LANDMARK 21st YEAR FOR MONTRÉAL’S INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL
Montréal, Québec (APS): When summer finally arrives in this island city, all await for one of the largest festivals in town, Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (FIJM). For about a week and a half (June 29-July 8), Montréal hosts a musical extravaganza on the downtown streets, and in the bars and concert halls. With the prestigious Place des Arts at its center, the FIJM boasts ten paid venues including a cinema and a Louisiana-style paddle boat along with nine outdoor stages with free music. The music along with food vendors, an art show, and plenty of beer and wine contribute to this exquisite festival.
Over the years, the FIJM has grown to international stature. When performers leave this site, they will head to some of Europe’s great festivals. Big names of jazz, blues, and world music now come up to Montréal to be part of the festival. This year Ray Charles, Shirley Horn, Wayne Shorter, Al Jarreau, along with blues performers Buddy Guy, and Koko Taylor are performing here. That is not all. Soul to Latin to African sounds are here too with the likes of the Maceo Parker, Cuban Barbito Torres, Arturo Sandoval, Angélique Kidjo and more. The visitor to the FIJM will not be disappointed.
The key to the success of the Montréal festival is organization and support from the people of the city. Four blocks of downtown are closed off for the duration, and checkpoints are maintained at the entrance to the festival. To provide music free of charge at the festival, organizers insist that no backpacks full of beer or alcoholic beverages enter the area -a small price to pay for quality free shows. And do not expect muscle-bound bouncers at the festival entrances; you will be greeted with "Bonjour au festival" from the young and friendly red-shirted men and women. Such "politesse" will shock most American tourists used to rougher security personnel.
The support of the community is exhibited by the success of the "Les amis de festival" card. For $10 Canadian, you receive a CD record, and a chance to win a 2000 General Motors automobile. This money goes to pay for the performers at the free stages.
The eastern part of downtown comes alive for two weeks. Walk up the terrace of Place des Arts, and one finds several stages, official souvenir stands, along with the art exhibit. The exhibit will display Yves Archambault’s design for this year’s festival along with a painting by Tony Bennett of Jazz great Louis Armstrong. This artwork shares the exhitit with the works of Frédéric Back, Miles Davis, Miyuki Tanobe, and Jean-Paul Riopelle in the Galerie du Festival. Behind Place des Arts, you find other free stages, like the ever-popular blues stage. Walk a little further and, at your disposal, are food booths offering a variety of snacks for all tastes.
For the serious jazz fan or even the summer tourist, FIJM is the place to be for those special summer days at the end of June and beginning of July. The friendliness of the locals and the accommodations provided in this multi-cultural city guarantee a European-style vacation in North America.
by Mark "Toomey" Bonardelli
Web Master an article of Toomey's
August 24, 2003