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Montreal’s renowned 35th annual International Jazz Festival

Colette Greenstein
Colette Greenstein
Montreal’s renowned 35th annual International Jazz Festival

Angelique Kidjo

Maxwell

Diana Ross

Jose James

Thirty-five years in the making, this year’s Montreal International Jazz Festival features a stellar line-up of first-time and returning musicians and artists from around the globe.

The Festival offers a variety of shows and performances, from world-renowned singers, pianists, composers and entertainers, for music-lovers of all ages and genres. Literally, there’s something for everyone.

Presented by TD in collaboration with Rio Tinto Alcan, the annual music festival is set in the heart of downtown Montreal, the Quartier des Spectacles, and officially begins Thursday, June 26 with several performances, including trumpeter Roy Hargrove who, in a rare appearance, opens the “Jazz dans la nuit” series. The festival runs through Sunday, July 6 with both indoor and outdoor festivities, and features almost 500 concerts daily from noon until midnight.

The Montreal International Jazz Festival also offers a range of entertainment such as the new Rio Tinto Alcan Family Club, which is a brand new area offering menus, arts and crafts, and various other activities created for children.

The Festival presents its very first ever major free outdoor show with jazz pianist and singer Diana Krall on Sunday, June 29. This is the final performance of the British Columbia native’s “Glad Rag Doll” tour, whose album concept of the same name was inspired by three concerts she performed at the Festival in 2011.

The Festival began in 1980 with eight concerts and was inaugurated by none other than Ray Charles. Over the years, the Festival that began with jazz music has expanded into almost every musical genre imaginable including pop, R&B, blues, rock and hip hop. The festival has featured the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, James Brown, B.B. King, the late salsa queen Celia Cruz, Sting, Cape Verdean singer Cesário Évora, Norah Jones, Bob Dylan, Prince, Esperanza Spalding, and the list goes on!

This year’s lineup proves no less impressive, with several returning artists such as jazz singer Cassandra Wilson and Grammy Award–winning Beninoise singer-songwriter and activist Angélique Kidjo. Both women take the stage on June 26. Wilson is in the midst of celebrating the 20th anniversary of her debut album “Blue Light til Dawn” and you can catch her at Théâtre Maisonneuve. Kidjo kicks things off with songs from her latest album, Eve, written in tribute to the women of Africa “for their resilience and their beauty” at the venue Métropolis.

On June 27, one of the ‘Grandes Dames’ of jazz, Dianne Reeves, presents her new album, “Beautiful Life,” her first in five years. The album showcases Reeves’ vocal prowess by “melding elements of R&B, Latin and pop within the framework of 21st Century jazz.” 

Three shows to look out for on June 28 include Toronto trumpeter Alexis Baro, who was discovered at the Festival in 2008, and blues and folk singer/guitarist Ben Harper (who made his first appearance in 1996), accompanied by living blues legend and harmonica master Charlie Musselwhite.

If neo-soul, rock and funk is more your thing, catch Atlanta native Cody ChesnuTT at Club Soda. Another electric show takes place on June 29 with singer and songwriter Elvis Costello, who makes a return appearance after an eight-year absence for a solo performance.

Hailed as “the most original talent on the contemporary jazz scene” by Pitchfork, singer José James performs a blend of hip hop, R&B and jazz on June 30, and on July 1, the incomparable Tony Bennett shares the stage with his daughter Antonia.

The “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin makes her second appearance in Montreal on July 2, and Michael Bublé returns, ten years after his Festival debut, on July 4-5 at the Centre Bell. Two generations of the blues meet on Saturday, July 5 in a concert uniting B.B. King and Texas guitarist and bluesman Gary Clark, Jr.

For those looking for both new and familiar artists, several performers appear for the first time at the world-renowned festival. On June 29, you can take in a show by Afro-Spanish singer Buika, whose musical background draws from flamenco and jazz, or see Grammy Award-Winning Earth Wind & Fire on June 30. Boston native and singer Kim Zombik performs a melange of jazz standards, blues and funk with her Trio on July 1.

For the first time, the one and only Diana Ross comes to the Festival July 3 and 4 with her daughter, Rhonda Ross, as her opening act. From Haiti, singer, guitarist and percussionist, Jean Jean Roosevelt appears July 4 at Scène Bell, “serving up a hot brew of Creole rhythms, reggae, R&B and Afrobeat”. The king of West Coast rap, Snoop Dogg, also makes his first Festival appearance on the same day.

The Festival closes out Sunday, July 6 with numerous shows and events including first-time performer R&B singing sensation Maxwell. The Festival also marks the 80th birthday of internationally-renowned Montreal pianist Oliver Jones at Théâtre. Jones first performed in 1981 at Maisonneuve.

Make your great escape to Montreal this summer by taking in the Montreal International Jazz Festival, and fill your soul with great music at one of the most talked-about and well-loved music festivals on the planet.

For a complete listing of events and to purchase tickets, visit www.montrealjazzfest.com.