1989: Ten Years and Counting!
The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal celebrated its 10th anniversary
in 1989. With continued success from one year to the next, the Fest was flying high.
In 1989, however, it marked a true milestone with one million visitors and more
musicians than ever. Waiting in the wings that year were the likes of Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden and Gilberto Gil, poised to bring
audiences to their feet.
Also in 1989, the Festival picked up and moved from the Quartier Latin to downtown
Montréal, where the heart of the Place des Arts festival quadrant was closed
to traffic to make way for jazz lovers of all stripes. On the evening of July 4,
a crowd of close to 100 000 people converged on McGill College Avenue
for the outdoor concert given by Pat Metheny. Before a sea of adoring
fans, the brilliant and versatile guitarist delivered an inspired performance which
made Festival history.
The First Time
Another date etched in our collective memory is June 29 – the eve of
the Festival's official opening. That day, B.B. King and George Benson kicked off the anniversary
edition with a rousing performance at the Montréal Forum. Each was making
his Festival debut.
In the ten days that followed, Festival fans also put their hands together for other
newcomers. Among them was drummer Peter Erskine, who performed
Joe Lovano, a New York jazz giant who has returned to the Festival
a dozen times since.
On July 1, jazz and soul great Roberta Flack brought her smooth
and sophisticated vocal stylings to the Festival, and the day after, English guitarist
– a future Legend of the Festival – took the stage at Théâtre
Saint-Denis to the delight of jazz fusion fans. The year 1989 also saw singer and
musician Gilberto Gil – a major star in his native Brazil
– give his first-ever concert on Canadian soil.
1989 was the year the Festival unveiled its Oscar Peterson Award, honouring a musician
who has contributed to the development of Canadian jazz. The award's first winner
was none other than the
great Oscar himself. Presenting the statuette bearing his name
was long-time friend
Oliver Jones - who received the award the following year.
The now-famous Invitation series was also inaugurated in 1989, giving a
renowned artist the chance to present a string of evening concerts with musicians
of his or her choice. The first artist to be given this opportunity was bassist
Charlie Haden, another Legend of the Festival. Haden gave no less
than eight concerts, each time working with a different cast, including Joe
Henderson and Al Foster, with whom he had recorded
a live album in Italy two years earlier.
Other innovations from the 1989 vintage worth mentioning: the establishment of a
temporary jazz radio station broadcast on 91.3 FM, as well as the advent of
the late-night Jam Sessions.