Seeing musicians from your ‘home’ scene playing at a prestigious international festival feels a little bit like watching your team playing away from home — the travelling support may be down on regular attendance but it’s a different sort of pride when you watch them win over new fans.
The Montreal International Jazz Festival’s UK Marathon began earlier in the day with a Phronesis and Gwilym Simcock double-bill. If that was the concert hall strain of the showcase of British talent, Club Soda was hosting the grittier ‘club’ side of affairs. Binker and Moses restarted marathon proceedings and did so with unfettered, wailing saxophone lines and meticulous stick-clicking drums. This is a London sound that is still not fully definable; the duo are well-versed in different genres and they intermingle in a set anticipated by the release of their second album, Journey To The Mountain of Forever. Moreover, Binker and Moses do well with crowds because they play with uncompromising passion and a ‘no filter, no nonsense’ approach that is present even in their stage patter. ‘I’ll do some banter,’ says Golding off mic, ‘I don’t speak French…’ he begins (the crowd applauds his unpretentious honesty).
Next up, Portico Quartet. The set is a bit of a journey as the sound starts firmly in the place where they established their name and then cross-fades into a far fresher arena representative of an entirely different scene. Opening with ‘Endless’ and ‘Ruins’, melodic sax lines (Jack Wylie) are underpinned by the mellow strains of bass and hang (Milo Fitzpatrick and Keir Vine ). The set moves in and around these spacey soundscapes for a while before Duncan Bellamy (drums) announces ‘two new ones’ and the set really starts to motor. Of these, ‘Objects To Place In A Tomb‘ has a pulse and lighting design that indicate this is a track to dance to. Taken from new album Art in the Age of Automation (out on Gondwana in August) these tracks showcase an evolving sound that occupies similar territory to electronica and world music. It’s a festival sound that wouldn’t be out of place at Glastonbury or a late-night show in any buzzing city.
This was a double-bill with range that provoked a appreciative response. What was especially pleasing from a UK perspective is that both acts represented more than just their own music: they were a beacon for a lively, mutating UK scene. It was a good day for British jazz in Montreal. Put this one down as an away win.
Festival international de Jazz de Montréal runs from 28 June to 8 July. You can view the whole programme here.