MONTREAL — It may be hot in the city, but the music is all cool.
The Montreal International Jazz Festival, the city’s biggest summer party, presents its 34th edition beginning Friday and running through Sunday, July 7. This year’s event offers 300 ticketed indoor performances as well as more than 300 free concerts on 10 outdoor stages centered at Place des Festivals downtown. And while music takes center stage, the fest offers a number of fun walking tours and special events.
The big free outdoor opening and closing “Grand Events” never disappoint, and this year is no different.
Opening the fest on Friday, June 28, is acclaimed Canadian singer-songwriter Feist, who’s known for her hits “1234,” “Mushaboom” and “How Come You Never Go There.” Closing the fest on Sunday, July 7, is Malian world-beat couple Amadou & Mariam. Both start at 9:30 p.m.
All of the free outdoor Jazz Fest shows are centered at Place des Festivals, an urban park along Jean Mance Street adjacent to Place des Arts, and run from noon to midnight. The biggest tip to mention here — don’t even think of driving, as the area is well-served by Metro station Place des Arts. In addition, the Jazz Fest also coincides for a number of nights with the Montreal Fireworks Festival. For example, Friday, when Feist takes the downtown stage, fireworks are held at La Ronde — which means the Jacques Cartier Bridge will be closed and the Champlain Bridge will likely be backed up. Get there at least by early evening.
There are many ticketed performances for this year’s edition with a “jazz” moniker that’s just the tip of the musical iceberg. Here is just a glimpse of what to expect.
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra featuring Wynton Marsalis is performed at Maison Symphonique de Montreal Friday. Boz Scaggs performs at Place des Arts Sunday, June 30.
She & Him features the sultry pop sounds of duo TV actress/comedienne Zooey Deschanel (She) and M. Ward (Him) at Place des Arts Wednesday, July 3. Lyle Lovett and Chris Isaak perform a Place des Arts double bill Thursday, July 4. Eighties actress Molly Ringwald sings jazz vocals at Club Soda Saturday, July 6.
New this year, the festival offers a historical walking tour that traces the history of jazz in Montreal. The two-hour guided tour begins at the old Windsor train station and highlights stops in Montreal’s Little Burgundy neighborhood where the roots of Prohibition-era jazz took place. The tour concludes at Place des Festivals. Tours depart from 1100 Avenue des Canadiens-de-Montreal in front of old Windsor train station just adjacent to the Bell Centre June 28 through 30, and July 1, 5, 6 and 7. Tickets cost $20.
Le Bateau-Mouche is offering a three-hour St. Lawrence River cruise, a four-course meal and a live performance of the gypsy-jazz stylings of Christine Tassan et les Imposteures. Cruises run from 7 to 10 p.m. June 29, 30 and July 2. The fee is $137 for cruise and dinner. Guests board at 6:30 p.m. from the Jacques Cartier Pier in the Old Port of Montreal. Reservations are required at (514) 849-9952 or by visiting www.bateaumouche.ca.
Two culinary-inspired jazz tours are also offered. Atwater Market Goes Jazzy combines a two-hour walking tour led by a professional culinary guide with highlighted stops at the Atwater Market and nearby Little Burgundy with food tastings along the way. The tours are held from 2 to 4 p.m. June 29 and July 6. The tour departs from Havre-aux-Glaces at 138 Atwater Ave.
Flavours and Aromas of Old Montreal looks at the culinary culture of the area with tastings at four boutique shops. The tours are held from 9:30 a.m. to noon June 29 and July 6. It departs from Espace Boutique Europea at 33 Notre Dame St. W. Tours cost $60. Reservations can be made online through the Jazz Fest website.
Steven Howell is the author of Montreal Essential Guide, a Sutro Media iPhone travel app available at iTunes.com.
FOR MORE INFO
For the complete Jazz Festival lineup and ticket prices, call (888) 515-0515 or visit www.montrealjazzfest.com.