Guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and bandleader John Pizzarelli has played the Montreal International Jazz Festival many times. He’s what you could call a regular. So it seemed the natural thing to ask him about his relationship with the city. (He's also one of the musicians that the lucky winner of our Win a trip and tickets to the Montreal International Jazz Festival contest, now closed gets to go to.)
Pizzarelli, if you don’t know his work, can be credited with helping popularize jazz, in part through projects like his latest, Double Exposure, which mashes up the pop music of his youth in the 1960s and ‘70s with jazz. For example, Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder” and the Beatles' “I Feel Fine”, which you can hear in this behind-the-scenes take, below, on Double Exposure.
Watch it then read on to find out what Pizzarelli thinks about bagels, his command of French and which movie star Montreal most resembles, among other things.
Q: What’s the most memorable moment you’ve had at the Montreal Jazz Festival?
A: Well, the first night, the first time at the Club Soda was amazing. Twenty years ago. It was so unexpected. I think the other two would be the Beatles concert and the bossa nova concert. They were all amazing. The energy of the Place des Arts is incredible. Then again, 1994 at The Spectrum (RIP) with my trio was pretty good, too. I got to meet Pat Metheny in 1992 at The Spectrum and he said he had heard how well we were doing at the Club Soda before I got to say anything to him. That was pretty crazy.
Q: How’s your French?
A: My French is very high school, if you will. Ou est Sylvie? Au lycée. Claude est la? Non, il est au zoo. I do have a few concert-ready phrases, but nothing terrific.
Q: Montreal bagels vs. New York bagels: go ahead, make your case!
Are there any bagels other than N.Y. bagels? I have an extra day [at the festival] this year, which means an extra morning, and will let Montreal make its case for their bagels, OK?
Q: Favourite Montreal night spots or restaurants/bars?
A: The easy winners are Le Latini and Gibbys. They are perennials and hold wonderful memories of my first trips to Montreal. I had a great Chinese meal after a concert with the band in Chinatown that was great. Twenty years ago, I took the Nat Raider band out to an Italian dinner in midtown which began around midnight and ended around 3:30. Amazing. Also, during that run we went to L'Express a lot post gig. I am a bit of a foodie and I watch a lot of the cooking network. Should I make my way to Garde Manger? Le Bremner? Will Chuck let me in?
Q: Where would you go in the city for some quiet time?
The old town seems very lovely and peaceful to me. I don't get to walk around a lot, but walks back from Gibbys have always been enjoyable. I know, I am a tourist.
Q: Poutine – are you a fan?
A: Haven't experienced them. Your suggestions here, or leave them at the hotel.
[Editor’s note: A publicist for the Montreal International Jazz Festival assures us he will introduce John Pizzarelli to poutine. Then, whether or not he likes it, he will at least understand they aren’t a “them.”)
Q: Who are your Montreal heroes?
A: The people of Montreal have been so supportive. I would imagine any Montreal Canadien hockey player. When they come to NYC with those beautiful sweaters it's always a great hockey original six moment. What about Jean Beliveau or Maurice Richard? Hockey heroes are the best!
Q: If Montreal were a movie star, who would the city be?
A: Charlize Theron.
Q: What advice would you give to first-time Montreal jazz festival-goers?
A: Take your time and soak it all in and remember that the best music can be on a street corner for free, not just the obvious great acts in the big room.
John Pizzarelli’s remaining Canadian tour dates, summer 2012:
Montreal International Jazz Festival, July 6 and 7
Halifax Jazz Festival, July 10
on Jul 04, 2012