The 32nd annual Montreal Jazz Festival pre-opens tomorrow night with performances by Peter Frampton and Prince and will officially begin on Saturday, running through July 4. The festival will include 800 performances on 19 indoor and outdoor stages by 3,000 musicians over the next 11 days. (Shelly Runyon photo)
Festival season is here and there is no bigger music festival than the Montreal Jazz Festival.
From June 25 through July 4, the streets of Montreal will be filled with more than 3,000 musicians and millions of festivalgoers from across North America and the globe to celebrate jazz.
Former Led Zeppelin vocalist and solo performer Robert Plant will kick-off 32nd annual Montreal Jazz Festival tomorrow night with a pre-opening performance at 7 p.m. A rock star of any era is enough to jumpstart the festival, and this year there will be two. Mid-May festival organizers announced a late “surprise” edition to the pre-opening and opening night celebrations — two dance parties hosted by Prince.
The pop-legend is scheduled to perform in the sold-out Métropolis to an intimate standing-room-only audience of 1,700 — there will only be 300 seated audience members, at Prince’s request. Both late-night performances begin at 11:30 p.m.
The official opening on Saturday belongs to Paco de Lucio, who is returning to the Festival for the first time in 10 years to be awarded the Montreal Guitar Show Tribute Award. He is being honored as one of the greatest flamenco guitarists to grace the stages in Montreal.
Other star performances during the 11-day celebration will include music greats Toni Bennett, Peter Frampton, Don McLean, Sade and Youssou N’Dour to name a few — and of course, there will be jazz.
Tickets are still available for Dianne Reeves’ return to the festival stage on June 25. She will put on a powerful performance with Lizz Wright and Angélique Kidjo in a concert titled, “Sing the Truth.” The trio plans to perform songs proclaiming their support for civil rights and honoring a timeless legacy of jazz, folk and blues with a mix of inspiration from Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Erykah Badu.
A few days later, festivalgoers may choose to see New England Conservatory of Music alum Regina Carter onstage in an intimate performance for 450 on June 30. She will promote her new album “Reverse Thread,” which celebrates African folk and features her violin and accordion talents, transcending traditional African music into modern melodies.
While the 10 indoor clubs and theaters, which hold from 350 to 2,000 audience members, brings great talent to the festival, the most excitement will come from the free outdoor concerts.
Each year, outdoor stages surround Montreal’s Place des Arts, the cultural center of the city, which is open only to pedestrians and is home to the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art and the headliner theater for the festival, Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier.
At night, jazz comes to life through red, purple, green and blue light shows which bounce against playful replica instruments hovering more than 30 feet tall over the walkways and directing crowds deep into the heart of the festival.
Place des Arts transforms into the Place des Festivals, which is home to the 750 outdoor concerts that take place on nine stages, countless vendors selling rich Canadian coffee, imported wine and showcasing the diversity of Québécois cuisine. This is where the 2.5 million visitors converge to listen to classic and new jazz sounds, starting in the early evenings and late into the nights.
On opening night, June 25, the Montreal Jazz Festival will welcome Ben l’Oncle Soul a French sensation in the revival of 1960s Motown classics and R&B covers of rock-pop hits to the Place des Festivals. Festival organizers are hailing this concert as the “must-dance event of the summer!”
On the opposite end of the festival, July 4, the B-52s will finish the outdoor series with a dance party in their own right. The in between will be bursting with music greats and novices alike serenading the city. The talent includes: Soul Rebel Brass Band on June 26, who are known for their eclectic mix of hip hop meets Mardi Gras funk, soft rock and reggae style in a seven-piece ensemble; Galactic on June 27, who also bring sounds from the Big Easy north; and Lucky Peterson singing the blues on June 29 while promoting his most recent album “You Can Always Turn Around.”
For more information about the Montreal Jazz Festival, visit www.montrealjazzfest.com.