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Guide to the Montreal Jazz Festival

Experience the best of Montreal with the Montreal International Jazz Festival, a musical marvel that's been making visitors groove since 1980. As the world's biggest jazz festival, it's not just about the music – it's a 10-day celebration of diverse sounds and cultures that has been made Montreal a lively cultural hub for more than 40 years. 

Recognized by the Guinness World Records in 2004, this festival is a captivating blend of creativity, community, and culture, offering an unmatched global music experience, year after year.  

Montreal International Jazz Festival at night

The local travel experts at Canada Train Vacations help travellers in Canada plan trips personalized to their needs and interests. The city of Montreal is included on many of our itineraries and we can arrange your visit to coincide with the festival. 

This guide covers everything you need to know about the Montreal International Jazz Festival. 

History of Montreal Jazz Festival

In 1980, the Montreal Jazz Festival was founded by Alain Simard, André Ménard, Denyse McCann, and Alain de Grosbois, with its inaugural edition on Île-Sainte-Hélène featuring jazz legends like Chick Corea and Ray Charles, drawing 12,000 enthusiasts. Transitioning to a non-profit in 1982, the festival deepened its commitment to jazz. By 1989, it celebrated its 10th anniversary with a million attendees. 

In 2004, it achieved Guinness World Records recognition for hosting 2 million attendees. The 40th-anniversary celebration in 2019 marked four decades of musical excellence. As it approaches its 44th edition, the Montreal Jazz Festival remains a pivotal force in global jazz culture.  

Overview of the Festival's Events 

The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal has featured a diverse array of events and performances since its inception. 

  • Key events include: 
  • Concerts and performances 
  • Outdoor jam sessions 
  • Workshops and masterclasses 
  • Free outdoor shows  

Key Milestones and Notable Performances 

The evolution of the festival is marked by numerous key milestones, notable performances, and a significant cultural impact on Montreal: 

  • 1986: The Festival launched its first large-scale free event featuring over a thousand musicians across various performances. 
  • 1988: Place des Arts became the festival's official site. 
  • 1991: The Festival's site expanded, integrating De Maisonneuve Boulevard for the first time. 
  • 1996: The Festival's gallery was founded. 
  • 2001: The festival introduced the Jazz All-Year Round series. 
  • 2009: Place des Festivals, the new epicenter of the event, was inaugurated. The festival also celebrated its 30th anniversary and opened the Maison du Festival de Jazz, a permanent venue to promote jazz and its related music. 
  • 2015: Montreal commemorated Billie Holiday's centenary with Canadian artist Molly Johnson's show, "Because of Billie." 
  • 2022: Plans are in place for the inauguration of a new stage and space named Club TD Montreal. 

Festival International de Jazz de Montréal

What sets this festival apart and makes it truly unique is its ability to cultivate an atmosphere of inclusivity, diversity, and artistic innovation. 

At the 43rd-2023 Montreal International Jazz Festival, there were several notable highlights on the stages and streets:  

  • Isaiah Collier's Multifaceted performance 
  • Hiromi and Publiquartet collaboration 
  • Marisa Monte's Magical shows 
  • Anouar Brahem's oud mastery 
  • John Scofield's legendary appearance 
  • James Francies at the relaxing outdoor venue 
  • David Ryshpan and Bruxo collaboration 
  • Sold-out concert by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss 
  • Herbie Hancock's iconic show 
  • Thundercat's electrifying performance  

As the festival looks towards 2024, one can anticipate a continuation of this rich tradition, with an eclectic lineup that reflects the ever-evolving landscape of jazz and global music. 

Location and Dates 

The Montreal Jazz Festival takes place annually in the vibrant city of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The festival typically spans over 10 days, offering a musical extravaganza that attracts visitors from around the world. The dates vary each year, but it generally occurs during the summer months, often in late June or early July. 

If you're considering attending 2024’s 44th edition, mark your calendar from June 27th to July 6th for an unforgettable experience filled with incredible jazz performances and the lively atmosphere of Montreal.  

Venues and Performance Stages 

The Montreal Jazz Festival utilizes a variety of venues and performance stages throughout the city, creating a dynamic and diverse festival experience. Some notable venues and stages include:  

Place des Arts 

  • Location: 175 Saint-Catherine St W, Montreal, QC H2X 1Y9, Canada 
  • Capacities: Varied capacities across multiple performance spaces within Place des Arts. 
  • Unique Features: As a major cultural complex, Place des Arts houses multiple theaters, concert halls, and outdoor spaces, providing versatile settings for different musical performances. 

 Monument National 

  • Location: 1182 Saint-Laurent Blvd, Montreal, QC H2X 2S5, Canada 
  • Capacities: Varied capacities in different spaces within Monument National. 
  • Unique Features: A historic venue with a rich cultural heritage, Monument National serves as an atmospheric setting for jazz performances. 

Outdoor Stages 

  • Locations: Various outdoor spaces throughout the city. 
  • Capacities: Variable, depending on the specific outdoor venue. 
  • Unique Features: Open-air stages contribute to the festival's festive atmosphere, offering free performances that are accessible to a broad audience. 

Artists 

The Montreal Jazz Festival boasts a diverse lineup of artists, showcasing the richness and versatility of jazz music. Some prominent jazz musicians who have graced the festival's stages include: 

  1. Colin Stetson 
  2. Isaiah Collier 
  3. Emmet Cohen Trio 
  4. Thundercat 
  5. Nduduzo Makhathini 
  6. Chick Corea 
  7. Denyse McCann  

Lineup for the 2024 Festival  

The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal in 2024 is set to deliver another unforgettable musical experience, featuring a mixture of legendary jazz musicians and rising stars. As the anticipation builds, explore the exciting lineup and get tips to stay updated with the latest news. 

Headliners and Emerging Artists 

Here's a closer look at the phenomenal artists making up the lineup for the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal in 2024. 

  1. Laufey: An Icelandic-Chinese artist whose music skillfully blends jazz, pop, and the singer-songwriter aesthetic, Laufey has made waves in the music industry with her soulful voice and playful melodies. Her breakthrough came with her debut single, "Street By Street," in 2020, garnering international acclaim. 
  2. Pink Martini: Known for their unique fusion of jazz, Latin music, cabaret, and cinema scores, Pink Martini is a musical experience not to be missed. Comprising talented musicians from Portland, Oregon, they have been nominated for multiple awards throughout their careers. 
  3. Joshua Redman and Gabriele Cavassa: Joshua Redman is a renowned jazz saxophonist and composer known for his rousing improvisations. Performing alongside Gabrielle Cavassa, a rising star in the jazz scene with a distinctive vocal style, expect a thrilling performance that encapsulates the spirit of jazz. 
  4. Elisapie: Representing Canada's indigenous culture, Elisapie's music is a beautiful blend of folk and pop. Singing in Inuktitut, English, and French, she's won multiple awards and even landed a spot on the Polaris Music Prize shortlist in 2019. 
  5. Alfa Mist: Alfa Mist is a rising star from the UK known for blending jazz with elements of hip-hop and soul. Having begun as a grime and hip-hop producer, his seamless amalgamation of genres has led to a rapid rise on the international stage. 

Other artists in the lineup include: 

  • Vieux Farka Toure 
  • Joep Beving 
  • Ill Considered 
  • Django Festival Allstars 

How To Stay Informed About Updates to the Lineup 

Staying up-to-date with the 2024 lineup of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal is crucial to planning your festival experience. Being an informed concert-goer allows you to catch your favorite artists and discover new ones. 

Here are several strategies to help you stay updated: 

  1. Regularly check the official festival website and subscribe to newsletters for the most accurate and updated information 
  2. Follow social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram 
  3. Download the festival app 
  4. Set Google News alerts 
  5. Join jazz and festival-focused online communities, like Reddit or dedicated forums 

Attending the 2024 Festival 

Attending the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal takes some preparation. But with the right information and steps, you'll have everything you need for a smooth, enjoyable experience. 

Ticketing and Passes 

Tickets for the festival can typically be purchased online and at the venue, depending on availability. It's advisable to purchase in advance due to the festival's popularity. Different types of experiences include standard event tickets, full festival passes, and VIP packages. 

  • Standard event tickets give access to a specific concert or artist's performance. 
  • Full festival passes allow access to all the general-admission concerts during the festival. 
  • VIP packages often include festival passes, reserved seating at concerts, and other special privileges. 

Steps to buy your tickets or passes: 

  1. Visit the official Festival International de Jazz de Montréal website
  2. Navigate to the Tickets/Passes section. 
  3. Select the type of ticket or pass you wish to purchase. 
  4. Follow the checkout process, providing the necessary information and payment details. 
  5. Upon purchase, you should receive a confirmation email with your e-tickets or instructions for collecting physical tickets on the day. 

Age Restrictions and ID Requirements 

The festival is generally open to all ages, but certain venues or events may have age restrictions. Attendees may be required to present valid identification for entry. 

COVID-19 Protocols 

Given the evolving nature of health guidelines, the festival implements COVID-19 protocols as necessary. This may include vaccination requirements, mask mandates, and social distancing measures. Attendees should stay updated on the festival's website for the latest information. 

General Admission, VIP Passes, and Special Experiences 

The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal offers a variety of ticketing options that cater to different preferences and budgets. These options may include: 

General admission 

  • Provides access to free outdoor performances and may include entry to select indoor concerts. 
  • Prices vary based on the specific event, with some performances offered at no cost. 

VIP passes 

  • VIP passes offer enhanced festival experiences, including priority seating, exclusive access to VIP areas, and sometimes meet-and-greet opportunities with artists. 
  • Prices are higher than general admission and vary depending on the level of VIP access. 

Special experiences 

  • The festival may offer special experience packages that include unique perks such as backstage tours, artist interactions, or curated dining experiences. 
  • Prices for these packages are tailored to the exclusivity of the experience.  

Travel Tips and Information: Stay Informed 

Are you considering a visit to the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal? Whether you're a local looking for transportation options or a visitor seeking accommodation recommendations, here are some practical tips to enhance your festival experience: 

  1. Stay informed: Check the official Festival International de Jazz de Montréal website regularly for the latest information on dates, schedules, and lineup details. 
  2. Explore transportation options: Plan your travel in advance, considering public transportation, festival shuttles, or parking options. 
  3. Accommodation planning: Secure accommodations early, whether it's local hotels or Airbnb, to ensure a comfortable stay during the festival. 
  4. Download the festival app: Enhance your experience by downloading the official festival app for real-time updates, interactive maps, and personalized schedules. 
  5. Weather preparedness: Check the weather forecast for Montreal during the festival dates and pack accordingly. Be ready for both indoor and outdoor events. 

Traveler Experiences: Insights from Others

Past attendees often mention the electrifying atmosphere and the array of performances under the open sky as highlights of the festival. Many recommend spending time exploring the various street performances in addition to the main concert events. Also, taking time to indulge in Montreal's local culinary offerings is often recommended. 

Activities and Experiences: Immerse Yourself in Unforgettable Moments

The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal is more than just a music festival; it's an immersive cultural experience that offers a wide range of activities and experiences for attendees. 

Here are some of them that you may want to consider: 

  1. Outdoor concerts - Be captivated by live performances from world-renowned jazz artists. 
  2. Street entertainment - Discover a new artist, enjoy a street performance, or join in on spontaneous dance-offs. 
  3. Family-friendly activities - Take part in interactive workshops, enjoy kid-friendly shows, and take advantage of dedicated children's areas. 
  4. Exploring local foods - Sample culinary delights at food trucks and local eateries. 
  5. Enjoy Montreal - Explore the city's rich culture, art, and history amidst the festival excitement. 

Services and Accessibility 

The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal offers a range of services, such as diverse dining options including local food trucks, nearby restaurants, and potentially bars and lounges. The festival prioritizes accessibility by providing mobility assistance features like accessible entrances, ramps, designated seating, and elevators. 

Additionally, accessible restrooms, possible designated parking, and sign language interpretation services are available upon request. Open to service animals, the festival is committed to creating an inclusive, enjoyable experience for all attendees. 

Top Nearby Attractions

Montréal is a city rich in culture, history, and entertainment. While attending the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, be sure to set aside some time to discover the other attractions this exciting city has to offer. Here are some top sites near the festival that are worth exploring: 

  1. The Montréal Museum of Fine Arts 
  2. Mount Royal Park 
  3. Old Montréal 
  4. Quartier des Spectacles 
  5. Rue Sainte-Catherine 

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The Montreal Jazz Festival Team and Initiatives

The success of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal is owed to its dedicated team, including official sponsors, partners, suppliers, public partners, media partners, and cultural contributors. These individuals and organizations collaborate seamlessly to curate an unparalleled musical experience for attendees.  

Community Initiatives 

The festival actively engages in various community initiatives, fostering a sense of cultural enrichment. By supporting local artists, collaborating with community organizations, and involving the public in interactive programs, the festival becomes a vibrant hub for cultural exchange and artistic appreciation. 

Sustainability Efforts 

With sustainability at its core since 1989, the festival is committed to minimizing its environmental footprint. Working towards obtaining the BNQ Level 2 standard, the festival implements eco-friendly practices, waste reduction strategies, and energy-efficient solutions to ensure a positive impact on both the environment and the local community.  

Significance of the Festival 

The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal holds a significant place in the global music arena. It is known and cherished for its dedication to honoring established jazz artists while also serving as a launching pad for emerging talent. 

Its popularity is evident through the massive audiences it attracts each year, both locals and international tourists alike. Moreover, its recognition as a world leader among jazz festivals showcases its continual success in uplifting the jazz genre. The festival's commitment to enriching the musical landscape and dedication to cultivating, presenting, and celebrating jazz makes it an unmissable event for music lovers worldwide. 

Conclusion

The Montreal International Jazz Festival/Festival International de Jazz de Montréal is not just a music festival; it's a vibrant celebration of culture and diversity that has made Montreal a global cultural hub. If you're a travel enthusiast looking for a unique Canadian experience, talk to one of our local travel experts about creating a personalized itinerary in Montreal. Explore cultural gems, enjoy delicious food, and soak up the festival's vibrant energy. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Montreal jazz fest free?

No, the majority of events at the Montreal Jazz Festival are ticketed. While some outdoor shows and activities may be free, most performances, especially headliners and indoor concerts, require tickets.

How many people go to jazz fest every year?

Over 2 million people attend the Montreal Jazz Festival annually, making it one of the largest and most popular music festivals in the world.

How much does it cost to attend the Montreal Jazz Festival ?

Ticket prices vary based on the artist, venue, and type of performance. It's advisable to check the official festival website for detailed information on ticket prices and packages.

When is the Montreal Jazz Festival ?

The Montreal Jazz Festival typically takes place in late June to early July. For 2024, it is scheduled to take place from June 27th to July 6th.

Who to see at the Montreal Jazz Festival 2024?

The 2024 artist lineup includes exciting performers such as Laufey, Pink Martini, Elisapie, Alfa Mist, and more. Stay updated by checking the official festival website and social media channels for the latest artist announcements.

Where is the Montreal Jazz Festival held?

The festival takes place in various locations, including jazz clubs, large concert halls at place des arts, and outdoor venues throughout Montreal. Check the official schedule for specific venue details.

When do tickets go on sale for the Montreal International Jazz Festival?

The sale dates for tickets to the Montreal International Jazz Festival vary. It's advisable to regularly check the official festival website for updates on ticket sales, or subscribe to their newsletter for timely notifications.

About the author: Athena McKenzie is the Content Manager at Fresh Tracks Canada. An experienced lifestyle journalist, she has written about travel, design, arts and entertainment. Her work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Zoomer Magazine, Elle Canada and... Read more

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