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Michael Bourne in his element at the Montreal Jazz Festival, with Diana Krall and more

The namesake of the Michael Bourne press room at the 2017 Montreal International Jazz Festival.
The namesake of the Michael Bourne press room at the 2017 Montreal International Jazz Festival.

Michael Bourne may live in New York City. He may work in Newark. However, his true home could be on the 49th parallel, as he would like to say, in Montréal.

As we wrap up our celebration of Michael Bourne, on the cusp of his retirement on the air at WBGO, it seems fitting to pay tribute to the “jazz jock” in his element, where The Checkout thrived by the maestro’s side at Festival International de Jazz de Montréal.

Bourne was a fixture at the festival for almost 27 consecutive years, as a broadcaster, writer and judge for its musical contests — but just as importantly, as a fan of Québécois culture and many of its culinary pleasures. In 2017, the festival gave him its highest honor for an industry jazz man: the Bruce Lundvall award. He was also one of the few to receive the an extremely rare and coveted “black” pass, granting him lifetime access, which he always liked to wear and brag about.

Early on, he befriended festival cofounders André Ménard and Alain Simard. Together, they watched the festival grow to historic proportions as documented by Guinness. And Michael witnessed a lot of it while fostering many of Canada’s local talent including Diana Krall. On one summer night in 2019 (the last year Bourne attended the festival), he got the chance to show his affection for the festival onstage with its cofounders.

This event was called “40 years of history with André Ménard, Alain Simard, Michael Bourne et le Lorraine Desmarais band."

It was a mere coincidence that both the festival and WBGO were celebrating its 40th anniversary in the same year. So it seemed like destiny that we would make an event together. Michael curated an evening of music, which featured many of his favorite local talents including Christine Jensen (saxophone), Sonia Johnson (vocals), Holly Cole (vocals), Frederic Alarie (bass) and Camil Belisle (drums).

So this podcast features Michael Bourne in three Montréal settings. First, with Krall in 2014, perhaps at the peak of her popularity, when she received the Ella Fitzgerald award. Then, I have a conversation with him about his personal connection to the festival. And to conclude, we share some fascinating tales of Charlie Haden, Dave Brubeck, and Tony Bennett from the 40th anniversary event.

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For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Europe, South America, and Africa.