The Festival

Ranked as the world’s largest jazz festival in the Guinness World Records, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal has been synonymous with a passion for music for now 40 years. Every year for 10 days, the French-speaking metropolis of North America becomes the venue where fans of all types of jazz-related music rub shoulders with aficionados of jazz in its purest form. All on a unique site designed to meet festival goers’ every need, right downtown in an area off-limits to car traffic! Montreal is without a doubt the true heartbeat of Planet Jazz!

The Festival in 10 key dates

Summer of 1980
The first edition of the Festival gathers approximately one hundred artists, including Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Vic Vogel and Ray Charles on Île-Sainte-Hélène, attracting some 12,000 festival goers.

Having become an autonomous non-profit corporation, the Festival moves to St. Denis Street.

With over a thousand musicians on the program, the Festival launches its first large-scale free event, which was to become the midway event of every festival thereafter.

The Festival definitively establishes its official site around Place des Arts.

At its 10th anniversary, the Festival reaches a million visitors.

The Festival site continues to expand, integrating for the first time the De Maisonneuve Blvd axis.

The Festival Gallery is born, with works by Miles Davis, Tony Bennett and Yves Archambault.

The Festival launches a new series of music presented all year long: Jazz All-Year Round.

With 2 million visits, the Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary by entering the Guinness World Records as the world’s largest jazz festival.

The Place des Festivals, the new epicentre of the event, is inaugurated.

The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal was founded in 1979 by Alain Simard in association with André Ménard, Denyse McCann and Alain de Grosbois, with the purpose of bringing the best musicians on the planet to the public. A non-profit organization since 1981, its mandate is to popularize jazz and its related musical forms thanks to its free outdoor shows and its wide diffusion, in addition to being a major tourist attraction for Montreal and a springboard for its musicians.

Festival leaders

  • Jacques K. Primeau


    Visionary, go-getter and unifier, the producer and manager of artists Jacques Primeau has been a pillar of the Quebec cultural scene for over thirty years. In his career, his managing artists have won 7 Gémeaux Immortels, 69 Gémeaux, 28 Félix, 12 Métrostar / Artis, 3 Jutra, 1 Juno and 8 Olivier (including 1 tribute). Born in Rosemont, Jacques Primeau aspires to a career as a journalist; this is why he undertook studies in communication at the University of Quebec in Montreal after obtaining a DEC in Social Sciences at the Collège de Maisonneuve. Very involved in his community, Jacques Primeau has served on the board of directors of the National School of humor; he was also president of the Performing Arts Coalition as well as president of l’Adisq. It was in this capacity that he initiated and carried the idea of the “Quartier des spectacles” at the Sommet de Montréal in 2002. A year later, he was appointed vice-president of the Quartier des spectacles Partnership until 2012 when he is appointed president. In February 2020, Jacques Primeau succeeds Jacques-André Dupont as director of l’Équipe Spectra festivals.

  • Alain Simard

    Founder and Chairman of the Board

    One of the pioneers and leaders of the Canadian music industry, Alain Simard has been a builder of Quebec’s culture for 50 years. A founding member of ADISQ, he launched in 1977 with André Ménard Spectra Scène, the nucleus of what would evolve over the years into L’Équipe Spectra. Alain Simard is known internationally for being the creator and president of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, the founder of the FrancoFolies de Montréal and of the MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE festival. He also co-founded the Audiogram record label in 1985, acquired the Spectrum and the Métropolis, launched in 2003 the first Nuit blanche in North America and participated in the creation of Montreal’s Quartier des spectacles. In 2016, he was inducted in the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame.

  • André Ménard

    Cofounder and vice-president, L’Équipe Spectra, Festival International de Jazz de Montréal

    André Ménard ranks among the most influential figures in the Québécois artistic community, having made a powerful contribution to shaping the cultural life of Montréal. Working in the domain of live show and concert production since 1975, he has partnered with Alain Simard for over 40 years as co-founder and Vice-President of L'Équipe Spectra. He is also the co-founder and Artistic Director of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. Finally, he oversaw the workings of Montréal venues Le Spectrum and Métropolis (MTELUS) for 25 years as Vice-President and Managing Director of concert halls for L'Équipe Spectra.

  • Laurent Saulnier

    Vice-president of Programming

    A journalist specializing in music from 1982 to 1999, Laurent Saulnier wrote for a number of newspapers and magazines (Elle Québec, Clin d’œil, Chansons). He was editor of the music section at Voir from 1991 to 1999, in addition to collaborating with a number of TV and radio programs (including Christiane Charrette, La Ruée vers l’art, Cadillac rose and Beau et Chaud). Also, from 1997 to the spring of 2000, he co-hosted the TV magazine Les Francs-Tireurs on Télé-Québec. He has worked for the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, the FrancoFolies de Montréal and MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE since autumn 1999, and is now vice-president of Programming for the three events. A true music fan, he has seen over 20,000 concerts in his life.

Each year, the Festival is...

  • Around 2 million visits
  • 500 concerts
  • 3000 musicians from 30 countries
  • 300 accredited journalists
  • 20 stages
  • 10 prizes
  • An area of 760,000 ft2/70,060 m2
  • Over 60,000 litres of beer
  • Over 2,500 kilos of fries
  • Around1000 employees
  • Over 100 video clips viewed 344,000 times