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Six major opening concerts

A look back on some of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal’s most memorable opening nights.

Ray Charles (1980)

Ray Charles

The honour of giving the very first concert in the Festival’s history goes to Ray Charles. The event took place on Wednesday, July 2 at Place des Nations. For the occasion, the great musician was accompanied onstage by the Ray Charles Orchestra and its choir, the Raelettes. Charles made the trip to Montreal in his private plane, accompanied by an impressive entourage.

Sarah Vaughan (1983)

Sarah Vaughan

In 1983, the Festival had the privilege of hosting two of the greatest singers in the history of jazz: In addition to applauding Ella Fitzgerald, who closed the event, music lovers had the chance to see the divine Sarah Vaughan on Friday, July 1 at Théâtre St-Denis. With her deep and sensual voice, Vaughan performed the most important works from her repertoire. The artist was, of course, given a standing ovation by festival-goers.

Gala Justin Time (1988)

Oliver Jones

To launch its 19th edition, the Festival paid tribute to the Montreal record label, Justin Time. The gala concert gave audiences a chance to experience a variety of high calibre Quebecois musicians. On the bill: the great pianist from Little Burgundy, Oliver Jones, and the remarkable voice and bass duo of Karen Young and Michel Donato. The Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir opened the second part of the show, accompanied by Mr. Jones, who this time played the organ. Ontario guitarist Sonny Greenwich was also in attendance. The Gala guest artists gathered on stage to deliver a memorable finale.

Oscar Peterson (1995)

Oscar Peterson

That year, the most famous pianist in Montreal returned to the Festival’s stage for the first time since 1989. Throughout his distinguished career, Oscar Peterson has collaborated with eminent jazz musicians, taken home numerous honours and, of course, kept crowds enraptured. For the opening concert in 1995, he was accompanied by Danish bassist Niels Henning Ørsted Pedersen, guitarist Lorne Lofsky and drummer Martin Drew.

Diana Krall (2001)

Diana Krall

The pianist and singer Diana Krall has always had an impressive showing at the Festival. She first performed in 1995 and since then, each of her appearances has been unforgettable. In 2001, the Canadian queen of jazz presented an exclusive selection of songs that would make up her sixth album, The Look of Love, which came out a few months later.

Tony Bennett (2004)

Tony Bennett

In 2004, Tony Bennett returned to the Festival for the first time since 1997. The American crooner with Italian roots gave the opening concert for the 25th edition. The event took place at the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier. For the occasion, Mr. Bennett interpreted popular songs by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday. Once again, the singer demonstrated his immense talent.

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