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Canada: iTunes, Amazon CD

[Listen to Neil Cowley in the Nextplayer]

Written by Neil Cowley

A typical Montreal Jazz Festival experience? Difficult to tell. Our single experience leaves us none the wiser. But for sure, it was one of the defining moments of OUR year. To think that we would arrive on the side of the Atlantic with the Jazz history to send us packing with our tails between our legs; and yet we should be received with such open arms and enthusiasm for what we do, lead us to declare our love for everything Canadian. We are pining right now for the outdoor stages, the omnipresent acrobats and cool merchandise drinking flasks which were such a big hit with my 3 year old boy.

And it didn't start too well... Two hours on the tarmac at Heathrow, then a letter thrust in my hands as we left the plane telling us that our luggage was PROBABLY still in London. But the dark clouds didn't stay too long. In fact, our luggage (including Evans cymbals) had made the journey with us, and I didn't mind looking smug as we left others tearing their hair out behind us. I just wanted my bed.

When we arrived at the Upstairs bar on our first afternoon I feared that our sound might blow some away. Especially when three senior diners came to lunch as we soundchecked. There was a battle to see who would break first. We used loud instruments and they used elderly looks of disapproval. They of course won and we cut our check short. I was then interviewed by a very sweet lady from the press, six months into a pregnancy, who at one point, in an effort to say "of course, you've had a lot of success..." unfortunately only managed... "of course, you've had a lot of sex". It was as clear as day. Enough to turn her bright red. I tried to hurry things on to avoid her embarrassment, but the damage was done. I think she went home and cried. I couldn't believe my luck!

By night, Upstairs was transformed into a vibing, buzzing venue with people eager to listen. Just the sort of crowd you hope for. Right from the start they were behind us, cheering and whooping. Making us feel right at home. Joel the owner couldn't have been more supportive and by the end of the night we had singled him and his bar out for a return visit come what may. Apparently we broke all records for CD sales that night which of course gave us a cocky spring in our step. One sad note to the night was the brief chat I had with the legendary Len Dobbin. He came up and introduced himself to me and we spoke for a small time about music. I quickly realised his breadth of knowledge and the respect that he commanded. I hoped that he would like the show. How tragic that in the self same spot, 24 hours later, he would suffer a stroke and lose his life. Or perhaps how perfect. In the UK we have a legendary comedian, Tommy Cooper, who died on stage whilst being broadcast live on TV. The story always goes that he would have been happy to go whilst doing what he loved. Though I didn't know Len Dobbin, it would seem from his reputation that this may apply to him as well.

Day two of our MJF saw the rain testing everyones patience. I shopped, and shopped some more. The other two guys call me 'she' when I get on one like this. I managed to buy an umbrella from the fest for child number one which Evan took a liking to. As our show loomed, we went through our usual shouting in stupid voices routine which cleared the backstage area. I was conscious of people perhaps seeing us for a second time and tried to adjust the set accordingly. I got some time alone to change shoes and contemplate whilst the guys set up their axes.

We started our set with the track that has made us 'G list' celebrities in the Europe... His Nibs, which seemed to be a wise move. And as the evening progressed it just seemed to get better and better. I was told afterwards that security guards were asking to be deputised so that they could go buy the CD in the festival shop, which makes one hugely proud... and under protected. Or do we just appeal to bodybuilders? Utterly fruitless however, as only a handful of CDs were supplied to the shop. For this transgression, some members of the trio team were hung drawn and quartered, then their heads used as CD stacking mechanisms, which remained empty due to the lack of CDs etc... Post show I was introduced to a trio of French girls who I was told in not so many words to 'take advantage of'. They had enjoyed the show and were momentarily on the 'post Neil Cowley Trio gig- hazed-judgement drug'. As my wedding ring shone in the moonlight I thought how useless I would have been at taking advantage of the situation even if I were single. So I went and talked to some ugly men instead. I was much more at home here. An ex pat Englishman quite astutely suggested that what we do is bring something of the rave culture to a large cross section of audience, by cunningly dressing up electronic dance music with acoustic piano, bass and drums. How clever of him for putting it that way. And how clever of me to steal it and use it in the future.