Montreal Jazz Fest To Celebrate 35th Anniversary June 26–July 6
For 11 days this summer, Montreal will celebrate the 35th edition of its acclaimed Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, bringing two million festival-goers and 1,000 concerts and activities to the city. During the day, the action takes place at free, outdoor shows; in the evening, ticketed shows are presented at the city’s top venues.
Vice President and Artistic Director André Ménard travels around the world every year to research prospective acts to book for the festival. Although he has begun to do more of his research online, Ménard still likes to attend top-tier events like the London Jazz Festival, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and North Sea Jazz Festival.
“What makes Montreal different is we have two festivals at the same time: the indoor program and the outdoor program—in the same neighborhood,” he told DownBeat in April. “The superposition of the two events makes for one gigantic event. This is why it’s the largest in the world.”
The outdoor program will be anchored this year by one of jazz’s biggest stars: Diana Krall will perform at Scène TD on June 29 at 9:30 p.m. Her latest album is 2012’s Glad Rag Doll (Verve), and on Sept. 9 she will release Wallflower (Verve), a disc that includes her interpretations of songs by Bob Dylan and Elton John, as well as a new composition written by Paul McCartney.
Dianne Reeves—the celebrated vocalist whose 2014 album, Beautiful Life (Concord), garnered rave reviews and a cover story in DownBeat—will perform on June 27 at Théâtre Maisonneuve at 8 p.m. She’s sure to perform material from the new album, which features songs by Bob Marley, Fleetwood Mac and Marvin Gaye.
Virtuoso pianist-composer Keith Jarrett—whose solo concert recording Concerts: Bregenz Münich (ECM), two 1981 improvised concerts from Austria and Germany, was released in its complete version last fall—will give his first solo performance at the festival in 25 years, at the Maison Symphonique on June 28 at 8 p.m. This will be the third year the festival has presented shows at the 2,000-seat symphony hall.
This year’s festival will be notable for several debut performances. Vocalist Diana Ross will make her festival debut over two nights at the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier (July 3–4, 7:30 p.m.). The Detroit-born star—who was the lead singer of The Supremes and later portrayed Billie Holiday in the 1972 biopic Lady Sings the Blues—will be presented with the festival’s Ella Fitzgerald Award.
On June 30 at Théâtre Maisonneuve at 8 p.m., legendary British drummer Ginger Baker will make his Montreal debut alongside his talented Jazz Confusion quartet: ex-James Brown saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, bassist Alec Dankworth and Ghanaian percussionist Abass Dodoo. The group recently released the album Why? (Motéma), which blends Baker’s interest in African music and contemporary jazz.
Vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant—who recently picked up the DownBeat Critics Poll award for Jazz Album of the Year for her U.S. debut, WomanChild (Mack Avenue)—will make her Montreal Jazz Festival debut, playing sold-out shows on June 26 and June 27 at L’Astral in the Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan.
Ménard pointed out that the 24-year-old rising star has only played in the city of Montreal once before, in a small, 60-seat club. “She was so good when I saw her last year in Avignon in France,” Ménard added.
Other free concerts this year include shows by blues vocalist Beth Hart (June 27) and jazz vocalist Cyrille Aimée (June 29), both at the Scène Rio Tinto Alcan; recent Blue Note Records signee Vintage Trouble at Scène TD on July 1; and Canada’s own Hutchinson Andrew Trio at Scène TD on July 3.
Among the hundreds of jazz artists performing at the festival are Ambrose Akinmusire, Randy Brecker, the Heath Brothers, Stacey Kent, Dr. Lonnie Smith and Cassandra Wilson.
Other recipients of prizes this year include Elvis Costello (Montreal Jazz Festival Spirit Award), Terence Blanchard (Miles Davis Award), the late Paco de Lucía (Antônio Carlos Jobim Award), Ron Di Lauro (Oscar Peterson Award) and Jean-Philippe Allard (Bruce Lundvall Award).
More information is posted at montrealjazzfest.com.