside a couple of bangin’ new jawns and a cover or two. 

The difference between a talented solo vocalist backed by musicians who are real friends and collaborators, as opposed to a good singer propped up by hired hands, is considerable. King and the homies laced jam appeal in with the electronic detailing that made What We Lost the gem that it is. 

The future looks bright for Janette King, if the smiles shared from the stage to the crowd and back have anything to say about it. As for right now, her re-imagined live performance is a show not to be missed when she’s in a town near you. 

Salin Montreal Jazz Festival Fest 2022 review reviews
Salin at the 2022 Montreal Jazz Fest. Photo by Cindy Lopez

Over at the Club Montreal TD stage at 7 p.m., drummer/composer Salin (a Montrealer with roots in Thailand) kept the love going. 

Again, an obvious kinship between the players bringing Salin’s music to life added an air of unity to the party. Among those players and guests were local vocalists and Kalmunity alum Sarah MK (who had her own show Tuesday that I very sadly missed) and Wayne Tennant, as well as Milla Thyme on bass and rhymes. 

Salin’s music marries complexity with fundamentally feel-good funk and pop conventions, giving her an obvious advantage to win over a Jazz Fest crowd. Being a drummer who leads the band didn’t hurt either. I’d go see Salin at a club show anytime. 

“There’s a lot of worry in the world,” lamented Lee Fields, Monday’s headliner at the TD stage. 

“But I believe in love. Do you believe in love?”

An excited, enraptured crowd answered with a collective cheer. The 72-year-old soul survivor, who has outlived some of the greats to carry on traditions of blues and funk, exudes cool. And not just rock-star-cool, though he has plenty of that. 

Donned in shimmering purple, blue and gold hues and backed by his band the Expressions (as traditionally slick a soul revue ensemble as has ever existed in rhythm and blues history) Fields’ true cool is in his serenity. 

Lee Fields the Expressions Montreal Jazz Fest Festival review reviews 2022
Lee Fields and the Expressions at the 2022 Montreal Jazz Fest. Photo by Cindy Lopez

An elder of the genre whose ship came in later than many of his peers, Lee Fields presents neither as world-weary nor weathered, but as the genuine article — a man in the moment. 

“Are you happy?” he asked repeatedly through his staggeringly energetic 90-minute show. 

In so asking, he seemed to be checking in as much with the crowd as a whole as with each individual soul present. 

It was hard not to be happy with Lee Fields & the Expressions on a beautiful summer Monday at Jazz Fest. Was July 4th a love fest in Montreal? Indeed it was.

Tuesday, July 5

First, all apologies to Holly Cole.

Confusion about the timing of her Theatre Maisonneuve concert led me to miss it. In fact, confusion reigned supreme over the most of my evening. 

Friend and local public relations ne’er-do-well Danny Payne invited me to check out Seattle’s Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, who played the first of two sets at 8 PM on the Pub La Traversée Molson Export stage. Their claim to Payne-fame: their music provides an adequate sound bed for talk spots on his CJLO radio show The Pressure Drop (Mondays at 5 p.m.)

The Trio was cool, for sure. Their smooth, simple covers of soul/funk staples were a pleasure despite the early evening rain, with Lamarr and guitarist (ane dead ringer for an aging Hendrix) Jimmy James exchanging grooves and melodies over the capable drum work of a noticeably younger and whiter stick man, appropriately dubbed “Vanilla Knife.” 

They also provided a great sound bed for me and Danny’s incessant conversation. This ranged in topic from middle-aged parenting to a mutual longing for the band to perform “Maggot Brain,” which led to a drawn-out discussion about P-Funk, Bernie Worrel, and music licensing. 

The only thing that shut us up for a minute was the presence of an octogenarian festival-goer doing an octogenarian version of the Blues Brothers shuffle and whom we briefly considered might actually be Dan Aykroyd. 

“Mr. Aykroyd…sorry, ‘Elwood’?” 

Nothing. We’ll never know. But it did spark a new thread of chatter about occult spiritualism and terrible turn-of-the-century movie sequels that lazily added “2000” to the title of the original.

We parted ways and off I went to hopefully catch the end of Holly Cole.

MonoNeon Montreal Jazz Fest Festival review reviews 2022
MonoNeon at the 2022 Montreal Jazz Fest. Photo by Cindy Lopez

But as I walked up Ste-Catherine toward Place des Arts, my ears perked up to the sound of something remarkably Mothership-y. And ahead of me, what appeared to be a miniature version of Parliament/Funkadelic were busy making lunatic garage-funk, loudly and brashly, fronted by a guy playing a fluorescent yellow bass with a striped sock on its headstock.

Then it dawned on me. Until then, I’d mostly recognized MonoNeon from Flea and Thundercat’s Instagram feeds, where the Memphis-born bassist appeared to be quite intentionally a walking homage to Bootsy Collins.

I would have slapped myself if MonoNeon wasn’t already hogging all the slap for his bass. Instead, I settled in to enjoy the last half hour of his raunchy, distorted, complex funk, accompanied by an equally fuckless-to-give ensemble of happy, agitated musicians having a ball on the Rio Tinto stage, in the rain.

Like, I knew. But I didn’t know. Now I know. Please, please come back, MonoNeon. Your planet needs you.

So again, yeah, uh…sorry, Holly.

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats 2022 Montreal Jazz Fest review reviews festival
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats at the 2022 Montreal Jazz Fest. Photo by Cindy Lopez

And maybe it was the comfortable rain. Maybe it was the sheer good humour of my evening thus far. But I headed over to the big stage open-minded enough to enjoy headliner Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats at face value.

Their gospel-dipped, countrified blues rock fulfilled the promise like an evening-long baptism in mostly-light but-consistent rain for the damp dancers that braved the weather to bring the city’s 42nd Jazz Fest to its midway point. So I enjoyed it, too.

See you again in a couple of days with more feedback from the fest.

See our first batch of 2022 Montreal Jazz Festival reviews here. For more on the Jazz Fest, please visit the festival’s website.

For more music coverage, please visit the Music section.