The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal turns 40

This article was updated on June 11, 2019.

The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal hits yet another high note this year as it celebrates an auspicious birthday: 40 years of world-class jazz (and blues, rock, reggae, pop and a rainbow of other styles) that draws music lovers from all over the world. And new in 2019, in addition to the indoor and outdoor shows at its singular site in the heart of downtown Montréal, a satellite jazz fest will bring fans into its orbit in the city’s southwest. Let’s take it from the top…

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The yearly gift that keeps on giving

Essentially Christmas for music fans, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal – which takes place June 26 to July 6 – is not only the largest annual gathering of music fans in Montréal, it’s the de facto largest jazz festival in the world according to Guinness World Records. For 11 days, the Jazz Fest is the epicentre of the music universe, with great tunes, food and fun to be found everywhere throughout its expansive downtown outdoor site in the Quartier des spectacles. For the first time, however, music will also be in the air in the borough of Verdun, southwest of downtown and easily accessible by bus, metro or even bikes. The Festival International de Jazz de Verdun is the Jazz Fest’s first “roving” satellite site which, each year, will be set up in a different Montréal neighbourhood. The centrally located Verdun stage will feature, appropriately, 40 free concerts.

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Playing by the numbers

The grand dame of the city’s summer festival season, every year the Jazz Fest records over two million visits. For this 40th year, organizers have scheduled over 500 concerts – two thirds of which are free – featuring some 3,000 musicians from 30 countries on nearly 30 stages, including 20 stages on the 760,000-square-foot downtown site. And all that artistry also works up appetites for something other than just great entertainment: over 60,000 litres of beer and two-and-a-half tonnes of French fries are downed every year.

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Indoor shows get into the swing of things

This year’s Jazz Festival paid indoor programming stretches out over 150 concerts at venues around downtown. Big names include nine-time Grammy winner Norah Jones (June 27), a talent-stacked Brad Mehldau Quintet featuring Ambrose Akinmusire, Joel Frahm, Joe Sanders & Leon Parker (June 27), a farewell performance from Buena Vista Social Club’s Omara Portuondo (June 27), iconic Canadian country rockers Blue Rodeo (June 28), U.K. reggae legends Steel Pulse (June 28), Brazilian bossa nova queen Bebel Gilberto (June 29), world-famous jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves (July 1), trip-hop mainstays Morcheeba (July 2), British indie rockers alt-J (July 2 and 3), jazz-guitar genius John Pizzarelli (July 3), Peter Frampton’s farewell tour (July 5), blues guitar greats Buddy Guy and Colin James (July 6), and so much more. Check out the full indoor programming.

Free-style jazz outdoors

The Jazz Fest’s approximately 350 free outdoor shows are punctuated by three free, major concert Grand Events this year, shows that typically see crowds in the upper tens of thousands. The fest’s dependably excellent opening Rio Tinto Grand Event will feature rising singing star Charlotte Cardin launching this year’s edition of the festival. Expect sensual vibes and off-kilter beats when Australian music sensation Nick Murphy (a.k.a. Chet Faker) takes the stage for the TD Grand Event, July 2. And the festival-ending Grand Closing Event will feature gifted Canadian folk singer and multi-instrumentalist Matt Holubowski on July 6. Take a peek at the complete outdoor programming.

Jamie O’Meara

Jamie O’Meara, blogger

Jamie O'Meara is Editor-in-Chief at C2 Montréal and the former Editor-in-Chief of alt-weekly newspaper HOUR Magazine.

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