For now over decade, Bilal has been prominent figure of the R&B scene, a genre that is significantly less celebrated here than among our southern neighbors. If the american artist gained so recent exposure through his collaborations with Robert Glasper — the two became friends through their The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, or more recently with Kendrick Lamar through his contribution on the widely critically acclaimed “To Pimp A Butterfly”, the american singer has been on the forefront since his debuts in 2001, producing 5 albums and accumulating a stellar roadmap working with fellow icons like J Dilla, The Roots, Erykah Badu, among others.

(debatable ) Deemed neo-soul, Bilal rather made his mark as an incomparable cross-over artist while quietly pioneering forefront of the R&B revival movement that since engendered such as Miguel, Frank Ocean, or even The Weeknd or Majid Jordan. However, his meticulous musicianship couldn’t stand further away from modern (over)production values, blending the frontier between R&B and jazz and mixers influences in the most relevant manner. Renowned for his his high-pitched voice and live spirit which won him comparisons to Prince, the artist seems to have change his game with “Another Life”, his most recent album which includes stints in soul, hip-hop, reggae and jazz.

bilal album

Bilal certainly kept his cool during a heartfelt performance, sizing the energy of the crowd to pass his message through, in-tune with the mood. Alternating heavier and smoother pieces, the singer brought it to life with a full band of 5 musician, indulging jazz improvisation in the spirit of the festival.

While is avant-garde style positively lacks to pop element, the bass remains groovy yet now empowering, we find rhythm through the drums, melody through the electric setting and warmth through the voice. Forbidding unnecessary interaction or or forced entertainment, he deploys a unique charisma even when forgetting lyrics or making slight political comments. The magic works. And we drink it all like it’s coconut water. It’s clear, Bilal is a jazzman at heart and a beautiful one.


BILAL was playing at Club Soda, Wednesday, July 6, 2016, as part of the Montreal International Jazz Festival.

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About The Author

Christelle Saint-Julien
Collaborator - RREVERB

Christelle is a Montreal-based writer, musician and translator based and born in Montreal. An hyperactive brainard, her first love really is music. She makes a living putting words together in different contexts.