Festival International de Jazz de Montréal
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Anniversary Editions of the Festival

1994: 15 Years Already?

With the creation of a children's music park, the installation of tiered seats juxtaposed with outdoor stages, more than 400 shows, 300 of which were free, and some 1 500 000 visitors, the 15th edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal is remembered as an especially good year. All in all, some 2 000 artists from a dozen countries descended on the city. Among them were the regular visitors who personify the history of the Festival and the new faces who promised great things to come.

The Female Voice

The female voice took centre stage in 1994. Torontonian Holly Cole opened the festivities at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier. Since her trio's first visit in 1989, the singer with the crystal-clear voice continued to gain in popularity. We also saw the return of Dee Dee Bridgewater, whose powerful and sensual voice captivated festivalgoers the summer before. This time around the American singer delivered an inspired tribute to pianist Horace Silver. The voice of contralto Cassandra Wilson also resonated when she presented her latest album Blue Light 'Til Dawn. And the amazing Montreal singer Ranee Lee joined in the day dedicated to Billie Holiday, who'd departed 35 years earlier. The first visit by Cesaria Evora was a high point of this anniversary year. Stepping barefoot onto the stage at the Spectrum, the diva sang airs from her native Cap Verde.

Return of the Greats

Another major event of the 15th anniversary: the concert given at the Forum by master guitarists John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucía, who shared the stage with Brazilian Milton Nascimento. The three musicians cooked up a cultural stew worthy of the best chefs. McLaughlin was also the first recipient of the Miles Davis Award, created that same year to honour an international musician who contributes to the development of jazz.

Strunz & Farah, The Rosenberg Trio and Bratsch, three groups that set fire to the Festival in 1991, came back to do it again for the outdoor show La Nuit des Gitans. More than 90 000 fevered fans swayed to the sound of tzigane songs. Also there in 1994: the father of the modern jazz trombone, J.J. Johnson, prodigious trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, and bassist Ron Carter, who was the focus of the Invitation series.

On this anniversary year, these beloved jazz artists encapsulated the Festival's history con brio, with all of the musical richness it had offered from the very beginning. Plus, in a world first, bassist Charlie Haden and pianist Hank Jones joined forces in a performance that led to the recording of the CD Steal Away: Spirituals, Hymns and Folk Songs. The year 1994 also saw young saxophone prodigy Joshua Redman establish himself as a supremely talented reed man.

Hot Africa

Not to be outdone, Africa shone with a million fires: while Ugandan Geoffrey Oryema - Peter Gabriel's young protegé - appeared for his first time at the Festival to play the rich sounds from his album Beat the Border, Senegalese Youssou N'Dour came back to enthral us with his bewitching voice. Nigerian King Sunny Ade took the stage at the Spectrum with a troupe of 18 musicians.

Finally, Oliver Jones, Montreal jazz piano superstar, closed out this edition, which also honoured several other local artists. Promising young guitarist Benoît Charest visited for the first time, well before the release of his triumphant Les Triplettes de Belleville soundtrack.

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