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signing of Montreal International Jazz Festival 2024 – London Jazz News

signing of Montreal International Jazz Festival 2024 – London Jazz News
signing of Montreal International Jazz Festival 2024 – London Jazz News

Morgan Enos spent the weekend at the 44th Montreal International Jazz Festival, where he enjoyed an eclectic and exciting mix of music from an all-star cast. The festival took place from June 27 to July 6, 2024. Read on for his take on the procedure…

Montreal during the festival. Photo credit: Victor Diaz in special collaboration with Montreal International Jazz Festival.

“Do you see that building over there?” asks David Beckett, a freelance writer who has been attending the Montreal International Jazz Festival, one of the largest jazz festivals in the world, for more than three decades.

We’re sitting in a third-floor press room, adjacent to the Le Phono conversation and DJ space, with a sunny, panoramic view of the cordoned-off section of downtown. When Beckett was fresh out of high school, he borrowed his mother’s truck and drove it north, driving about two hours from his home in Burlington, Vermont.

He then parked at the Rising Sun, a legendary, now defunct jazz and blues club, where he saw Dexter Gordon, one of the greatest tenor saxophonists ever, firmly back in the States after living in Copenhagen for 14 years.

In the years that followed, Beckett saw Art Blakey, the towering drummer and decades-long driving force behind the Jazz Messengers, and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, the piercing, crushing alto sax blues screamer.


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“There’s a real sense of spectacle,” says Beckett. Montreal Jazz Fest is not a routine perform, perform, perform affair: Street musicians strumming electric guitars, poutine aromas wafting from food trucks, massive crowds abounding. “I used to go to a festival in Saratoga Springs and then came out here for a few days,” he adds. “But I realized I liked it here.”

Granted, Beckett split the difference in 2024; he managed to attend both festivals. But as someone who had never been to Montreal, barely been to Canada, and only nominally experienced a jazz festival, Beckett’s insights ring true: Montreal Jazz Fest is something else.

First of all, it is so civilAs a music journalist living in a Jersey suburb of New York City, most gigs go off without much, if any, incident. But I’ve been in many professional situations where, even with seemingly bulletproof credentials, you’re met with TSA-style, prison-guard-style, mildly dehumanizing treatment.

That was not the case at Montreal Jazz Fest. My first impression of French Canadians: attentive, bon vivant and generally nice, and that atmosphere extended to the festival as a whole.

Alexandra Stréliski at the Maison Symphonique de Montreal
Photo: Victor Diaz in special collaboration with the Montreal International Jazz Festival.

Even in the stifling heat, among huge crowds, and on a tight schedule, any potential festival-generated source of stress escaped me. A burger and a beer didn’t cost me $78. My press pass meant I could simply enjoy the show; it wasn’t a catalyst for gratuitous suspicion.

The programming was clever. The headliners included Outkast’s Andre 3000 – whose new era detour New Blue Sun made a splash last year – along with two generations of gateways to jazz curiosity, in Norah Jones and the Icelandic singer-songwriter Laufey.

“It has changed. It has a new face. I feel like it is looking for the new, young sound,” says saxophonist, composer and conductor Christine Jensenwho has 25 years of experience with the festival.

The other big acts fell loosely into three categories. First: leading acts that I could easily see in the Lincoln Tunnel in an hour, many days of the year: saxophonists Kenny Garrett And Melissa Aldanatrumpet players Ambrose Akinmusire And Keyon Harroldand guitarist Julian Lage.

Second, more commercial acts, such as the flamenco and new age-style guitarist Jesse Kokwho was dazzlingly charming at first sight Symphony House.

And thirdly, non-jazz artists: country artists such as Orville Peckindie acts like Future Islandsand rappers like Murderer Mike And Freddie Gibbs. All who, if you look at the arc of music history, are unmistakably shaped by the DNA of jazz.

“Montreal is pretty amazing, in terms of the variety of acts. It’s a huge scale,” Cook says. “Other jazz festivals have great acts, but maybe there’s three or four locations and a couple of things going on. But it’s not like this.”

The Montreal Jazz Fest seamlessly bridged the gap between communal (and free) outdoor performances: the first walk from the hotel led directly into the rumble of Joel Ross‘s vibes – and reverent indoor performances. A solo performance by the great pianist Fred Herschwho played covers from Joni to Jobim, was received with awe, as if he were in church, and received a thunderous applause.

It was hard to see it all. Who could? As with any festival, you can only see a fraction of it, and in such a sweltering heat, frequent walks back to the AC-ed hotel are quickly made.

Still, as a total newcomer I was blown away by the efficiency, variety and friendliness that emanated from Montreal Jazz Fest. Although this jazz fan is spoiled in its proximity to NYC, it was wonderful to witness it in our northern neighbors.

Shortly after Montreal Jazz Fest was founded in 1980, Beckett jumped in, stayed in, and hasn’t abandoned ship since. Visit Montreal at the right time of year and you’re sure to follow suit.

CLUTCH: Montreal International Jazz Festival website

Categories: Features/Interviews, Mondays with Morgan

Tagged as: Ambrose Akinmusire, andre 3000, Christine Jensen, Fred Hersch, freddie gibbs, future islands, jesse cook, Julian Lage, Kenny Garrett, Keyon Harrold, killer mike, laufey, melissa aldana, Montreal International Jazz Festival, montreal jazz festival, Morgan Enos, norah jones, orville peck