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A Fortieth Anniversary and a Fond Farewell: Michael Bourne on the Montreal Jazz Int'l Fest

Michael Bourne and the Montreal Jazz Festival press corps, wearing their Michael Bourne T-shirts in 2017.

The Montréal International Jazz Festival, like WBGO, is in the midst of a 40th-anniversary celebration. And for two-thirds of its storied history, Michael Bourne has had boots on the ground: this is his 27th edition of the festival.

(It would have been his 28th, were it not for a medical setback one year: “I earned the heart attack with all the cheeseburgers, but I was really angry that I missed Montréal,” he says. “They sent me a press pass anyway.”)

In 2017 the festival honored Michael with its Bruce Lundvall Award, presented to an influential figure in the jazz media or the recording or concert industries. This year, on Thursday, July 4, he’ll join André Ménard and Alain Simard, the Montréal International Jazz Festival cofounders, onstage in a special concert designed to acknowledge four decades of excellence. Along with their colorful stories, the evening will feature music by pianist Lorraine Desmarais, with her band.

Michael sat down with Simon Rentner to discuss the anniversary show, some other festival highlights, and the fact that Ménard is retiring after this year. He also alluded to a poignant realization: “This is the only place I travel to at all anymore, and this is it. One more time.”

“I learned how to look at life and listen to music in Montréal,” Michael says, elaborating on the festival’s broadminded ideal. “People were always complaining, ‘There’s not enough jazz at the festival.’ I said, ‘You have to listen. And you hear how at this festival, you can hear jazz evolving.’”

Near the end of the conversation, Michael also remarks on an odd sensation he has in the City of Saints. “I have felt for years as if I never actually leave and come back,” he says. “I feel that I’m always here in Montréal — some part of me toujours ici.”