Montreal International Jazz Festival: Discover a taste for every ear

Richard Galliano plays Bach to Piazzolla at Maison Symphonique de Montreal. (Photo courtesy of the jazz fest)Richard Galliano plays Bach to Piazzolla at Maison Symphonique de Montreal. (Photo courtesy of the jazz fest)
Richard Galliano plays Bach to Piazzolla at Maison Symphonique de Montreal. (Photo courtesy of the jazz fest)

Richard Galliano plays Bach to Piazzolla at Maison Symphonique de Montreal. (Photo courtesy of the jazz fest)


Jazz fan or not, there is a tremendous range of music in free outdoor venues and paid indoor ones to satisfy most tastes at this year’s Montreal International Jazz Festival.

The first of hundreds of daily shows starts Wednesday, June 27, and continue until Sunday, July 7, with three big blowout concerts where the crowds are in the tens of thousands. There is almost no place to sit and they are best suited for the hale and hearty.

The best way to sample festival sounds is to spend a few hours checking out the free concerts on a mild afternoon or evening at the various outdoor stages scattered around the festival site. They are in the quadrilateral bounded by Ste. Catherine, de Maisonneuve, Jeanne Mance and Clark. The lineup is posted on site and listed in free festival programs.

Here are my picks for the indoor, ticketed events:

June 28

Singer-songwriter James Taylor returns after a four-year absence to rekindle the light with such songs as Carolina in My Mind, You’ve got a Friend, Fire and Rain. Salle Wilfrid Pelletier, Place des Arts. $95 to $152. Also June 27.

Pianist Rafael Zaldivar, a Cuban ex-patriot, an emerging talent on the local scene, welcomes the great U.S. saxophonist Greg Osby to L’Astral, 305 Ste. Catherine, 6 pm. $27.

Master accordionist Richard Galliano plays everything from Bach to Piazzolla with tremendous verve and colour. Maison Symphonique de Montréal, 7 pm. $57-$65.

Electric bassist Stanley Clark goes acoustic in a duet with virtuosic pianist Hiromi. Théâtre Jean Duceppe, Place des Arts, 8 pm. $65.

June 29

The dream-team duo of pianist Kenny Werner and singer/songwriter/pianist Patricia Barber—love and values are her focus—perform. Maison Symphonique de Montréal, 7 pm. $57.

Saxophonist Wayne Shorter, original, enigmatic, often poetic, arguably the most important jazz musician at this festival, leads a stellar quartet. Théâtre Maisonneve, Place des Arts, 9:30 pm. $66-$82.

June 30

Trumpeter/composer Joe Sullivan leads his local quartet with guitarist Lorne Lofsky in music that is adventuresome and challenging. L’Astral, 6 pm. $27.

July 1

Meshell Ndegeocello, a gifted American singer/songwriter and bassist, meshes idioms, from jazz to hip hop, with her oh-so-smooth delivery and swing. Club Soda, 1225 St. Laurent, 10 pm. $41.

July 2

An exceptional day: Classy bassist Ron Carter, who has graced 2,000 albums, returns with ace guitarist Russell Malone and pianist Donald Vega, Club Soda, 6 pm. $53.

Miles Smiles, a sextet of such Miles Davis alumna as trumpeter Wallace Roney, saxophonist Bill Evans and guitarist Larry Coryell, salute the prince. Théâtre Maisonneuve, Place des Arts, 9:30 pm. $56-$65.

They share their lives and art: Pianists Bill Charlap and Canadian-born Renee Rosnes challenge and complement each other. Gesù Centre de créativité, 1202 Bleury, 10:30 pm. $46.

Do not miss the off-Broadway hit The Devil’s Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith, the one-woman musical starring Miche Braden, who follows the highs and lows of the most popular blues artist of her era (1894-1937). Cinquième Salle, Place des Arts, 7 p.m., (8 p.m. on July 3). $69. Runs till July 7.

July 3

Master saxophonist James Carter performs with his (Hammond B3) organ trio, the powerful blues singer Miche Braden and Rodney Jones, a superb guitarist. Club Soda, 6 pm. $55.

July 4

Montreal bassist Adrian Vedady is joined by U.S. pianist Marc Copland, a gorgeous improviser. L’Astral, 6 pm. $27.

Ambrose Akinmusire, Blue Note’s new “young trumpet lion,” struts his stuff in a Montreal debut that could be a classic. Gesù Centre de créativité, 10:30 pm. $36.

Saxophonist Remi Bolduc celebrates his 50th birthday with pianist François Bourassa, and other Montreal musicians in their prime. L’Astral, 6 pm. $27.

Born in Russia, raised in Israel, Sophie Millman blossomed as a jazz vocalist in Toronto and travels the world as a star performer. Club Soda, 6 pm. $41.

July 6

Trumpeter Tom Harrell closes the nightly sessions at Upstairs Jazz Bar and Grill, with two performances in a piano-less quartet. 1254 Mackay St., 7 and 9:45 p.m., repeating July 7. $49 per set.

Singer Ranee Lee, also a strong actor, re-creates the brilliant, tragic life of Billie Holiday, the greatest of them all, in word and song. L’Astral, 6 pm. $33.

July 8

A staged “battle of the bands,” pitting The Duke Ellington Orchestra against the Count Basie Orchestra, will re-create the swing era. Salle Wilfrid Pelletier, Place des Arts, 2 pm. $85-$103.

Note: Most prices include taxes and service charges rounded out. They may be slightly lower if purchased at the venue.

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