“The king of Montreal’s assorted summer cultural festivals,” as described by the New York Times, stands true every year. Maybe to us Montrealers, seeing dozens of stages filled with magnificent talent and music soaring across street corners is something we are accustomed to, but perhaps we take it a little for granted.
The Montreal Jazz Festival has been ranked as the world’s largest jazz festival by the Guinness World Records in 2004 and continues to soar. That’s quite an accomplishment and title to have considering the competition across the globe is extremely stiff. Every year, music connoisseurs come in from various parts of the world to indulge in 10 days of music celebrations with artists and genres not only allocated to jazz, but world music, pop, electronic and experimental as well.
The festival holds a lot of history that most us might not be aware of. The idea was born by Montrealer Alain Simard, who spent a large portion of the 1970s bringing in legendary artists we could only dream of seeing at their prime such as Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry and John Lee Hooker. The festival took a while to build, facing financial challenges, a lack of funding and years of hard work, but it finally paid off and has continued to grow tremendously over the years. Persistence always pays off, and we are so grateful to have this beautiful event grace out city every year.
The festival is home to over 30 countries, a whopping 3000 musicians and entertainers, over 1000 activities spanning across 8 outdoor stages and 15 concert halls. Even more astonishing is the record-breaking attendance, which has reached 2.5 million visitors over the duration of the festival. The concert venues were set up immaculately, really showcasing a lot of the effort and money that was put into this. Despite the sound glitches faced by the Jazz Fest, the performances made up for it, and what event is ever executed without any fails?
Most notable acts go to legend Liza Minnelli, who vowed the audience despite being seen in a wheelchair prior, Montreal’s own Rufus Wainwright, who had a staggering crowd attendance following his every move in admiration, Ron Carter, who provided some classic jazz rocking a suit that looked like it belonged to the Cotton Club era, and, of course, Montreal duo Chromeo, who completely rocked the jam-packed outdoor crowd with their characteristic electro-pop to close down the festival.
It’s inspiring to see that in such a fast paced world filled with reality TV, fast food and accessibility to anything through technology, there is still such a big interest in the arts and music culture here. It truly makes Montreal a city full of passion and curiosity.
Photo courtesy Montreal Jazz Fest