The 38th annual Montreal Jazz Festival — an 11-day event ending July 8 — featured 150 indoor concerts in 11 concert venues ranging from small boîtes to large concert halls, as well as many free, open-air presentations. The musicians ranged from the world-famous (Bob Dylan, Buddy Guy, King Crimson) to those not that far removed from their garage-band days — not all of them, obviously, performing what is commonly considered to be jazz.
This was my first visit to the festival, and I arrived in this French-speaking city on a drizzly Thursday afternoon in time for the first full evening of performances. I arranged in advance to attend seven indoor performances over three evenings — or at least parts of them, as some overlapped. While I had no free time for a leisurely evening meal at one of Montreal’s famed restaurants, I was able to get a taste of the city as well as visit some of its cultural venues and trendy neighborhoods during the open afternoons. And, of course, there was plenty to drink, as many of the venues had bars.
From my base at the Hyatt Regency, I was within easy walking distance of all of the venues, all located in the cultural complex along Rue Sainte-Catherine just north of Chinatown and Old Montreal — very good planning on the festival’s part. With umbrella in hand, I made my way to L’Astral for the first concert, featuring pianist Daniel Clarke Bouchard, a Quebec native who starred at a young age on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and now plans to attend the Juilliard School. In leading a group of veteran musicians and guest performers through jazz standards, Bouchard performed like an old master.