Wrap-up of the 30th edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal
A musical dream… come true
Montreal, Monday, July 13, 2009 - The 30th anniversary of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal enters the history books-and wasn’t that a party! For 13 days and nights-two more than usual, a bonus for everyone, including our local hotels!-Montreal reveled in the best of jazz and its related musical genres in a historic and successful turning point for the Festival. Thousands of artists from around the world and virtually every musical style joined us this memorable anniversary celebration. Millions of visitors from near and far followed the siren song, from the purest jazz to contemporary music, blues, folk, reggae, and world music. The Festival once again affirmed its reputation as one of the world’s great musical ambassadors.
Ticket sales: mission accomplished
Despite the economic downturn, Festival fans flocked to this very special edition in tremendous numbers: we reached our goal in ticket sales, with $5.1M moving at the box office (with the Montreal Guitar Show doubling its previous sales), increased our sales of tourist packages, and enjoyed record sales at the Galerie du Festival, at souvenir boutiques, CD tents and food and beverage kiosks; only beer sales were affected by the inclement weather.
The Place des Festivals, the Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan, L’Astral
and the Balmoral bistro: unqualified success all ’round
The Place des Festivals, the new public plaza in the Quartier des spectacles, was an instant hit with fans, who poured into it day and night, rain and shine, to rub elbows with their idols and discover fabulous new artists and acts. Stevie Wonder christened it to open the Festival, and Montreal claimed it as its own, leading to the Rio Tinto Alcan Closing Concert, starring Ben Harper, an artist who grew up with the Festival. We acknowledge the patience of fans who dealt with occasional inconveniences that arose due to the comprehensive development of the Festival. Yet how can we not also acknowledge the superb new Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan, the nerve centre of the festivities, and its panoply of exciting facilities? Start with L’Astral, the new live showroom inaugurated by Montreal jazz icon and loyal Festival friend Oliver Jones (and his special guests, Ranee Lee and Chet Doxas), which established itself as THE new venue, offering a daily program of concerts that thrilled fans, thanks to incredible acoustics and an intimate ambience appealing to both performers and spectators. The Maison’s new bistro, Le Balmoral, and the Terrasse Côtes du Rhône were wildly popular.
Beginning in autumn, a complete program of concerts
in the Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan
Thanks to the new Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan, the Festival now has a year-round home, presenting most of the the shows in the Jazz All-Year Round series in the intimate confines of L’Astral, and an exhibition of photographs by renowned photo-artist Herman Leonard in the Galerie du Festival upon its official inauguration in October. And please remember that the Galerie move from its summer home on the outdoor Festival site into its magnificent year-round location on the second storey of the Blumenthal Building.
A passionate program
Fans enjoyed a schedule of 600 concerts in this magical edition of the Festival! And the quality was the equal of the quantity, as is obvious from the panoply of legends and artists from around the world who trod our stages.
Start with the magnificent opening concert delivered by legendary American trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and flamenco piano maestro Chano Dominguez, accompanied by his quartet. We also enjoyed performances from such legends as the father of free jazz, Ornette Coleman-after a 21-year absence-renowned American singer-songwriter Jackson Browne, the ever-intense Joe Cocker, UK prog-rock progenitors Van der Graaf Generator, the titanic Tony Bennett, guitar wizard Jeff Beck and Jimmy Cobb, the last surviving member of the sessions that produced Kind of Blue, the Miles Davis album celebrating its own 50th anniversary. Miles was also celebrated in concerts by Kenny Garrett, with his Sketches of MD and the delicious Miles from India, adding subcontinental flavours to his masterpieces.
And there were other birthdays: the 50th anniversary of Time Out by Dave Brubeck and the revolutionary The Shape of Jazz To Come by Ornette Coleman, and the 55th anniversary of the first jazz festival, the Newport Jazz Festival founded by the incomparable George Wein-who once gently tried to discourage Alain Simard and Denyse McCann from getting involved in the colossal adventure that would become the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, telling them they would lose their shirts…-and who performed here this year! And let us not forget Montreal label Effendi, celebrating 10 years, and the prestigious Blue Note label, celebrating its 70th birthday with a Festival exhibition, presented by Archambault in the Village de la musique, The Art of Jazz: 70 years of Blue Note Album Covers.
Many other artists marked this encyclopaedic program of musical brilliance. How can we choose? Let’s start with Esperanza Spalding, Wynton Marsalis, Melody Gardot, Sophie Milman, Jill Barber, Renaud Garcia-Fons and Pink Martini. Let’s remember the 11-night run in Théâtre du Nouveau Monde of Jazzing Flamenco, the magnificent project from the creators of Tango Flamenco, or the magical ambience invoked by the Harlem Gospel Choir, spellbinding a Théâtre Maisonneuve crowd that literally took to the stage to dance amidst the choir to the uplifting and soulful music.
The Festival was thrilled anew to welcome an impressive array of local artists. The Montréal Variations closing concert assembled over a half-dozen Montreal pianists (including François Bourassa, James Gelfand, Guy St‑Onge and Alain Lefèvre) in a loving tribute to our city. Vic Vogel performed outdoors with his Big Band on the General Motors stage; Zachary Richard brought his luminous simplicity to the Cinquième Salle for four nights, while Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà opened the Festival with three consecutive performances; Susie Arioli and Jordan Officer enthralled us, as did Dawn Tyler Watson and Paul Deslauriers. Yannick Rieu and his companions once again floored their audience, while Montreal darling Michel Donato defended his title; and Alain Bédard (Monsieur Effendi) performed with his Auguste Quintettem while Jean-Pierre Zanella et Sacbé treated fans to a jazz fiesta.
The 30th anniversary of the Festival was also marked by an array of special events, including 5 major free outdoor concerts. Start with the unforgettable Grand Événement General Motors starring Stevie Wonder, which opened the Festival and the Place des Festivals with a performance by a musical legend that electrified a sea of fans for over two hours, culminating in a stunning fireworks display that added to our legacy. Next came the Événement spécial Bell, starring the incredible Patrick Watson, who delivered an extraordinary multidisciplinary performance as soothing as it was generous, and the Grande soirée XM Radio Satellite featuring Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae, a long-awaited concert that defied a week of rain to deliver the musical sunshine of Jamaica to thousands of fans. Finally, the Festival climaxed with the Rio Tinto Alcan Closing Event, featuring two incredible performances: first, Fiesta Cubana, presented by XM Radio Satellite, sending tens of thousands of fans into a dance frenzy to the music of the Afro-Cuban All Stars and Los Van Van; followed by Ben Harper & Relentless7, who burned the Place des Festivals down with gen-u-wine American rock’n'roll. And don’t forget our additional three special events, featuring Florence K, Nikki Yanofsky and a fiery Jessie Cook-Rumba Foundation!
The Festival once again had the pleasure of honouring the exceptional work of musicians from near and far, with an array of impressive prizes. Stevie Wonder received the Spirit Award, Toots & The Maytals received the Antonio Carlos Jobim Award, John Pizzarelli received the Ella Fitzgerald Award, Ornette Coleman received the Miles Davis Award, and Susie Arioli received the Oscar Peterson Award. And in keeping with a tradition instituted in its 10th edition and renewed every five years with the addition of a new award, the Festival created the Bruce Lundvall Award, to be presented annually to a non-musician who has left a mark on the world of jazz or contributed to the development of music, through media, concert or record industries. And who better to be the first recipient of this prestigious distinction than Bruce Lundvall himself, music icon and president of legendary EMI Music label Blue Note. Finally, let us cite the new Montreal Guitar Show Tribute Award, presented in recognition of a guitarist’s contribution to the history of the instrument, and awarded in its inaugural presentation to Jeff Beck. The Amanda Tosoff Quartet was awarded the General Motors Grand Jazz Award, and the CBC Galaxie Rising Star Award went to Vincent Gagnon for his piece Après l’une. The jury also made special mention of the Parc-X Trio for its extraordinary performance.
A dear friend of jazz, Len Dobbin, passes into history
Our entire team was stunned by the passing of journalist Len Dobbin, who died during the night of July 8-9. Journalist, producer, radio broadcaster and photographer, Len Dobbin was a presence at every major Montreal jazz event over the last 50 years. Longtime jazz writer for The Montreal Gazette, he also enlivened our Sunday evenings on CJFM and hugly contributed to the popularization of jazz. He lived out that passion unto the very end, having been at a concert in Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill when he suffered a stroke. At 74, he was considered the dean of Montreal jazz writers, and will be sorely missed. Vaya con dios, Len.
Friends and family are invited to a commemorative celebration organized by the Dobbin family, Upstairs and the Festival, on Sunday, August 9 at 11 a.m., in L’Astral. In February, a series of events in Upstairs will celebrate Len Dobbin’s memory and commemorate the 75th anniversary of his birth.
Our website welcomes 80% more visitors
This 30th edition also enjoyed a virtual triumph, with the new Festival website experiencing an unprecedented increase of traffic on the order of close to 80%. Over two million pages were visited over the first 10 days. Almost 8,000 surfers created their own personal concert schedules, and hundreds of them published them online. And the Festival will be online all year long, with a constantly updated site, including new content on artists performing as part of the 2009-2010 Jazz All-Year Round series. Thanks to this new website, fans can enjoy the greatest moments of this fabulous 30th edition, with concert samples (audio and video), video interviews, press conferences and a magnificent photo panorama of the new L’Astral showroom.
Hotels: No vacancies during the Festival
The majority of hotels welcoming Festival fans were full or virtually full for both weekends of the event, even as the Montreal hotel industry envisaged a 6% decrease in its occupancy rate for the month of July. Festival tourist spending was also felt in a major increase in expenditures over last year, both from Canadians and Americans, as regards jazz packages offered in collaboration with some fifty Montreal hotels. The Festival has therefore sustained its economic benefits to the hotel and tourism industries despite the economic downturn, while also increasing its fiscal spinoffs by extending its duration for two additional days.
A torrent of great musical moments
Alain Simard, president-founder of the Festival, found his personal favourites performing on the spectacular Place des Festivals stage, including a heroic Florence K, and in L’Astral, inaugurated in memorable fashion by Oliver Jones, with special mention offered to Le Balmoral (and its terrasse) and the incredible Jim Doxas, the excellent drummer who helmed its jam-sessions. The facade of the Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan, with its illuminated photos of 24 Festival legends, has already become an iconic Montreal symbol for jazz fans. Simard was especially touched and inspired by such veterans and living legends as Dave Brubeck, Tony Bennett, Ornette Coleman and George Wein, as well as two artists he had dreamt of hosting here since the Festival began: Stevie Wonder and Jeff Beck, who proved to be as humble people as they were staggering musicians, and the triumphant and long-awaited return of Van der Graaf Generator, whom he had invited to Montreal in 1972. The most beautiful performances offered by our own local artists were, without a doubt, Susie Arioli, Lorraine Desmarais, NEeMA and Jordan Officer, as well as Zachary Richard, who outdid himself. Simard reserved special praise for Renaud Garcia-Fons and Esperanza Spalding, whom he had never before seen live, as well as the “Mexican Fiesta” featuring spectacular pianist Héctor Infanzón, singer Magos Herrera, Los de Abajo, Lila Downs and Sacbé.
André Ménard, co-founder and artistic director of the Festival, loved such favourites as Stevie Wonder, Brian Setzer, Bill Charlap, Miles From India, Jeff Beck, Ben Harper, Rocksteady, Renaud Garcia-Fons, Jamie Cullum, Burning Spear, Toots and the Maytals, High Tone, aRTIST oF tHE yEAR, and made special mention of the Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan and L’Astral-a revelation!-and the Place des Festivals.
Vice-President of Programming Laurent Saulnier was especially taken by Erik Truffaz, Julie Lamontagne Trio, Mélissa Laveaux, Neil Cowley Trio, Pink Martini, Estelle, Rocksteady, Patrick Watson, Souljazz Orchestra, Eli Paperboy Reed & the True Loves, Alice Russell, Curumin, The Bug, The Dears, Misstress Barbara, aRTIST oF tHE yEAR and Bonobo.
Among Programming Director Caroline Johnson’s favourites were the concert Miles From India as well as the performances of Melody Gardot, Erik Truffaz, Yannick Rieu, John Butler, Beirut, Joe Cocker, Vincent Gagnon, Neil Cowley Trio, The Heavy, Room Eleven, Anat Cohen, Jill Barber, Los de Abajo, Wesli Band, The Bad Plus and Esperanza Spalding, with special mention for the courageous artists who performed in torrential rainfall, such as Florence K, Nikki Yanofsky and Lynda Thalie.
19 countries represented at this 30th edition
Among the many guests welcomed by this incredible edition, let us not overlook our friends in the media, from here and abroad. Over 500 accredited journalists, including close to 50% from outside Canada-a considerable increase over last year’s contingent of 185-from 19 countries covered the event, bringing the jazz news to Germany (Jazzthetik, Jazzthing, Vogue), Austria (RadioFM4), Australia (Jazz Australia), Belgium (Le Soir), Canada (Bravo!, CBC, Coda magazine, Edmonton Journal, Electric Playground, Globe and Mail, Jazz FM, L’Express, Macleans, National Post, Now, Ottawa Citizen, The Epoch Times, Toronto Star), Chile (El Mercurio), Colombia (El Tiempo), Korea (DongA Illbo, Hankook Illbo, Korea Economic Daily, Munhwa Il BoThe Hankyoreh), United States (Alhurra TV, All About Jazz, Austin American Statesman, Austin Chronicle, Bloomberg, Boston Herald, Color magazine, Downbeat magazine, Guitar Player magazine, Jazziz, Jazz Times, KKJZ, Marie Claire, Metro, New York Daily News, New York Post, St-Louis Post-Dispatch, Travel Weekly, URB magazine, WBGO, XM Satellite Radio), France (Agence France Presse, Clark magazine, France-Inter, Guitarist Acoustic magazine, Jazzman, La Croix, laguitare.com, La Tribune, Le Figaro, Le Monde, L’Humanité, Paris Match, RFI, Télérama, TGV magazine, TSF Jazz, Vox Pop), Japan (Kyodo News, Travel Life, Swing Journal), Italia (Il Giornale, Musica Jazz), Mexico (Canal Once, El Economista, Excelsior, Reforma, Horizonte, La Jornada, Milenio, Notimex, Publimetro, Tempestad, Travesias), Peru (Orbita Popular), United Kingdom (Acoustic magazine, Guitar & Bass Magazine, Jazzwise), Russia (Jazz.ru), Slovenia (Muska magazine), Swiss (Afriqu’Echos) and Thailand (108 Music TV).
The SIMM and the MGS: beyond successful
The Montreal Guitar Show had only been open for two hours, yet 500 guitar fiends had already invaded the Palais des congrès, its new home. Over 125 acoustic and electric guitar luthiers, including 20 from France, were there to welcome them with three days of guitar ecstasy. All of our halls (miniconcerts and workshops with luthiers and artists) were full, and according to participating luthiers, Montréal is now THE destination for their craft. The following weekend, an impressive crowd gathered at the new Village de la musique for the Montreal Musical Instrument Show, presented by General Motors, in the heart of the Festival site. Despite Saturday’s weather, music fans flocked to try out the instruments on offer by our exhibitors, and many fans enjoyed the free concerts and activities in the Pavillon SIMM-GM throughout the Festival. The Blues Camp presented by TD Canada Trust welcomed a superb draft of talented 13-to-17-year-olds, 50 of whom were lucky enough to make the final cut for the week-long camp, and who performed live on the Club jazz TD Canada Trust stage.
Thanks to our partners
Let us close by thanking all our public and private partners, who make this massive musical celebration possible! First, the Government of Canada, for its unprecedented contribution, particularly Industry Canada, as well as Canada Economic Development and Canada Heritage, the gouvernement du Québec for its renewed support through the ministère du Tourisme, the ministère des Affaires municipales, des Régions et de l’Occupation du territoire and the SODEC, and the City of Montréal for its constant collaboration. We also salute the sustained contributions of Tourisme Montréal as well as the support of the Consulat général de France and Cultures France. Finally, let us emphasize the important contributions of the private sector: General Motors of Canada, principal sponsor and official presenter of the Festival, and Rio Tinto Alcan, official co-presenter, as well as Astral Media, Bell Canada, Loto‑Québec, TD Canada Trust, the SAQ, Heineken, Air France, Amarula, XM Radio Satellite, Galaxie, Hyatt, Eska, Jura, Pepsi, Fromages CDA and Société Radio-Canada our principal media partner. It is thanks to these partners that our event, unique in the world, exists and can offer such a range and array of free concerts.
Finally, we remind all our fans that after this majestic 30th anniversary, the Festival offers warm and sincere thanks to General Motors for its precious support over the past years, and enthusiastically welcomes TD Canada Trust as its new principal sponsor, beginning in 2010.
The 31st edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal will run from July 1 to 11, 2009.
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