Montreal Jazz Festival
The 44th Edition Of The
International de Jazz de Montreal

Travel to Montréal This Summer for Our Favorite North American Music Festival

44th Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, June 27–July 6, 2024

Hundreds of Concerts, Two-Thirds of Them Free in the Heart of the City

André 3000, Robert Glasper, Killer Mike, Dominique Fils-Aimé, Freddie Gibbs x El Michels Affair, Ambrose Akinmusire, Thee Sacred Souls, Joshua Redman, and So Many More

Anyone who’s been to the Montreal Jazz Festival knows it’s one of the most wide-ranging, joyous music festivals in the world, not to mention the largest (just ask Guinness World Records). The 44th edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, set to begin on Thursday, June 27, in the heart of the beautiful city of Montreal, promises to continue the tradition, boasting hundreds of concerts over ten days with the majority of performances free of charge. It features a wildly diverse lineup of more than 200 performers, everything from established Grammy-winning musicians to experimental and genre-defying artists and intriguing up-and-comers representing a cornucopia of styles.

From its inception in 1980 with the likes of Chick Corea, Gary Burton, and Ray Charles, the event has become an essential destination for lovers of music, culture, and community. The festival site is closed to traffic for ten days, transforming the downtown area into a festive, fun bash. But the Montreal Jazz Festival isn’t just a giant party. It’s a well-curated musical event with its pulse on the heartbeat of jazz in all its evolving glory.

“In various areas of society, the notion of borders is fading away, and the same goes for our beloved jazz,” says head of programming Maurin Auxéméry. “Our incredible programming team has the duty and the pleasure of reflecting this healthy evolution.” The extraordinary lineup of performers reflects this synergistic diversity, truly offering something for everyone.

This year’s headliners, for example, are as compelling as they are multifarious. Acclaimed rapper and half of the Outkast duo, André 3000, whose latest concept album, New Blue Sun, lands at the junction of New Age, ambient, and jazz, brings his surprise pivot to the flute to the festival stage. Festival-going fans of the fiery Australian outfit Hiatus Kayiote have been waiting for the band’s festival debut, and this year they finally get their wish. The band’s riotous R&B-funk-jazz looks to be a highlight. Also headlining are two performers that reflect the festival’s expansive musical ethos: the young Icelandic, jazz-inspired pop artist Laufey and the masked country music star Orville Peck. Returning are two multi-Grammy award-winning artists: singer/songwriter and festival favorite Norah Jones and pianist/composer Robert Glasper with special guests.

According to Auxéméry, “Jazz constantly takes its cues from current music styles, and it in turn seeps into rock, pop, and hip-hop, to name just a few. This interdependence is really exciting as it testifies to the relevance of jazz in our soundscape.” The headliners are certainly a testament to that, but the commitment to the living, vital artform of jazz in all its forms and influences doesn’t stop there.

Festivalgoers can see Grammy Award-winning rapper/activist Killer Mike, who’s been called “Atlanta’s rap journeyman” by the New York Times and whose work has explored Southern Black masculinity. Flatbush Zombies member Erick the Architect, who reached new heights on his recent double album, I’ve Never Been Here Before, will also perform. Also on tap are young multi-instrumentalist/producer/vocalist Cisco Swank, who made a splash with his jazz-hip-hop-R&B-gospel blend debut album, More Better; the ingenious trio LA LOM (The Los Angeles League of Musicians) and their mix of ‘60s soul, boleros, Peruvian Chicha, and country; Japanese jazz-rap multi-instrumentalist Sen Morimoto; and a red-hot collaboration between hip-hop artist Freddie Gibbs and vintage ensemble El Michels Affair.

Guitar players galore from all over the world and in many genres are featured, such as virtuoso and jazz fusion icon Al DiMeola, who’s always blended multiple influences, including rock, flamenco, and world into his technically flawless and expressive playing. Other acclaimed guitarists in the lineup are the Grammy-nominated Julian Lage, blues guitarists Cedric Burnside and Buffalo Nichols, Malian guitarist/songwriter Vieux Farka Touré (who’s been called “Hendrix of the Sahara”) and Juno Award-winning festival favorite Jesse Cook as well as Grammy-winning bass guitarists Marcus Miller and Stanley Clarke with his jazz fusion ensemble N•4-Ever.

Wind instruments play a prominent role too, with flutes taking center stage in the aforementioned André 3000 performance as well as appearances by Grammy-nominated Chief Adjuah (Christian Scott) and Shabaka, whose recent solo debut sees him setting aside his customary tenor sax to play a range of flutes.

A trumpet summit features artists like Keyon Harrold, who’s played with Erykah Badu, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and Rihanna; Maurice Brown, whose resume includes working with Cee Lo Green and none other than the Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin; and up-and-comer Theo Croker. One of the best jazz trumpeters around, Ambrose Akinmusire, plays a solo show as well as a duo performance with the great jazz bassist Dave Holland, a collaboration that’s sure to offer a rewarding musical dialogue. Young lion Adam O’Farrill appears with his quartet, Stranger Days, featuring tenor saxophonist Chad Lefkowitz-Brown, bassist Walter Stinson, and drummer Zack O’Farrill, while French-Swiss jazz trumpeter Erik Truffaz weaves hip-hop, rock, and dance music into his compositions and Spanish composer/trumpeter/flugelhornist Milena Casado blends tradition with a cutting-edge approach to jazz.

Saxophonists can’t be overlooked at a jazz festival, and Montreal’s doesn’t disappoint, with established artists like the Joshua Redman Group with vocalist Gabrielle Cavassa, Chris Potter’s trio with Matt Brewer and Kendrick Scott, Chilean tenor sax player Melissa Aldana, Grammy-nominated Lakecia Benjamin, veteran tenor sax player George Coleman with his quartet, and Kenny Garrett, whose most recent release, Sounds from the Ancestors, melds post-bop, Latin, and African influences. Other brass players in the lineup include acclaimed Canadian jazz saxophonist Yannick Rieu, versatile trombonist Audrey Ochoa, and trombonist Mariel Bildsten and her septet.

Fans of piano players will have no shortage of choices either, with great jazz players like the inimitable Fred Hersch, the fantastic Jason Moran, hard-swinging veteran Benny Green, and evolving prodigy Joey Alexander. International artists include Norwegian jazz pianist/composer Tord Gustavsen, Dutch composer/pianist Joep Beving, the Japanese New York-based pianist Miki Yamanaka, Montreal jazz pianist Simon Denizart, and American keyboardists including Dustin O’Halloran, Orrin Evans, and jazz organist and former Snarky Puppy member Cory Henry.

When it comes to bands, the roster couldn’t be more stylistically diverse. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band brings their foundational New Orleans jazz, the always inventive Montreal-based Jazzlab Orchestra provides cutting-edge large ensemble music, and the Django Festival All-Stars play the gypsy jazz of the great Django Reinhardt. Beyond that, there’s South African performance art ensemble the Brother Moves On, hybrid jazz/hip-hop quintet Butcher Brown, Mexican fusion band Son Rompe Pera, Saharan rockers Etran de L’Air, and Australian indie folk trio Sons of the East as well as LA-based R&B/soul ensemble Thee Sinseers, synth-pop band Future Islands, London-based jazzers Ill Considered, the street music/hip-hop/reggae/soul tapestry of LowDown Brass Band, and the horn-driven raucousness of Huntertones. There’s even a psychedelic surf rock band from Australia (Ocean Alley), the Brazilian psychedelic rock band Os Mutantes, art punk collective La Sécurité, and the seminal French jazz-funk ensemble Cortex, a band that gained a cult following after its founding in the 1970s by pianist Alain Mion.

The supercharged lineup of vocalists offers a range of options, among them Fado star Ana Moura, South African artist Lorrain Klaasen, artful R&B singer Yaya Bey, the phenomenal dream-inspired Japanese singer/songwriter Ichiko Aoba with a string quartet, first0generation Quebec-Mexican singer/songwriter Noé Lira, and the wonderful Lisa Fischer, who stepped fully from the wings into the spotlight after her role in the documentary, Twenty Feet from Stardom. Other highlights include Dawn Tyler Watson in a tribute to the great Dinah Washington, the gorgeous romantic soul harmonies of vocal trio Thee Sacred Souls, and the captivating creativity of experimentalist L’Rain as well as Alaska-born jazz vocalist Halie Loren, young Cameroonian-American up-and-comer Ekep Nkwelle, jazz vocal stylist Laura Anglade, classically trained Canadian indigenous tenor Jeremy Dutcher, and Canadian R&B producer/instrumentalist/singer Charlotte Day Wilson. Not to be missed is the power and punch of the vocal/percussion group Medicine Singers featuring guitar virtuoso Yonatan Gay, Juno-nominated Anicinape shoegaze musician Zoon, and Sonic Youth co-founder Lee Ranaldo performing a divine synthesis of rock, jazz, blues, ancestral traditions, and avant garde.

The festival is also a place where Montreal’s own get to shine, and they do, with performers like composer Simon Leoza, the hip-hop trio Planet Giza, Juno Award-winning vocalist Dominique Fils-Aimé, composer/pianist Alexandra Stréliski, singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Geoffroy, Inuk singer-songwriter Elisapie, Belgian-born musician Apashe with a live orchestra, indie-folk singer/songwriter Leif Vollebekk, and an encore of Kid Koala’s popular theatrical cinema experience, The Storyville Mosquito. Other Canadian artists in the lineup include Toronto-based singer/producer Saya Gray, pianist/improviser/composer Marianne Trudel, jazz singer-songwriter Térez Montcalm, trumpeter Jacques Kuba Séguin, guitarist Jordan Officer, Juno-nominated Tara Kannangara, singer-songwriter Helena Deland, and Montreal-born saxophonist Jowee Omicil and his creative Afro-Haitian-tinged music.

Also of note are performances by drummer/composer/bandleader Anthony Fung, the Americana/blues/Latin-influenced singer-songwriter Pokey LaFarge, jazz poet Aja Monet, British jazz drummer Yussef Dayes, the personal and powerful music of roots artist Sunny War, jazz drummer/composer Makaya McCraven, the vocal stylings of Georgia Anne Muldrow, the desert blues of Etran de l’Aïr, and Malian singer and instrumentalist Farka Touré. Special concerts include “Oliver Jones at 90: A Celebration With Friends,” “Time to Swing” with drummer Joe Farnsworth and saxophonist Sarah Hanahan, the Taurey Butler Quartet with saxophonist Rémi Bolduc in the music of Michel Legrand, “Mixtape: A Musical Tribute to Jean-Marc Vallée,” and the free “La révolution haïtienne à travers la tradition du jazz” concert with Melanie Charles, Theo Abellard, Jonathan Michel, and Rara Soley.

One of the things that makes the Montreal Jazz Festival special is the audiences. Passionate, attentive, and excited music lovers from around the world flock to Montreal each year to hear familiar artists and make new musical discoveries as well as new friends. You’ll find them listening at the six outdoor stages and ten indoor venues that include historic theaters and intimate nightclubs such as the Maison du Festival and Le Studio TD. In addition to the live music, festivalgoers can check out “Wall of Legends: Jazz Is Everywhere,” an augmented reality project highlighting Montreal’s jazz history and the omnipresence and interconnectedness of jazz.

The festival also honors its connection to visual art with a special exhibition from its archives in collaboration with Galerie S16 highlighting works by Serge Lemoyne, Zïlon, Alfred Pellan, and Marcel Barbeau. Montreal artist LeBicar’s original work, Ode à Oscar, specially created for the occasion and inspired by the festival and by Canadian jazz great Oscar Peterson, is a highlight. “I wanted to celebrate this local legend by putting flowers on his piano,” says LeBicar. Visit the gallery to see his vision.

With live music beginning daily at 5 p.m., there’s plenty of time to take advantage of the many attractions on the Island of Montreal, a French-speaking city with Old World European charm, historic interest, natural bounty, culinary specialties, and plenty of art and culture. A good place to start is the perennially charming neighborhood of Old Montreal. Walking the centuries-old cobbled stones and visiting sites like the breathtaking Notre Dame Basilica and the historic Château Ramezay is a transporting experience. The Old Port of Montreal, once a trading post for 17th century French fur traders, is now a teeming recreational area with good pedestrian and cycling access, museums, restaurants, and other attractions, including the Montreal Science Centre.

The Montreal Botanical Garden, one of the best in the world, has much to offer for plant aficionados. Thousands of plant species reside in dazzling outdoor and thematic gardens bursting with color and greenery. The spectacular Montreal Biodôme houses five eco-systems: a lush tropical rainforest, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and its marine life, the Laurentian Maple Forest, and the Labrador Coast. The Insectarium is a fun, immersive museum devoted entirely to insects from around the world. Whether it’s bees, beetles, or butterflies, the site aims to educate visitors about the ups, downs, and unequivocal importance of bugs. And don’t forget the Montreal Biosphere inside the stunning Buckminster Fuller-designed geodesic dome, where environmental science is the star.

If you’re an art lover, take the time to visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. With more than 45,000 era-spanning international works, including paintings, sculptures, photography, multimedia installations, Indigenous art, and more, the museum’s large collection has something for everyone. Special exhibitions running while the festival is happening include “Vice, Virtue, Desire and Folly,” which features three hundred years of Dutch masterpieces by Peter Paul Rubens and others focusing on timeless, universal themes. Pieces rarely or never shown are among the works on view in “Pop Life!”, showcasing the museum’s collection of pop art. For a striking collection of contemporary art, stop at the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal, where a virtual exhibit on the great singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen and a group exhibition of work by nine women artists residing in Quebec are among the attractions.

The festival site itself offers plenty of excellent culinary choices, among them SAQ Bistro, Molson Pub, a variety of food trucks, and Halte Gourmande Louisiane, featuring mouth-watering authentic Louisiana cuisine—but there’s plenty of great food beyond that. Whether it’s at Fairmount or St-Viateur or both, be sure to sample a famous Montreal bagel, which are quite different from the New York variety but just as delicious. You’ll find versions of the Montreal staple known as poutine, a love-it-or-hate-it mish-mash of fries, cheese curds, and gravy, at many eateries, but Chez Claudette and Le Banquise are among the best. Visiting one of the city’s several open-air markets is also a good way to get a taste of local flavor, produce, and gastronomic delicacies.

The Montreal Jazz Festival hasn’t just grown musically, artistically, and culturally over its four-plus decades. It’s also embraced sustainability, implementing several initiatives to minimize environmental impact, no small task for an event bringing millions of festivalgoers into its fold. The festival’s commitment to environmental action has included the use of hydroelectric power, self-service water fountains (so bring your reusable water containers), waste sorting islands, reduction of printed materials, more than 300 bicycle parking spots, promotion of public transit, reusable dishes and cutlery at festival eateries, elimination of single-use plastic cups, and even collecting and recycling cigarette butts.

Now that you know about the fabulous festival and environs of Montreal, you’ll want to know how to get tickets and where to stay. For the former, just visit the festival site, browse the program, and choose your performances. And don’t forget, with at least two-thirds of the concerts free, it’s more than possible not to buy a single ticket and still have a phenomenal musical experience. The official festival hotel, DoubleTree by Hilton Montreal, is on site and will keep you right in the middle of the action. Hotel Monville, another participating hotel, is also a good choice. For details, visit the festival website. Handy tips and information about accessibility can be found here.

The 44th edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal takes place from Thursday, June 27 through Saturday, July 6 in downtown Montreal, Quebec. The outdoor festival site is open daily from 5 p.m. to midnight, free of charge. For full schedule, including indoor concerts, ticketing, a site map, and other information, visit montrealjazzfest.com.