Attended my first concert of this year's Montreal Jazz Festival. Doing the first part for Ray Charles was Ms. Lizz Wright accompanied by a trio of piano, bass and drums: very tasty overall, with great singing. A sweet, round voice, great power when needed, does not "oversing" like pop "singers", she hits notes just so and swoops up or down the range ever so slightly to give great colour to her interpretations. Well worth hearing. She has one record out on Verve. Strangely enough AMG has hear listed at various points as R&B and Rock. She seemed almost all jazz to my hears with one song squarely Gospel based. Makes Norah Jones sound like a vocal duffer, if there is such a thing.
I had never heard Ray Charles live and was not disappointed. He performed with his big band and, for the last portion of his show, with his back-up singers. What can I say about such a legend? He can still perform and cast a spell. His voice has not aged in any significant way. The performance was highly professional (did anyone have a doubt?). I would normally say a little too slick, but hey, that would be quibbling. Had bought the cheapest ticket and so was in one of the last rows of the Salle Wilfrid Pelletier, the sound was good but the volume a bit low, due to distance. Anyone playing their system at that level would have no problem with efficient speakers and a low powered SET or whatever. For my taste, I prefer the volume higher and the sound staging to be more front-of-the-hall. Again I confirmed (at least to myself), that a jazz trio with a singer produces more the "individual voices" of which many audiophiles are so enamoured and a larger orchestra (over twenty pieces) gives a much more unified sound field or aural landscape than a lot of audiophiles seem to go for. From the back of that hall, I convinced myself again that the recreation of ambiance (the missing ingredient in normal audio reproduction as far as I am concerned) requires more than two channels. Again convinced myself that there is nothing like the live event. Still like to drift away to another dimension while listening at home though. Anyone within striking distance of Montreal should make an effort to attend the Festival, where you will find great concerts for free and where you may still be able to find tickets for some of the paying events. I have tickets for three more events: Otis Rush and Jimmie Vaughan (I'm going for Rush since I have seen JV a number of times already), Duke Robillard with Jay McShann and the Lee Konitz Nonet, plus all the free concerts I can attend. Lots of other good stuff, but have to keep some money to feed my family. Good day.