DOMi & JDBeck Montreal Jazz Fest review

Montreal Jazz Fest Reviews, Pt.2: The joy of sets

Vance Joy drew huge numbers, Herbie Hancock played huge numbers and two is the magic number with DOMi & JD Beck.

Jazz Fest has crossed the halfway mark, July is in full splendour and it feels a whole lot like summer at Quartiers des Spectacles, where the fun hasn’t stopped since last week.

Here’s what we saw since we last reported on the first few days of the fest. 

Sunday, July 2

Montreal Jazz Fest reviews Vance Joy
Vance Joy at the Montreal Jazz Fest 2023 (Reviews Pt. 2). Photos by Cindy Lopez

Admittedly, I didn’t actually see much of Vance Joy, owing to the fact that the crowd his headlining show on the big stage at Place des Festivals attracted what organizers estimate was the largest number of fest attendees ever gathered at one time in the Quartiers des Spectacles proper.

I didn’t try to count everybody, but I think they’re right. 

Wall to wall to wall people (figuratively speaking) turned up to hear the chisel-jawed Aussie indie-folk rocker do his thing. A radio hitmaker like Vance Joy headlining Jazz Fest was a different choice, but one that paid off. 

If you’re gonna throw a huge, free outdoor festival full that appeals to a diverse crowd interested in discovering new sounds and artists, offering niche international and local musicians alike  a huge opportunity in the spotlight, it’s a classy idea to extend an open invitation to the rest of the population who just wanna hang out downtown and hear a few pop bangers by someone they’ve actually heard of. 

Joy brought his handsome, harmless charm to the masses that came out to wrap up the long weekend with a great time at a gigantic sing along in the heart of the city. 

Monday, July 3

Roni Kaspi Montreal Jazz Fest review
Roni Kaspi at the Montreal Jazz Fest 2023

I only managed to catch a few minutes of Roni Kaspi’s 7 p.m. set at the Rogers stage. And frankly, if I hadn’t had to get where I was going next, I would have been delighted to stick around. 

The 23-year-old Israeli-born drummer and vocalist may have found her first audience on social media, but the music she makes is anything but content. While Kaspi has some work yet to do to truly command a stage, her presence is better in real life than on Instagram, no filter, for sure. Her foundation is built on solid jazz roots, while her music squares convincingly with credible modern pop conventions.    

But alas, I had to dash. It would be rude to show up late for an evening at the table of Herbie Hancock. (For a review of his show at Salle-Wilfrid Pelletier, with openers DOMi & JD Beck, please click here.)

Headed out of Place des Arts just short of 11 p.m., a noticeably tranquil lack of festival din hung graced the atmosphere across Quartier des Spectacles. 

Jean-Michel Blais Montreal Jazz Fest review
Jean-Michel Blais at the Montreal Jazz Fest 2023

Even pedestrians and people hanging out on St. Catherine away from the main stage area seemed to be respecting the silence as the twinkling of Jean-Michel Blais’s classical piano filled the night air. 

Walking up the outdoor stairs of Place des Arts, enjoying the delicate, emotive sound of this concert’s impending conclusion, I thought to myself what a great little coda these few minutes were adding to a near-perfect evening of indoor jazz. 

And when Blais’ final note fell, and the silence of thousands upon thousands of spectators half a block over erupted into a cheerful crowd roar, I felt a sense of deep satisfaction that a wonderful night had been appreciated by all.

Tuesday, July 4

DOMi & JD Beck at the Montreal Jazz Fest 2023
DOMi & JD Beck at the Montreal Jazz Fest 2023

The previous evening’s opening act would become Tuesday’s TD Stage coup de coeur

DOMi & JD Beck doubled down on their Jazz Fest visit, making the big time as outdoor headliner for the night.

This billing also happened to fall one day short of a year since their Club Soda gig, as one of last year’s most buzzed-about, must-see artists — and one of its hottest tickets, as well. On that night, I had actually bounced from Robert Glasper’s Place des Arts concert to go see what all the hype was about. And I didn’t regret it all.

The pair had a huge year, releasing their debut LP, Not Tight, on Anderson .Paak’s Apeshit label with an assist from Blue Note. 

A modern jazz album that features the likes of Hancock, Thundercat and Snoop Dogg may sound like a gimmick. 

But these two charmers are just getting started in the limelight. Between Domi Louna’s doubly-dexeterous key work and Beck’s seemingly innate rhythmic precision, the joint power of their respective talents holds weight. 

A little less chatty, maybe a little more serious about themselves, and perhaps — if I detected accurately seeing them two nights in a row in such vastly different venues — even a little bored with the limitations of their current body of work, Domi and JD set to the business of wowing a gigantic audience by and large unfamiliar with their talent before show time. 

Their fans came out early to get up close, but the rest of that night’s Place des Festivals population just came out to be at Jazz Fest.  

The pianist and drummer make it look easy to be so complex, and that’s what their magic might just be made of. 

What they accomplish as a fundamentally jazz-savvy duo bent on dueling with decimal-precise time signatures is the furthest thing from child’s play. If anything, they’re almost like a pair of F1 champion drivers playing chicken on a collision course they built for shits’n’giggles. 

However, their combined energy, demeanour, daring and creativity, over and above being jaw-dropping, is plain and simple fun. When all is said and done, they’re just two dope players in their early 20s, jamming in front a gigantic audience in Canada because they feel like it. 

Maybe after, as Domi suggested, they’d grab some bagels. No big deal, right? 

Coming up next: Jazz Fest winds down with three more days of fun, but note that Saturday’s scheduled festival-closing headliner Macy Gray will no longer be appearing. Instead, get ready for a hometown family affair with The Brooks feeling right at home on the TD stage,  with special guests Dominique Fils-Aime and Hannorah. (Saturday, July 8, 9:30 p.m., free)

Keepin’ it local tonight, Thursday, July 6,  Club Montreal TD, welcomes the many styles of  Mitch Davis at 7 p.m. and later, at 11 p.m., check the rhyme with SLM. (Free)

Friday, July 7, on the TD Stage, Toronto’s BADBADNOTGOOD have all the room they need to breathe and stretch. (9:30 p.m., free) 

Don’t forget to visit Cult MTL again for our final set of reviews as Jazz Fest wraps for another year. ■

The Montreal International Jazz Festival continues through Saturday, July 8. For a full list of performers, schedules, venues and ticket information, please visit the festival’s website.

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