Montreal International Jazz Festival

Montreal International Jazz Festival 2014
/ Jun
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Montreal International Jazz Festival 2014

Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Downtown Montreal
45.505084, -73.568586 (View Map)
11 Days (Mon, 26 Jun 2017 - Thu, 06 Jul 2017)
Ticket Price
Free - $104.00
Festival Organised

The Montreal Jazz Festival is the LARGEST JAZZ FESTIVAL IN THE WORLD. This coming 2014 festival is hoped to be the biggest yet so make sure you’re calendars are free and be part of history in attending the biggest jazz fest ever.

The Montreal International Jazz Festival (officially known as Festival International de Jazz de Montréal) is one of Montreal’s greatest annual events and takes place in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Now going into it’s 34th year, the MIJF will see roughly 3,000 artists from all over the world perform in over 700 concerts (of which 450 will be performed in outdoor stages and will be COMPLETELY FREE!).

Streets packed in Ste. Catherine during festival

Streets packed in Ste. Catherine during festival

Around 2.5 million people come to Montreal to take part in the jazz festival, of them around a third are tourists. There are 10 outdoor stages and 10 indoor venues that provide music over the 10 days the festival runs. The festival is suitable for all the family and caters to every budget. Most of the free shows are situated around Ste. Catherine between Place-des-Arts and Complexe Desjardins.

During the festival period the Downtown area of the city (where the festival is hosted) is closed to traffic (PDF map here) from noon – midnight at which time the area is strictly pedestrian area. This pedestrianisation gives way to street performers, live music in the streets/café’s and restaurants extend their seating into the roads so that everyone has a jolly good time. You’ll find some concerts can see in excess of 100,000 people and in the past some concerts have close to 200k people attending so be prepared.

Over the years, the festival has added peripheral activities to attract more spectators: the Grand event (sort of musical high mass), musical park for children, Little School of Jazz (initiation school for jazz children), an art gallery (exponent visual works of jazz artists) Radio Jazz (an ephemeral radio station) and Jazz in the year (a series of jazz concerts outside the given schedule festival).


Best of Montreal International Jazz Festival 2013

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The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal was originally conceived by a man called Alain Simard. Simard had a lot of experience in the 70’s bringing big name artists to the Montreal area to perform, acts including: Dave BrubeckMuddy WatersJohn Lee HookerChuck Berry & Bo Diddley.

In 1977 Simard teamed up with André Ménard and Denys McCann, together they started an agency called Spectra Scène (now known as L’Équipe Spectra) with the idea to organising a jazz festival in the heart of Montreal.

Ray Charles at the 1980's Montreal International Jazz Festival

Ray Charles at the 1980’s Montreal International Jazz Festival

The first Montreal International Jazz Festival took place in 1980 and headlined Ray Charles, Vic Vogel, Chick Corea and Gary Burton with an estimated attendance of 12,000.

In 1987, the festival survived a financial crisis by getting the support of key partners: Alcan and the city of Montreal.

In 2009, at the 30th edition of the Festival, the event unfolds on the new Festival Plaza, located west of the Place des Arts. The new Festival Plaza was headlined by Stevie Wonder which met with great success.

In 2004 the Montreal Jazz Festival was officially named the largest jazz fest in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records and on it’s 25th anniversary it drew a crowd of 250,000 for it’s finale, a Cirque du Soleil (circus performance) who were celebrating their 20th year anniversary.

In 2013 the festival cost the organisers $29.7 million but much of this (around 43%) was covered by corporate sponsorship. During this year the festival seen 2,000 musicians in 500 acts from 32 different countries performing in 800+ shows. Approximately $125 million was raised for the local economy during the festival period. Each year the event employs upwards of 2,500 people, many of whom are volunteers.

Show More History...

The Montreal International Jazz Festival is the first major festival each year to be held in Montreal and is generally considered to kick off the ‘Festival Season’. Popular events which follow include the Just for Laughs comedy festival, the Circus Festival, Osheaga, the Monteal International Reggae Festival, Pop Montreal & a world film festival, then Christmas and New Year celebrations follow.

Whilst predominantly known for it’s jazz infusion, the MIJF also hosts acts that come from a wide range of musical backgrounds, common genres you’re likely to hear at the festival include:

Blues, Latin Jazz, Brazilian, Cuban, African, Reggae, Electronica

Previous performers have included:

Stevie Wonder
Smokey Robinson
Paul Simon
Balmore Estrada
Papo Ross
James Taylor
Aretha Franklin
Miles Davis
Oscar Peterson
Tony Bennett
B.B. Kind
Norah Jones

The Wall Street Journal managed to ask André Ménard (Arts Director) some questions at the end of 2013’s event:

This year’s festival had acts that some would stretch to call jazz. Is the event becoming something else?

André Ménard: We’ve had a more open program for many years now. Jazz as an art form has evolved as has its texture and structure. It has percolated into a lot to other popular music and it has also taken a lot from the rest of the music world. What we call traditional jazz–the sax, the piano, acoustic bass and all that, has changed. Lots of modern music, even techno, is being created in real time in the same true spirit of the total jazz improvers of the late 50s and early 60s. You can have two guys sitting on either ends of the world and sending each other packets of data to create music. Miles Davis’s last work was a hip hop record. So, who is more jazz, and who is less? I don’t do that distinction.

Have you considered tweaking the festival’s name?

Montreaux was faced with that as well because they have more non-jazz music than we do. I wouldn’t change our name. We still do have a lot of pure jazz content. It’s not incidental to our program.

Do you aim to make the festival even bigger or has it reached a plateau?

I don’t think it can get much bigger. At some point you start to cannibalize yourself.

Does having corporate sponsors change the character of the show?

No. They don’t have any say over programming. They put their trust in us. The concert site itself has lots of advertising because it is natural to have that outdoors; people understand that the shows are free and somebody has to pay for that. Inside the concert halls we’ve managed not to have any advertising at all. This allows paying customers to focus on the music without distraction. That’s different from lots of other festivals.

I learn about new music sometimes from my teenage daughters. How do you do it?

We do lots of reading and lots of listening, and now that musicians can send you their EPK [electronic press kit] right away it’s easier than ever. But we still go to the physical conventions and meet with people that create and sell music. And we go to festivals. I go to the London Jazz Festival every year, which may be the most interesting jazz festival in the world right now. I went last year to the jazz festival in Saint-Emilion, and drank some really good wine. I go to the Antibes one too. And we visit the big ones like Coachella and Lollapalooza.

Who chooses the acts?

I primarily do, but there are a whole bunch of programmers that come up with suggestions. It’s relatively easy nowadays to choose the acts digitally but when it comes down to real bodies being transported to your city to play music there it always comes back to analog–matters of availability and all that. You can dream up a show only to discover in January that none of that will work. It’s an exercise in disappointment.

How have the changes in the music industry’s financial model affected your festival?

The downfall of recorded music sure has given a rise to expectations for the artist. The money they are demanding is totally outrageous sometimes. Some guys who haven’t had a hit in years suddenly want double the money. We’re trying to keep our ticket prices to a reasonable level. Most of the artist with a significant draw don’t make it easy at all, to say the least. There are acts we pass on because it’s too expensive. Only an elite act can charge $200 and still make people happy. We’ve even seen the Stones this year reach a plateau.

Can you name acts that you have lined up for next year? Will there be any particular theme for the 35th anniversary?

Whenever we reach an anniversary, we want to mark the passage of time somehow. My partner [Alain Simard] wants to look back, and I’m more for looking forward. We usually end up doing a mix of the two. One year, for example, on the anniversary of Gershwin’s death, we did a ‘Summertime’ theme, where we had a different version of that song at every show. This year, Woodkid gave a fantastic show. His music is extraordinarily ambitious. He’s becoming a cult act now and he’s going to have a big following very soon. If we could have him to a main stage next year as an opening or closing act that would be fun. Two years ago he didn’t even exist on our radar.

Source: WSJ

For a more detailed look into the festivals history you can visit the History Page on

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Lineup & Tickets

There are roughly 3,000 artists performing at this years festival, the lineup for paid performances can be found below but the full list of acts performing on the outdoor stages does not appear to have been released yet.

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what do you think of this years lineup?

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International Jazz Festival Map 2013

International Jazz Festival Map 2013

The streets which are closed to traffic during the festival

The streets which are closed to traffic during the festival

The heart of the Montreal International Jazz Festival takes place in Downtown Montréal in an area called the Quartier des spectacles. Here you’ll find outdoor music stages situated on nearly every street and street corner.

The official venue are is bordered by St. Laurent Boulevard and De Bleury Street from east to west, and Ste. Catherine Street and President-Kennedy Avenue from south to north (the Maps to the right should help you).

I would advise anybody coming to the festival to take public transport, a taxi or walk/cycle as parking spaces are VERY limited and with all the people attending it’s not worth it. Parking information can however be found on Maplace.ce here.

There are a number of paid venues where you can see the more famous artists. The official hosting venues can be found in the table below along with contact information (also check out the lineup & Tickets Section):

Venue Information and venue box office Telephone and Internet sales
Place des Arts 175 Ste-Catherine St. West
514 842-2112 or 1 866 842-2112
Place des Arts box office
514 842-2112 or 1 866 842-2112
L’Astral (Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan) 305 Ste-Catherine St. West
1 855 790-1245
Admission – Ticketmaster
1 855 790-1245
Club Soda 1225 St-Laurent Blvd.
514 286-1010
Club Soda
514 286-1010
Croisières Jazz on the Saint Lawrence Riveraboard the Bateau-Mouche Boarding and ticket office:
Jacques-Cartier Quay, Old Port of Montréal
Le Bateau–Mouche
514 849-9952 or 1 800 361-9952 (toll-free)
Gesù — Centre de créativité 1200, De Bleury St.
514 861-4036
Admission – Ticketmaster
1 855 790-1245
Métropolis & Savoy du Métropolis 59 Ste-Catherine St. East
1 855 790-1245
Admission – Ticketmaster
1 855 790-1245
Musée d’art contemporain 185 Ste-Catherine St. West
514 847-6226
Admission – Ticketmaster
1 855 790-1245
Théâtre du Nouveau Monde 84 Ste-Catherine St. West
514 866-8668
514 866-8668


If you’ve never been to Montreal or even Quebec before then you’re taste-buds are in for a treat!

Some ‘classics’ that you’ll need to try if you’re in the area include:

A classic Bagel – The Montrealers are proud of their bagels and eat many of them! There are too many to count in the city and everyone has their favourites. The Montreal baguette is slightly more dense than their New York counterpart and are generally wood-fired. Most establishments have an open cooking area so that you can see the bagels being made througout the day and also take advantage of the warmth from the fire on chilly nights. Two big names to look out for (who are also heavy rivals!): St-Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel.

It's poutine!! (pronounced “poo-teen” in English or “poo-tin” en francais)

It’s poutine!! (pronounced “poo-teen” in English or “poo-tin” en francais)

Poutine – Essentially this is one giant mess of (normally) hand made potato chips/fries, gravy and cheese curds and enjoyed by 99% of the people here. Said by many to be their ‘signature’ dish and over the years have started to appear on menus in fancy gastro-pubs across the world.

A smoked meat sandwich is a must for anyone in Quebec. You can buy them from any of the countless places selling them (Schwartz‘s does the best in my eyes!)

A Wilensky's Special - The same since 1932!

A Wilensky’s Special – The same since 1932!

Wilensky‘s Special – The Montreal Gazette describes this best:

Also known to old-timers and second-generation Wilensky customers as the Moe (named for Wilensky’s late owner), the Special is a grilled sandwich featuring an English muffin-type egg bread filled with slices of salami and bologna spread with mustard, with the option of a slice of Swiss cheese or a Kraft Single inside. This sandwich comes with rules, though – the rules being that you don’t ask for it without mustard and you never ask that it be sliced in half. – Source: The Montreal Gazette


Tire sur la Neige

Tire sur la Neige on the streets of Montreal

Some other dishes you might want to try:

There are a number of street vendors inside the festival bounds along with countless café’s, eatery’s, restaurants and places to grab a quick bite to eat. Head over to Urban Spoon for a definitive list of the best Montreal restaurants which they have listed along with prices, user reviews, menu options, photos etc.

Flights & Transportation

The nearest international airport to downtown Montréal is the Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL) and is located approximately 20 km from the City.

Currently 18 airlines fly into Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport (list of airlines here). To get the best flight deals I would use SkyScanner‘s official search widget below.

To get to Downtown Montreal from the airport you have a number of options available to you:


You can get a taxi from the airport to Downtown Montreal for an airport fixed rate of $40 one-way (other destinations are metered), you might also be able to arrange to get picked up by your hotel using one of their “shuttle” services depending on what hotel you book with. Alternatively, if you’ve not booked with a hotel and negotiate a hotel with a ‘tout’ at the airport entrance then you are likely to get a ‘free’ lift though this might not be to everyone’s taste.

All taxi’s that operate from the airport are licensed and need to have a permit issued from the airport so they’re all reliable.

More airport taxi information on the Airport Website.

Some good general advice on getting taxis in Montreal here.

Show Bus & Car Rental Info...

Local Bus Info

Many people who arrive into the Montréal-Trudeau airport opt to get on the 747 P-E-Trudeau/Downtown bus line which is probably the cheapest and most convenient way for most people. The bus line runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, between the Montréal-Trudeau airport and the central bus station in Downtown (Gare d’autocars de Montréal – Berri-UQAM métro station).

The average journey time takes between 45 and 60 minutes depending on traffic and costs $9. For this same ticket you are covered for unlimited travel on all STM and Metro networks for 24 hours.

Tickets for the 747 bus can be purchased from automated dispensers at arrivals or paid in cash (coins only) to the driver in EXACT CHANGE.


Car Rental

A number of major car rental companies operate our of the airport arrivals terminal. If you book through the internet (even in the arrivals terminal) you can normally save much more than booking directly at the desk – get your laptop or smartphone out!

Phone number Toll free
Alamo 514-633-1222 1-800-462-5266
Avis 514-636-1902 1-800-879-2847
Budget 1-800-363-8111 1-800-268-8970
Dollar 514-631-5567 1-800-800-4000
Enterprise 514-631-4545 1 800 736-8222
Hertz 514-636-9530 1-800-263-0678
National 514-636-9030 1-800-227-7368
Thrifty 514-631-5567 1-800-847-4389

I would look at reviews on for Rental Cars in Montreal before booking.

Hotels & Accommodation

The cheapest accommodation options I could find in and around Montreal during the festival period (Late June – Early July) are shown below (Click HERE for a complete list):

*** Hotel prices rise exponentially as you get closer to the festival dates. Book early to avoid disappointment. ***

Hotels Combined

If you are on a super shoe-string budget then search HostelWorld and get a bed in Montreal for as little as $17.79! – (Private rooms $21.97+)

I would recommend checking Montreal hotel reviews on TripAdvisor prior to placing any booking. Alternatively, why don’t you try something different and rent someones apartment during the festival period at AirBnB?! Click here for a free £15 credit towards your first booking!

Note that there is NO TENT CAMPING at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. However, if you really did want to stay in the ‘wilderness’ you could check out the Montreal South KOA camp-grounds which aren’t too far from the festival.


We currently have not been able to interview anybody at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, if you work for the festival and would like to answer a few questions for this section of your listing, please contact me so that we can get something arranged, thank you.

Outside of the Festival

If you’re visiting Montreal for the first time then make sure you take a few days to fully explore the other delights this city has to offer. A few of my personal favourite things to do are:

Mosaicultures Internationales

Mosaicultures Internationales

Visit the Mosaicultures Internationales competition which normally co-insides with the end of the jazz festival. Here you’ll be able to enjoy some of the best horticultural artistry in the world, giant sized creations of various animals, objects and scenes of nature all sculpted out of various trees, plants, flowers and turf. A brilliant exhibition that seems to get better each year.

2nd on my todo list would be to visit the

Basilique Notre-Dame

Basilique Notre-Dame

which was designed by Irish architect James O’Donnell and built between 1824-1829. This magnificent Catholic church is host to the most beautiful medieval-style interiors and examples of exquisite stained-glass windows. If you’re into art and history, this one is for you.

Montreal Musee des Beaux-Arts

Montreal Musee des Beaux-Arts

As a bit of an arts buff I would have to put the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Musee des Beaux-Arts) at 3rd place. Probably best to get here in the early morning as it’s massive and you’ll really want some time to enjoy what’s on display. It has one of the finest permenant exhibitions in the world and the collections are always informative and well thought out.

If you require any further information on this festival or would like to leave a message for others then please use the comments section below.

NB. You also find photo gallerieslive festival newstransport information in the tabbed section below. All festival listings are changing continuously, check back regularly.

Additional Resources

Post last updated by Paul Thomson on April 30, 2014
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Heart of Festival
Train Station
Bus Station
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