Montréal jazz and blues clubs and festivals
This article was updated on January 31, 2020.
During her Sin-City era, Montréal was home to some of the hottest jazz clubs on the planet and a wide-open scene fueled by Prohibition. Today, the city’s jazz scene is as lively as ever.
Back in the 1930s and 1940s, gamblers, racketeers and the world’s greatest entertainers all came to Montréal at a time when the city’s most renowned musical export was jazz icon Oscar Peterson. His protégé was another jazz legend, Oliver Jones, who first performed at the fabled Café St-Michel at the age of 10 in 1944.
Today, Montréal still has a thriving jazz and blues scene with concerts in nightclubs by popular local musicians, as well as superstar headliners at the city’s jazz and blues festivals.
House of Jazz
Montréal boasts a number of classic jazz venues, such as the downtown House of Jazz where Tony Bennett sang a couple songs impromptu one night back in 1985. Today, the venue books top local jazz and blues acts seven nights a week. The club’s good-time atmosphere is popular with tourists.
Bistro à Jojo
Montréal’s classic blues joint Bistro à Jojo in the Latin Quarter features live music nightly. Many favourite local blues acts headline the intimate nightclub regularly.
Over in Old Montréal, the Modavie French bistro and wine bar also features live jazz, blues, and rhythm and blues nightly. The bistro has much flair and character and is popular with locals and tourists alike.
Jazz hotspot Dièse Onze in the hip Plateau district also features live music every night and menus to suit all tastes. Dièse Onze has been ranked by Downbeat Magazine as one of the Top 100 jazz clubs in the world. Reservations recommended.
The underground artist-run Résonance! in the Mile End district attracts young jazz fans looking for up-and-coming talent and live music. Résonance Cafe also offers a diverse selection of vegan meals and a popular espresso bar.
Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill
Close to the major hotels and popular with tourists, downtown’s Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill has been ranked by Downbeat Magazine as one of the Top 100 jazz clubs in the world. “I think the local Montréal jazz scene is healthier than I’ve seen it in two decades,” says Upstairs owner Joel Giberovitch. “We have the Montréal jazz fest, the OFF Jazz Festival, many clubs in Montréal and the music schools. Jazz is vibrant in this city and people still come here to listen to this music.” Upstairs has live music every night. Reservations recommended.
Festival International de Jazz de Montréal
The city’s live jazz and blues clubs are especially busy during the famed Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, which each year features several hundred musicians performing ticketed indoor concerts and free shows on several outdoor stages. The 10-day festival begins the last week of June.
L'OFF Festival de jazz de Montréal
Created by local musicians, the first edition of the L'OFF Festival de jazz de Montréal of Montréal was held in 1999 and has since become a mainstay of the city’s live jazz music scene. The annual festival (known as the OFF Jazz) is held in October and showcases local musicians as well as several international musical collaborations in the city’s legendary concert venues and jazz clubs.
West Island Blues Festival
The West Island Blues Festival hosts a free day-long outdoor concert with several well-known artists each summer to benefit local charities.
Richard Burnett, blogger
Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.