I made it back to the NAC just in time for the set. After experiencing the control and chaos of Mouse on The Keys, I had to quickly run home to switch out my filled notebook.
The last concert of Ottawa’s Winter Jazz Fest was hosted by local newscaster Lawrence Wall, who praised the band, then welcomed the band, and then told us where the bathrooms were. Finally, the Montreal Guitar Trio (aka Montréal Guitare Trio, or MG3 for short) appeared to a sold-out room. The collective is a national treasure, world-renown for their tasteful guitar playing and innate dad-liness. Marc Morin, Sebastien Dufour and Glenn Levesque sat on chairs in a line, clad in black suits and nice boots, Morin sported long hair and a beard while the other two were completely bald. When the finger-picking and guitar-tapping started it was clear that this was a decidedly different show from the more “techno” performance that graced the stage not just one hour before them. Although technically both can be classified as jazz, the latter performance was more intimate, organic, with no light show or computerized synthesizers, just candles and mild stage lights.
…the first tune was spaghetti western music that they took to Spain and twisted it with some Eastern European gypsy influence, topped off with a rush of caffeine.
The lack of electronics cleared the stage for the group to fiercely jam many classical and Latin inspired licks at break-neck speeds. They kept time mostly through head bobbing and stomping with lots of “hey’s” and “huhah’s!” Always grinning and nodding at each other, every number was followed by a synchronized bow and huge applause. They played a mix of lively covers and more serious originals. Morin announced that the first tune was “spaghetti western” music that they took to Spain and twisted it with some Eastern European gypsy influence, topped off with a rush of caffeine.
They spoke about being big rockers in their teen years (classic dad move) and announced their next song would be a cover of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer,” completely done on acoustic. Morin described Levesque would be using a mandolin to play the vocal and keyboard parts, Dufour had the guitar and drum parts covered on his acoustic, “and I’ll just relax and play bass.” The resulting sound was totally unique and ultimately mind-blowing. Levesque really made the mandolin sing and Dufour’s guitar body drum solo would have even made Neil Peart lift and eyebrow.
MG3 was very funny with their crowd banter, they made fun of their appearances, introducing bald Dufour as “the blonde guy in the middle” and Morin as the only person in the band “still playing with a wig,” perfect dad jokes that the crowd could not get enough of. They also addressed the crowd in French, being from Quebec, of which the only words I understood were “autobus” and then “popcorn” but apparently it was mildly amusing as the all-ages crowd gave a laugh.
My favourite song of their set was called “Le Renard” and they described that it was a song by a German friend of theirs, Nick Naffin, who has since passed away.
Overall, the set was a beautiful experience in the power of music. Just three men with guitars were able to provide an escapism-type experience for their audience, taking us to places all around the world through wood and guitar strings. MG3 was not the most groundbreaking act of the festival but they were the perfect final notes of the 2016 incarnation of Winter Jazz Fest. Breathing just enough good energy and warm vibes into onlookers to help them get through another frozen February week.
TD Ottawa Jazz Fest starts up again June 23 – July 3, 2016! Visit www.ottawajazzfest.com for details.