A Jazz Night in Montreal

A few nights ago something extraordinary happened. Having just moved into a new place, I decided to spend a quiet Friday night at home with my husband and watch a George Harrison documentary. At 10:20, the phone rings and a representative from the Montreal Jazz Festival is telling my hubby we are exclusively invited to attend the Cedar Walton Trio concert, set to begin in 10 minutes!

Let me back up a bit. My husband and I met six years ago while I was shopping for vinyl records at Beatnick in Montreal. We struck up a conversation when he saw me holding an Art Blakey album. We went for coffee and yada yada yada we’ve been together ever since. Cedar Walton was the pianist–arranger for Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers on the album I was holding when my husband and I met. Our budget being tight we decided not to go see Cedar Walton play Friday night, but my hubby wrote a message to the Jazz Fest organizers asking them to forward a thank you message to Walton for playing a part in getting us together. It turns out the organizers were so touched and fascinated by our story that they decided to offer us a free pair of 3rd row tickets to the best jazz show in town. We took a taxi and rushed to the venue to catch 2/3 of the remaining show. What’s even more incredible is the fact that Walton dedicated the encore to us! “This encore is dedicated to our friends we haven’t met yet, Jean and his wife Sarah.” We got to meet Cedar Walton right after the show, took a picture with him, got our vinyl autographed and chatted with him. He was a real class act. “Oh! So you’re the couple,” he said, “good looking people!”

To be honest though, the most extraordinary part of the night was the concert itself. I’ve never witnessed a more perfect jazz ensemble (watch excerpt). It was a classic jazz trio: piano, upright bass and drums. The 78 year-old Walton was a phenomenal leader on piano. This is the man who composed Mosaic, the most perfect jazz song as far as I’m concerned! He’s also played with everyone from Art Blakey to Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan as well as leading his own fine bands.  His sidemen were definitely worthy of sharing the stage with him. David “Happy” Williams was marvelous on bass and Willie Jones III was simply hypnotic on drums. I’ve never seen drum solos like his. It was like seeing Art Blakey or Elvin Jones in action. What a treat!

I still cannot believe this chance encounter with one of jazz’s ultimate greats. I’m forever grateful to the Montreal Jazz Festival for making this opportunity happen. I’m also extremely thankful I get to witness live jazz like that in 2012.


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