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Anniversary Editions of the Festival

2009: A Colourful and High-spirited 30th Edition!

To mark its 30th anniversary in 2009, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal inaugurated its new Maison du Festival on Sainte-Catherine Street, as well as the Place des Festivals in the heart of the Quartier des spectacles. In a baptism under the stars, tens of thousands poured into this vast public space to hear American music legend Stevie Wonder.

Playing Outdoors!

To celebrate in style and highlight the new Place des Festivals, a record number of outdoor shows were presented, with Afro-American singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder leading the way. Before an estimated crowd of 150 000, the supremely talented musician performed a number of his hits and paid a moving tribute to his friend Michael Jackson, who'd passed away just a few days earlier.

Also among the high points of the Festival's 2009 edition was the sublime performance by Patrick Watson. Flanked by a string quartet and a few brass instruments, the Montréal native delivered an audacious show, the beauty of his songs heightened by the strings and the brass.

As part of the Grande Soirée Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae, Jamaican musicians Ken Boothe, Stranger Cole, Hopeton Lewis, Leroy Sibbles, The Tamlins, Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt gave fans a history lesson on the beloved music of their country.

Added to this were three special events: pianist and singer Florence K brought the crowd to their feet with her salsa, jazz and bossa nova rhythms, while electrifying Canadian guitarist Jesse Cook served up a pungent cocktail of flamenco, jazz and rumba. Finally, despite a major downpour, young Montréal diva Nikki Yanofsky served notice that she is a worthy heir to Ella Fitzgerald.

Closing out the Festival was the Fiesta cubana featuring the Afro-Cuban All Stars and Los Van Van, followed by a concert by Ben Harper and Relentless7, which drew thousands of music lovers to the Place des Festivals.

Baptisms for the Year 2009

The year 2009 saw the Festival open the Maison du Festival – now a year-round fixture on Sainte-Catherine Street – and L'Astral, its spanking new performance venue baptised on June 30 by Oliver Jones and Ranee Lee. It was also in 2009 that Festival created the Bruce Lundvall Award, presented annually to a prominent non-musician who has left a mark on the world of jazz. The first such award went to none other than Mr. Lundvall himself, the president of the mythical Blue Note label.

Joe Cocker's first appearance at the Fest did not go unnoticed, as the gravel-voiced Englishman performed pieces from his 2007 album, Hymn for My Soul. Also getting their first taste of the stage at the Festival were guitar titan Jeff Beck and singer-songwriter Jackson Browne, an American icon from the 1970s.

Many happy returns

The Festival's 30th anniversary also marked the return of two jazz legends, Ornette Coleman and Chucho Valdés. A saxophonist and composer who helped to pioneer the free jazz movement, Coleman was presented with the 2009 Miles Davis Award, while Valdés, the virtuoso Cuban pianist, burned up the stage at Théâtre Maisonneuve. And in another visit from jazz royalty, 89-year-old pianist Dave Brubeck celebrated the 50th anniversary of his iconic album, Time Out. Also singled out for praise were the three shows given by American sax man and Festival stalwart, Joshua Redman.

Finally, the closing indoor concert gave rise to an onstage transposition of Montréal Variations, an album featuring a who's who of great Québec-based pianists, including Oliver Jones, François Bourassa, Alain Lefèvre, James Gelfand and Lorraine Desmarais.

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