Festival International de Jazz de Montréal
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Anniversary Editions of the Festival

1999: 20 Years – Another Milestone!

In spite of a strike by Place des Arts' stage technicians that threatened to disrupt the organization of the 20th Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, the stars were aligned and the music gods were smiling down on Montréal as the Festival prepared to celebrate its anniversary with a special nod to the vocal arts and the music of Louisiana.

Kicking off the festivities was Cassandra Wilson, accompanied by singer and multi-instrumentalist Olu Dara and British bassist Dave Holland. In a tribute to Miles Davis, the Mississippi-born contralto with the warm, textured voice delivered a superb concert inspired by her most recent album, Traveling Miles.

Remembering Ella

The year 1999 also marked the creation of the Ella Fitzgerald Award in recognition of the improvisational originality and quality of repertoire of a jazz singer renowned on the international scene. Receiving the inaugural award that year was American singer Diane Schuur, who performed alongside Canadian trumpet titan Maynard Ferguson.

An impressive lineup of acclaimed artists descended on the city for this celebration of jazz vocals. In addition to Schuur, American Patricia Barber and Canadian Diana Krall appeared at the 1999 Festival, with Krall performing excerpts from her album When I Look In Your Eyes flanked by a 30-piece orchestra.

Also in 1999, Brazilian music icon Caetano Veloso made his first and only appearance at the Festival. Performing with some 15 musicians, the co-founder of Tropicalism treated fans to some sublime musical moments. And in another first, singer-songwriter Jay-Jay Johanson – the little prince of Swedish spleen – brought his sultry voice to the Spectrum.

Closing out the 1999 Festival with a concert dedicated to the great Ella Fitzgerald were Montrealer Vic Vogel and his big band, accompanied by celebrated female vocalists Jeri Brown, Ranee Lee and Karen Young.

Two Reasons to Celebrate

This special edition of the Festival coincided with the 100th anniversary of the birth of jazz in New Orleans. To honour the music of Louisiana, therefore, a southern-style brass band toured the Festival site daily and Cajun-themed cruises were offered twice a day on the St. Lawrence River. As part of the Louisiane en fête ­series, the Festival hosted several artists from Louisiana, among them Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys and The Original Pin Stripe Brass Band.

Norway Honoured

Also worthy of mention are the two magical shows given by Norwegian artists Jan Garbarek and Nils Petter Molvaer. Garbarek's special performance at the Notre-Dame Basilica marked another milestone in Festival history. Flanked by the famed Hilliard Ensemble (an early music ensemble), the brilliant saxophonist performed excerpts from his popular 1993 album, Officium. Molvaer, for his part, was making his second appearance at the Festival, the first coming a year earlier, when the great electro-jazz trumpeter presented his album, Khmer.

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