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Aretha Franklin in star-studded Montreal jazz fest

Latest update : 2008-06-24

The 29th edition of Montreal's international jazz festival, between June 26 and July 6, will host the likes of Leonard Cohen, Aretha Franklin, Gilberto Gil and film director Woody Allen .

Prodigal Leonard Cohen is back in his home town to croon for Montreal's 29th international jazz festival this week, along with stars Aretha Franklin, Dave Brubeck, and Woody Allen on his clarinet.


"For years, we wanted to present these artists at the festival, but it took some time before they finally accepted our invitation," said Laurent Saulnier, programmer at the Montreal Jazz Festival -- one of the world's biggest.


"This year, the circumstances were favorable," he said.


The jazz festival officially opens Thursday with a concert to honor Cohen with various artists performing his songs, but the 73-year-old poet will not be part of the tribute itself, said organizers.


Rather, Cohen was to give Montreal audiences a taste Monday evening in his first hometown concert in 15 years, followed by two more sold-out shows Tuesday and Wednesday, before he heads off to Europe for a string of performances.


"Mr. Cohen won't take part in the tribute itself because he detests such things," explained Saulnier. "He sent us a very long and very nice email saying that such honors make him very uncomfortable and that at his age, he's not about to start doing things he doesn't like doing."


Last month, Cohen kicked off his first world tour in 15 years with a Toronto gig marking the return of the Jewish singer-songwriter who converted to Buddhism during his absence from the limelight.


Born in the tony English-speaking quarter of Montreal, Cohen published books of poetry before embarking on a singing career with his smash debut album "Songs of Leonard Cohen" in 1967.


Since then, he has inspired countless artists and more than 1,000 renditions of his work have been recorded by R.E.M., Elton John, Joe Cocker, Willie Nelson, k.d. Lang, Tory Amos, Nina Simone and Peter Gabriel.


His music also has been used in dozens of movie soundtracks such as "Natural Born Killers" and "Shrek."


Later in the week, legendary US filmmaker Woody Allen, who has played clarinet since the age of 15, and his New Orleans Jazz Band will appear for the first time at Montreal's jazz festival.


The "Queen of soul" Aretha Franklin will also be on hand for two shows.


And a concert series by renowned pianists Oliver Jones, Hank Jones and Dave Brubeck, whose quartet's "Take Five" is among the best known jazz compositions of all time, will pay respect to jazz pianist Oscar Peterson.


The festival, which runs to July 6 and usually attracts more than two million fans to 500 indoor and outdoor performances, is dedicated this year to the memory of Peterson, who was born in Montreal and died just before Christmas last year.


For audiences not so devoted to jazz, electronica collective Bran Van 3000 will perform on the sidelines.


French-Israeli singer Yael Naïm, whose single "New Soul" appeared in an Apple Computer advertisements over the past year, launching her worldwide fame, and German-Nigerian singer Ayo, whose Afrobeat seduced Europe, will also make their first appearance in Montreal at the festival.


Travis Sullivan's New York big band Bjorkestra and its unique rendition of electro-pop sensation Björk's greatest hits has probably raised the most eyebrows in ticket lines.


And Kora-player Mory Kante of Guinea is expected to close the festival on July


Date created : 2008-06-24