Festival International de Jazz de Montréal
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2004: 25 Years and Much to Celebrate

Who could have predicted in 1980 that the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal would become, in 2004, the biggest event of its kind in the world? To celebrate a quarter century of cultural cross-breeding and musical discovery, the Festival increased its number of outside events. The closing concert blowout Soleil de Minuit (Midnight Sun) attracted over 200 000 people.

Under the Stars

While American crooner Tony Bennett was making his long-awaited return to Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier for the opening indoor concert, the outdoor festivities were in full swing with a special event featuring Johnny Clegg, who shared the stage with fellow South African vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Lorraine Klassen, a Montrealer of South-African origin, to mark the 10 years since the end of apartheid.

On July 4, a sea of bodies swayed to the music of the legendary Funk Brothers from Detroit. Six days later, Vic Vogel electrified the Soirée commemorative du 25e at Place des Nations on Île Sainte-Hélène. The Montréal pianist, who had not missed a single edition in 25 years, performed in the same venue he had performed in at the closing of the very first Festival.

The ultimate in outdoor gatherings would be the closing show Soleil de Minuit (Midnight Sun), co-produced by Cirque du Soleil, also celebrating 20 years of existence. That evening, a magical atmosphere permeated St. Catherine Street, where some 200 000 curious spectators had crowded together. This impressive soirée under the stars was also broadcast live on Radio-Canada television. Among the many artists highlighted were Youssou N'Dour, Zachary Richard and Jorane.


In the wake of this vintage anniversary year, the Antonio Carlos Jobim Award was established to honour an outstanding world music artist. The first statuette was presented to Ibrahim Ferrer. With the warmth he is known for, this emblematic granddaddy of the Buena Vista Social Club gave one last concert to Festival-goers before passing away in August 2005. Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba also joined in, sharing the stage with Brazilian singer and guitarist Joao Bosco. Add to that the talented and sadly missed singer of Mexican-American origin Lhasa de Sela, who launched the Chants d'Amérique series and released her second album, The Living Road.

While the year 2004 brought together a myriad of legends - Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Brad Mehldau, Wynton Marsalis, etc. - it also saw several young writers-composers-performers teeming with talent appear at the Festival for the first time, among them the marginal Amy Whinehouse, the queen of alternative folk Ani DiFranco, and Québec's own Ariane Moffatt.

Meetings at the Summit

Following their highly touted appearance in 1995, guitarist Al Di Meola, violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, and bass player Stanley Clarke again took the stage to present a number of cuts from their cult-album Rite of Strings. Also, Canadian singer k.d. lang added her voice to the explosive sounds of the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, and Brazilian guitarist and pianist Egberto Gismonti performed with I Musici de Montréal.

Finally, how can one not mention the closing concert bringing together on the stage two Montrealers and giants of jazz piano - Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones - the pair of friends presenting to its audience a musical anthology of sorts.

The “best jazz festival in the world” celebrates its 25 years…

The anniversary edition of 2004 proves yet again that it’s the “best jazz festival in the world” – as proclaimed by Metheny, Brubeck, Haden, Krall, Jarreau and Bridgewater!

The opening night is given over to the inimitable Tony Bennett, while the closing event is headed by Cirque de Soleil, which puts on the spectacular Soleil de minuit for the open air Grand Événement. The great Montreal pianists Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones also take to the stage for an anthology show.

Watch the video and see the program to learn more…