36th edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal: Distinctively Montreal…and Absolutely Universal!
Fortunately, the lovely days that followed allowed festival fans to come to the rescue of their beloved event, and thanks to remarkable attendance in our venues, this edition is certain to close with only a minor budget shortfall. And so, the Festival was as festive as ever, Jazz burst forth in all its forms, Montréal was showcased in all its glory for people from all over the world, and above all, the Festival was more International than ever!
Indeed—if this edition unequivocally demonstrated anything, it is that the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal is truly international.
With the thousands of musicians who assembled for this edition, from Denmark to Sudan, Japan, Israel or South Africa, while of course giving special prominence, as ever, to artists from Québec and Canada.
With a thrilled media corps who spread the word about us in quantity—more than 400 accredited journalists and 157 media representatives from 16 countries!—but also in quality: from the Téléjournal on Radio-Canada and CTV opening the Festival to the BBC filming in L’Astral and French specialty network Mezzo Monde showcasing our concerts for its audience, not to mention Billboard, L’Express, FIP (Radio-France) and The Daily Telegraph, and many, many more.
With tourists from absolutely everywhere; in numbers—for example, more than 100,000 tourists from outside Quebec attended our event (an average 7.6 nights’ accommodation), sales and revenue from tourist packages that matched those of last year, which was an anniversary edition that also ran for an extra day…—but also in their very real presence, with Métro cars packed with Canadian and American Anglophones heading to the Festival along with a mosaic of visitors from South Africa, the Netherlands, Germany, Mexico, France, etc. This year, there was also a “jazz train” with musical entertainment rolling visitors straight up from New York!
In short, the Festival brings together EVERY audience, transcending language, nationality, and political, religious or any other affiliation. That diversity is well and truly real, and every year, organizers find a way to thrill them with incredible new additions to the program. Just look at the magnificent Club Jazz Casino de Montréal, an oasis in the heart of downtown and an instant fan favourite, which not only enhanced our jazz program but succeeded in drawing a crowd appropriate to the venue.
With its scope, its organization, its colossal capacity to promote and develop music from all over the planet, and the quality of its programming, our Festival—this “massively dominating festival,” in the words of Jamie Cullum, impressed by the incredible platform it offered to the British artists he presented in L’Astral during the BBC evening—is the world’s reference point for major music events.
But even though it is in a class unto itself, the world’s largest jazz festival and, by definition, a production requiring a colossal effort of work and will, it remains first and foremost a labour of true music lovers, inspired solely and uniquely by the music they love. That explains the fascinating eternal quantity/quality balance of its program, which is always deeply considered and utterly dialed-in.
And it also explains why every successive edition produces magical, memorably, unique moments. Over the last few days alone—after all, we’ve got to narrow them down!—consider…
Erykah Badu. The energy! It was as if stately old Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier had been transformed into a gigantic Métropolis!
The legendary Huey Lewis and the News, treated to ovation after ovation from an audience that spent virtually the entire evening on its feet!
The incredible Mathieu Holubowski success story—who followed his success on La Voix by selling out the modest Cinquième Salle, and going on to pack Métropolis!
The formidable Harry Manx, who was equal to the intimidating challenge of replacing the great Taj Mahal—beautifully filling out a sublime blues triple-header with John Mayall and James Cotton!
The tremendous success of the gorgeous Lo Esencial by Luis de la Carrasca, presented by Flamenco Vivo, offering absolute confirmation of how much Festival fans love this peerless genre.
The generational passing of the baton from the great Booker T. Jones, member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to young sensation Bobby Bazini.
The unexpected tribute to Vic Vogel (who had to pull out of his concert due to illness), featuring special guest-friends Oliver Jones, Lorraine Desmarais, Rafael Zaldivar... The pianist was able to enjoy the entire concert, watching at home. Pure emotion.
And here’s betting that the Grand Blues Evening in Memory of B.B. King (to whom this edition is dedicated) closing the Festival tomorrow night will be the cherry on our musical and emotional sundae!
The Festival is also a tremendous springboard for new artists and a major step for those on the rise, both locally and from abroad. Consider The Franklin Electric and The Barr Brothers, who played to their biggest crowds ever and were seen and heard by media from all over the world; Florence K, who enjoyed great exposure among American tourists, which was especially timely given she just launched her album in the U.S.; Adam Cohen, who performs tonight under the stars; the Peter Edwards Trio, Malaika and Mammal Hands, UK artists presented free by BBC Introducing and PRS for Music Foundation in L’Astral, and their colleague Ala.ni, performing in the same venue tonight.
Similarly, the Festival also continues to offer a tremendous boost to the next generation of local jazz artists by working with young people, notably through its Jazzfest des jeunes series, a program of high school, Cegep and university bands, or the Blues Camp, marking its 10th anniversary by inviting 50 teenagers to a dream-come-true musical experience, a completely free musical day camp—so take this as an invitation to their concert, the climax of this week of musical joy, which opens in under 2 hours!
The Festival also once again offered a tremendous boost to Montreal itself. The incontestable leader among Montreal events, the Festival showcases our Québécois artists (50% of the program!), generates unequaled economic, tourism and cultural spinoffs, and entertains and enriches the entire community. Not only did this Festival invent the uniquely Montreal formula of a free urban site in the heart of the downtown core, but it continues to refine, develop, enhance and increased the profitability of its offerings for our governments and merchants.
The Festival has long been a Montreal asset and institution, just like the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, as affirmed by Hélène David, Minister for Culture and Communications during the ceremony marking the donation of L’Équipe Spectra’s archives to the BAnQ, making the largest private audiovisual archives in its catalogue, with 2660 videos. For 36 years, the Festival has been an integral part of the history and culture of the city, in many respects—for example, unveiling the Quartier des spectacles, re-imagining and reclaiming its public spaces and now ranking as one of its major symbols. Finally, it puts the spotlight on Montreal, showcasing her to the world in her best possible light. As a globally renowned Montreal icon, the Festival is now a fundamental vehicle driving the international profile of the city. In other words, our Festival is distinctively Montreal, but also absolutely universal!