Kool & the Gang brings its party to Montreal's Jazz Fest

It may be decades later, but the band hasn't slowed a beat.

Funk masters play hit after hit to rapturous crowd

Disco funk ensemble Kool & the Gang hit Place Des Arts tonight at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. (Valentin Flauraud/Reuters)

"Montreal, are you fresh? Montreal, are you ready to party tonight?"

Those were the first questions feel-good funk masters Kool & the Gang threw at the crowd, as they got into their Montreal International Jazz Festival show Monday night.

The answer from the crowd was a resounding yes. They were on their feet most of the night, following every move, swaying their arms to the music and singing along to hit after hit.

The band kept the shoutouts coming, as the horn section squealed and deep-anchored bass lines rolled through hits like Fresh, Cherish, Ladies Night, and a particularly raucous version of Jungle Boogie which led straight into Hollywood Swinging.

Kool & the Gang may have started out in the '60s with a pure jazz sound, but the band quickly veered into the pop-funk grooves that earned the band a reputation as a "party" band.

It may be decades later, but the group hasn't slowed a beat.

With coordinated dance moves and red and white themed clothing, they brought that 70s party vibe to Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, a seated concert hall venue that's not usually conducive to wild celebrations.

The band was having so much fun on stage, the mostly older crowd couldn't help but join in.

Fans grabbed every inch of the aisles as they sang along. One younger woman rocked her baby boy in her arms; he was sporting headphones to protect his young ears from the pounding bass.

One man, his eyes wide with excitement was heard saying "Wow, just wow" as the band launched into Joanna.

The night ended with number-one hit Celebration from 1980 and it didn't look as though the crowd could get any happier.

Salimah Shivji is a CBC news and arts reporter who is taking in some of the marquee events at this year's Montreal International Jazz Festival. 


Salimah Shivji


Salimah Shivji is CBC's India correspondent, based in Mumbai. She has been a senior reporter with CBC's Parliamentary Bureau and has covered everything from climate change to corruption across Canada.