‘Y’all like funk music?’ asks Alan Prater. You’d better hope the answer is yes, because it’s the dish of the day on the huge outdoor TD Stage at the Montreal International Jazz Festival.
The Rue Jeanne-Mance is full to the brim with Montrealians who are ready to get funky with one of the home-town bands of the festival. After an opening instrumental track that gets everyone into the groove, Prater puts his trombone to one side and picks up the mic. His rasping, soul-inflected vocals elevate The Brooks from a funk band to a party band. The audience follow his swagger into the evening and the groove is all around us.
Backed by a horn-section akin to the New Power Generation horns, The Brooks have an incredibly slick sound and set-up. They are tight and after opening exchanges, a 3-way brass-off ensues at the front. Hichem Khalfa rips up some excellent lines on the trumpet and Sebastien Grenier consolidates his local reputation as a master of the saxes. Most recent album Pain and Bliss came out last year and the tunes sound funky and fresh. Moreover, The Brooks know how to work a crowd. When a crowd cheer doesn’t quite meet his standards, a simple ‘you sound like Toronto’ is enough to provoke a decibel-busting response. ‘Well that’s more like it Montreaaal.’
One of the most striking aspects of this festival is the massive, free, outdoor shows that they put on in the Place-des-Arts. These moments feel like a moment when the festival puts on something to show how much it loves the city and the city turns up to say that they love them right back. Looking out into the mass of assembled people, The Brooks play ‘LastChance’ and Alan sings ‘I see us walking together, talking together, singing together’. It feels very apt, very welcoming, very Montreal.
Festival international de Jazz de Montréal runs from 28 June to 8 July. You can view the whole programme here.