Sunday, June 16, 2024

The Joe Hunt Group on Sunday at Lilypad in Cambridge’s Inman Square. (Photo: Michael Gutierrez)

Nothing against Tuesdays With Morrie, but if you can swing a PR luncheon invite for a Friday With Maurin, it’s a decidedly more upbeat and better-catered affair.

That’s Maurin Auxéméry, program director for the Montreal Jazz Fest, who’s been booking the jazz giant north of the border for 13 years, taking lead on the programming committee the past two years.

With a jean jacket, mop of salt-and-pepper and a true believer’s wild eyes, he cuts a figure that looks more at home in a club than Event Space 1 at the Catalyst Restaurant in the MIT neighborhood.

But when duty calls, Auxéméry responds. The Cambridge luncheon last Friday was just one of many pitches he’ll make to the music press in advance of the 44th edition of the festival, running from the end of June through the start of July.

The press was happy to be pitched, and the three-course meal didn’t hurt. Representatives from GBH, The Boston Globe, Hump Day News and more decided between white or red, pea soup or salad, baked chicken or cod, cheesecake or crumble, with coffee to close.

After a mercifully short canned promo reel, Auxéméry spoke from the heart, exuding the kind of enthusiasm you’d expect from a young hand in an old organization who, after years of working in the background, gets his chance to take the spotlight and make his mark.

What to expect? A lot. Ten days of jazz music, thousands of artists from tentpole headliners to niche cult favorites, hundreds of shows, with two-thirds of all performances free for the roughly 2 million music lovers expected to attend.

Can you imagine our fair city hosting anything remotely as ambitious? Imagine the Somerville Porchfest running 10 days, with 100 times the guests, a Guster on every block and the musicians get paid instead of footing the bill themselves …

Actually, that sounds great. Let’s do it!

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Thursday to Monday: Campfire. Festival (Club Passim, Cambridge)

School’s out for the summer and the festival season has begun. Not all festivals are cut from the same Ticketmaster, port-a-potty and metal-detector cloth. If you’re a folkie at heart, head to the cool and comfortable depths of Club Passim for a gathering of new and established acts at Campfire. At 25 years, the local tradition stays true to its founding spirit, providing an intimate space for folk musicians to trade their wares while you watch the music unfold without the coordinated chaos of the Big Corporate Fests.

Thursday to Sunday: Boston Calling (Harvard Athletic Complex, Boston)

Welcome to the Big Corporate Fest! If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. And where else are you going to find four stages of top tier international, national and local talent, the White Claw Shore Club and a goddamn Ferris wheel rolled into three beautiful days on the Charles? Names such as Ed Sheeran, Megan Thee Stallion and The Killers will draw crowds, but this lineup boasts a strong middle class with indie darlings of all shades and stripes, including Khruangbin, Blondshell, Alvvays and more. Plus, Chase credit cardholders will unlock benefits all weekend long. Let’s get unlocking …

May 30: Liturgy, Body Void (Middle East, Cambridge)

Liturgy is more than a decade removed from its transcendent and buzzy breakthrough LP “Aesthetica.” The black metal outfit, authored by Hunter Ravenna Hunt-Hendrix (who added the “Ravenna” in recent years, spoiling all potential “Triple H” puns), clearly has staying power. Expect riffs that come at you like a fleet of leaf blowers and a melodic scream-sing like no other. Vermont’s Body Void will whet your appetite with noise doom in the opening slot.

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Live: Joe Hunt Group at The Lilypad

It was a jazz twofer, maybe a threefer, late Sunday at the performance space in Inman Square. The David Haas Group blended into the Joe Hunt Group, and the Joe Hunt Group reconstituted itself midway through the set as a quintet with Jon Wheatley.

Wheatley, guitarist, associate professor at Berklee and enthusiastic proponent of “logical fingering systems,” was just passing by when the spritely and stately rhythms of Hunt’s percussion reeled him in like an alley cat to a discarded tin of sardines. Did Hunt invite Wheatley to sit in, or did Wheatley invite himself? Details lost to the sands of time.

The guitarist ran back home (just around the corner) to grab his six string.

When all was said and done, the hybrid ensemble delivered a couple of sambas, a Thelonious Monk tune, the jazz standard “Wonder Why” and two versions of Irving Berlin’s “Change Partners,” one with Wheatley and one without. With more musicians on stage than butts in the seats, the night was less about banking cover charges and more about friends in music enjoying each other’s company. It’s a vibe.

Lilypad founder, owner and musician Gill Aharon knows the vibe well. He was in and out during the set, tinkering with everything from soundboards to beer taps, while the sounds of horns, keys, strings and snares filled the mural-painted interior.

When a regular customer asked him if the mural that had been whited-out at stage right was going to be replaced by another, Gil said yes. When asked about the subject of the new mural, Gil replied, with an air of mystery, that it was going to be whatever the artist wanted.

What else would you expect in a house of improvisation?


Michael Gutierrez is an author, educator, activist and editor-in-chief at Hump Day News.