Montreal International Jazz Festival

Montreal International Jazz Festival
The Montreal International Jazz Festival (Festival International de Jazz de Montréal) is an annual jazz festival held in the Canadian province of Quebec. In 2004, it was officially declared the largest jazz festival in the world by Guinness World Records.

The Montreal Jazz Festival was created by Alain Simard, a Canadian producer and manager. In the early 1970s, Simard joined Production Kosmos, helping them to bring world-class musicians to Montreal. Thanks to Simard, Montreal saw performances by B.B. King, Pink Floyd, Chuck Berry, Chic Corea, Dave Brubeck, Bo Diddley, and many others.

In 1977, Simard teamed up with Denys McCann and André Ménard to form a new agency, Spectra Scène (now known as L’Équipe Spectra), designed to manage and run a jazz festival in Montreal. Their goal was to create a summer event that would bring together the best jazz musicians from around the world.

The inaugural Montreal International Jazz Festival was supposed to take place in 1979 but the organizers had to postpone it for a year due to lack of funding. The first edition of the festival took place in 1980 thanks to the support of several local radio stations. It featured performances by Vic Vogel, Chick Corea, Ray Charles, and Gary Burton.

The first Montreal International Jazz Festival attracted 12,000 attendees. Today, its welcomes about 2.5 million music lovers and jazz connoisseurs over 10 days, 34% of whom are tourists from all over Canada and abroad. During the festival, a major part of downtown Montreal is closed to traffic, as several open-air stages are erected in the heart of the Quartier des spectacles. Free concerts are held from noon until midnight, some of them are attended by over 100,000 people.

Alongside open-air concerts, the Montreal Jazz International Festival hosts a series of shows in a variety of venues throughout Montreal, from small and intimate jazz clubs to large concert halls like Place des Arts, the largest performing arts center in Montreal and one of the largest cultural and artistic complexes in Canada. Every year the festival features about 3,000 artists from over 30 countries who give more than 650 performances, including 450 free performances on outdoor stages.

Since 1982, the festival has been hosting an annual competition for Canadian jazz musicians performing original music. Originally named Concours de Jazz, it has been known under several names including Prix de Jazz Alcan, Prix de Jazz du Maurier, Grand Prix de Jazz General Motors, and TD Grand Jazz Award. Past winners include now-famous Canadian musicians such as Lorraine Desmarais, François Bourassa, Jon Ballantyne, Hugh Fraser, Robi Botos, and others.

In 2020, the event was held online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Montreal International Jazz Festival

Photo: Benoit Rousseau




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