Preview: Aretha Franklin at Montreal Jazz Festival (NB 23rd May Update)



UPDATE 23rd May. Following an announcement by the Ottawa Jazz Festval, Montreal confirmed to us today that Aretha Franklin has pulled out of the festival on health grounds. 

(Original piece prior to cancellation)  Bruno Pfeiffer, of the French newspaper Libération, previews of the appearance of Aretha Franklin at this year's Montreal Jazz Festival (our translation, published by kind permission of the author.)

At the begininng of May the heavy hitters for this year's 34th Montreal International Jazz Festival were announced, and they include several legends: Wayne Shorter, George Benson, Dr John, Chucho Valdès, Joe Lovano, Geri Allen, Charles Lloyd, etc. The programme (thousands of shows and activities running from the 28th of June to the 7th of July 2013) also includes one unexpected delight: the performance of Aretha Franklin, on the 29th of June in the Wilfrid-Pelletier hall, in the heart of the Arts quarter.

Aretha? What a gift from heaven! She seems the natural choice to capture the spirit of a city renowned for its tranquillity and freedom, to encapsulate a festival where artists connect with a fervent and adoring audience. To invite one of the most beautiful voices of the 20th century, seventy last year, deserves to be described as an epoch-making choice.

40 years after having performed at the democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968, the Queen of Soul, a native of Memphis, then raised in Michigan, was picked by Obama to sing at the ceremony of his first inauguration, in 2009. The first woman to be inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, Aretha turns all the genres she touches to gold. And then there's the small matter of the the first lady of American popular music's eighteen 18 Grammies.

Her appearances in the last few years, though, have been infrequent. She's admitted that it has been because of her being overweight. The persistence of her doctors had its effect, the Diva underwent an operation and lost 40 kilos. ‘An impressive achievement’’, the Artistic Director (and co-founder) of the Festival, André Ménard (picture below), commented when I met him on a visit to Paris in March.

Last time the singer of the cult song Respect performed at the Montreal festival, it gave her its Ella Fizgerald Prize. Johanne Bougie, festival programmer told me that: "to keep her voice right, Aretha insisted on a heater and humidifier for her room. She needed the temperature to be 30 degrees! The concert was phenomenal." I asked if they had contacted her directly? "We had to go through an American agent to reach her. The star will be giving us her greatest hits and her favourite songs. About fifteen of the best Montreal musicians will be reinforcing her usual band.”

The surprise act of this Festival joins the pantheon of the greats who have appeared there: Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, BB King, Oscar Peterson, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, and the late Dave Brubeck, to whom this 2013 festival is dedicated . Two of Brubeck's sons will perform a tribute to him on the closing night, 7th of July (Tribute, at the Theatre Jean-Duceppe). In Montreal, the dreams of Jazz become reality.

Original French article HERE

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