• Join WBGO for the Montreal Jazz Festival

    April 9, 2013. Posted by Brandy Wood.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive



    WBGO is pleased to offer a tour package to a festival who shares a long history with the station, the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal. Click here for details about the Exclusive Package.

    This trip was inspired by WBGO's Michael Bourne and his many years traveling to, participating in and reporting from the Montreal Jazz Festival. Here, in his own words, are 20 reasons he continues to go back after 20 years...

    I first came to Festival International de Jazz de Montreal in 1992, and last year's festival was my 20th.   Here's a top-20 list of why I keep coming back.

    1)  FIJM t-shirts really show the festival's style: artistic, colorful, whimsical, and every year a new variety, especially the cat with a halo.

    2)  FIJM's Salle de Presse in the Masion du Festival is the festival's nerve center for media and the artists.  And the jazzfest's press corps is the best in the world: smart, always welcoming, always helpful, charming, and they're all good-looking.

    3)  Resurrecting the abandoned Blumenthal Building as the Maison du Festival was very cool.  They have a year-round jazz club, L'Astral, a nice restaurant, a museum full of musical memories, and the videoteque offers a marvelous history of the festival and the music.

    4)  No other jazzfest (or city) in the world puts on a show like Les Grandes Evenements in Montreal:  more than 100,000 people in the street, dancing, drinking beer, having a great time, and I've never seen a fistfight.

    5)  Cirque du Soleil celebrating the festival's 20th and 25th anniversaries: clowns, spectacular stunts, singers on the rooftops.  Wow …

    6)  Stevie Wonder in the rain on the Place des Spectacles, right alongside Place des Arts.  That a city was willing to permanently shut down a main street shows a commitment to the arts unique in the world. FIJM gets bigger (and better) every year, and one day, like the Great Wall of China, we'll be able to see the jazzfest from outer space.

    7)  Not only does FIJM have all-day free concerts around Place des Arts, the street scene is so joyous during the festival.  Mountebanks perform.  Tumblers.  Fire-eaters.  Here comes a New Orleans parade.  And one of my favorite rituals every year is enjoying, wherever they're playing, Streetnix.

    8)  Every morning, after all the revelry of the night before, all the beer cups and hot dog wrappers have been cleaned up.  Herculean!

    9)  And those spicy hot dogs on the little grills around Place des Arts are the best hot dogs in the world.

    10)  I love to eat in Montreal, even better than New Orleans, especially the hundreds of pizzas I've devoured at the four Pizzedelics.

    11)  Almost every year during the festival, Montreal's art museum routinely presents flabbergasting multi-media exhibitions.  I was awestruck by retrospectives of Miles Davis, author/artist Jean Cocteau, and designer Jean-Paul Gaultier.

    12)  Equipe Spectra, producers of the jazzfest,  presented two special exhibitions with George Lucas at the science center.   One gathered props, costumes, and scenes from the Indiana Jones movies connected to artifacts and a history of the real archaeological adventurers who inspired Indy.   The other offered a philosophical discourse on identity inspired by Star Wars.

    13)  Dave Brubeck, Tony Bennett, and so many others artists have said to me that they love performing for the always-enthusiastic audience in Montreal better than anywhere else in the world.

    14)  FIJM's Invitation series is always a wonderful showcase for great artists like Pat Metheny, Michael Brecker, and Hank Jones, but also presents fascinating artists I've never heard before, like the five-string bassist Renaud Garcia Fons.

    15)  Canadian artists don't get to play enough below the 49th Parallel.  I've enjoyed so many superb Quebecois players and singers, like Lorraine Desmarais and the Parc-X Trio, like Terez Montcalm and Susie Arioli.

    16)  I've watched one of my favorite artists, Diana Krall, grow up at the festival: her first swinging trio at the comedy museum; her virtual anointing by Tony Bennett; her enormous celebration at the hockey arena; and, best of all her concerts in Montreal, her intimate solo concert of songs and family memories.

    17)  All of the concerts in my favorite performance space, the Gesu: the trios of Steve Kuhn, Cyrus Chestnut, and Pilc/Moutin/Hoenig; Hoenig's Punk Bop; Daniel Mille; John Scofield solo; Allen Toussaint solo; George Wein and Anat Cohen; Trovesi, Mirabasi, Enrico Rava, and all the Italians; the George Grunts Concert Jazz Band, and so many more.

    18)  All of my other favorite concerts: Tony Bennett singing better than I've ever heard him on the evening he was honored with the Ella Fitzgerald Award; Oliver Jones thanking everyone for his musical life at his "farewell" solo concert, playing encore after encore of requests; an encore of McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones playing "Naima" as a majestic duet; Herbie Hancock's "New Standards" concert with Michael Brecker and John Scofield sounding so inspired; Chano Dominguez playing flamenco variations of Miles Davis; Holly Cole singing a heart-breaking "Tennessee Waltz" for her grandfather; Jamie Cullum, the "Charlie Parker of Pop" as I've called him; every gig of k.d. lang; and every gig of Dave Brubeck, always looking so happy at the piano.  So many more.

    19)  FIJM redefines jazz.  At every festival I hear artists continuing to venture into new styles and concepts of the music.  I call producer Laurent Saulnier the VP of the Edge.  He's encouraged me to hear groups like Plaster that have opened my ears to what's most fundamental about jazz: that even when the groove is electronic and hip-hopping, the music swings.

    20)  FIJM is an enormous success as a business, and I believe it's because everyone involved, from the always astute president, Alain Simard, and ever-hip artistic director, Andre Menard, to all the young interns and volunteers — everyone at the festival truly, deeply, loves the music.  And I love all of them.

    -- Michael Bourne

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