1999: 20 Years – Another Milestone!
In spite of a strike by Place des Arts' stage technicians that threatened to
disrupt the organization of the 20th Festival International de Jazz de Montréal,
the stars were aligned and the music gods were smiling down on Montréal as
the Festival prepared to celebrate its anniversary with a special nod to the vocal
arts and the music of Louisiana.
Kicking off the festivities was
Cassandra Wilson, accompanied by singer and multi-instrumentalist
and British bassist
Dave Holland. In a tribute to Miles Davis, the Mississippi-born
contralto with the warm, textured voice delivered a superb concert inspired by her
most recent album, Traveling Miles.
The year 1999 also marked the creation of the Ella Fitzgerald Award in recognition
of the improvisational originality and quality of repertoire of a jazz singer renowned
on the international scene. Receiving the inaugural award that year was American
singer Diane Schuur,
who performed alongside Canadian trumpet titan Maynard Ferguson.
An impressive lineup of acclaimed artists descended on the city for this celebration
of jazz vocals. In addition to Schuur, American Patricia Barber and Canadian Diana Krall appeared at the 1999
Festival, with Krall performing excerpts from her album When I Look In Your Eyes
flanked by a 30-piece orchestra.
Also in 1999, Brazilian music icon
Caetano Veloso made his first and only appearance at the
Festival. Performing with some 15 musicians, the co-founder of Tropicalism
treated fans to some sublime musical moments. And in another first, singer-songwriter
– the little prince of Swedish spleen – brought his sultry voice to
Closing out the 1999 Festival with a concert dedicated to the great Ella Fitzgerald were Montrealer Vic Vogel and his big band, accompanied
by celebrated female vocalists
Ranee Lee and
Two Reasons to Celebrate
This special edition of the Festival coincided with the 100th anniversary of the
birth of jazz in New Orleans. To honour the music of Louisiana, therefore, a southern-style
brass band toured the Festival site daily and Cajun-themed cruises were offered
twice a day on the St. Lawrence River. As part of the Louisiane en fête series,
the Festival hosted several artists from Louisiana, among them Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys and
The Original Pin
Stripe Brass Band.
Also worthy of mention are the two magical shows given by Norwegian artists Jan Garbarek and Nils Petter Molvaer. Garbarek's
special performance at the Notre-Dame Basilica marked another milestone in Festival
history. Flanked by the famed Hilliard Ensemble (an early music
ensemble), the brilliant saxophonist performed excerpts from his popular 1993 album,
Officium. Molvaer, for his part, was making his second
appearance at the Festival, the first coming a year earlier, when the great electro-jazz
trumpeter presented his album, Khmer.