Montreal Jazz Festival 2019

Written by on July 31, 2019

by Marty Friedman, host of Sunday Jazz Brunch

With thousands of artists performing hundreds of shows, both free and paid, the Montreal Jazz Festival is the largest jazz festival in the world! Millions of visitors come to see top jazz artists from nearly thirty countries, and this year was no exception. The Festival ran from June 26 through July 6 and was a massive success. How could it not be, with so many top Jazz artists on the festival bill?

This was my third year attending. In previous years, I’ve seen Al Jarreau, Toots Thielemans, Pat Metheny, Steve Kuhn, and Halie Loren, among other luminaries. This year, I saw Stacey Kent and Dianne Reeves, two artists that I had long wanted to see live.

The thing I love about Stacey Kent is her ultra-clear, crystalline voice. Her latest album “I Know I Dream: The Orchestral Sessions,” features that wonderful voice bathed in the lush sound of a 52-piece orchestra. And that was the configuration at the Place Des Arts. It was a perfect venue, Maison Symphonique — one of the three theaters at the center of the festival. It was also the first time she has performed live with an orchestra.

The other thing about Stacey is the intimacy. The songs and music were superb, and her stories and banter with the band and the audience only increased the evening’s pleasure. After the concert, I asked her when she is coming to Boston. Answer: December! I am looking forward to it.

The next night was Dianne Reeves, who I had really wanted to see after WICN received her last album, “Beautiful Life.” On that album, Reeves joins forces with the likes of Gregory Porter, Lalah Hathaway, Romero Lubambo, Esperanza Spaulding, and Terri Lyn Carrington. It is a killer CD from a top Jazz artist.

On this night, Dianne was celebrating the release of what may be considered her breakthrough CD, “That Day.”  Aw shucks, I wanted to hear songs from her latest! But no matter. Whatever the material, she sounded great. In fact, some call her a diva. Based on the amount of press at the show, I would say she qualifies. There were professional video cameras everywhere!

What a fantastic time it was! If you are a Jazz lover and have not made the pilgrimage to the Festival…what are you waiting for? The dates have already been announced for next year; go ahead and put June 25 – July 4, 2020, into your calendar. Visit the official website at montrealjazzfest.com. I promise, there will be shows that you want to see!

Marty Friedman is the host of the Sunday Jazz Brunch on WICN-FM 90.5 in Worcester MA, streaming live at www.wicn.org. The Brunch airs Sunday mornings, 8 am – 12 pm EST. The focus is new music, new artists, and Brazilian jazz.


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