The city of Montreal has been a hub of musical activity since the 1920s. It is known for a bold and experimental scene, allowing artists to thrive within its borders. Montreal is a tourist hot spot, so artists can expect and international audience no matter where they are playing in the city. What are some of the essential spots to check out in this musical landscape?
Montreal International Jazz Festival
Montreal, luckily enough, is the site of the world’s largest jazz festival, which even holds the Guinness world record. It’s been running for the past 40 years. Every year it is held at the end of June for 10 days in the heart of downtown Montreal- the Quartier des spectacles. There are both indoor and outdoor stages where somewhere around 650 performances will occur, 450 of which are free. The festival is host to more than 3,000 artists from all over the world. Some past visitors include the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Leslie Odom Jr and Elizabeth Shepherd. There are also lots of opportunities to work for the festival if you’d like to be a part of this grand event.
Upstairs Jazz Club
This venue and restaurant offer tapas and bistro-style dining in addition to a wide selection of jazz artists for you to sample. Ironically, it is located at the basement level, which the club seems to embrace with its upside-down logo. The wood paneling, stone bar and cozy set up cultivate an intimate atmosphere in which you can enjoy local, regional and international performances- all the while feeling like you are in an exclusive club. It hearkens back to the hey-day of the genre when jazz clubs served as social hubs and community centers as well as concert venues. Here you can satisfy your year-round jazz cravings and take a peek at the progress of the local scene.
House of Jazz
The Maison du Jazz has been home to jazz musicians since 1981 and is considered a landmark of Montreal. It mostly features Canadian musicians, like Erik Khayat, in its lineup, giving you a nice overview of the state of jazz in Canada. The elegant chandeliers, mirrors and old-world architectural detail will put you in the mood for some dancing in your finest, and the happy hour might help out, too. The House of Jazz is also a restaurant that specializes in Cajun food, BBQ and Atlantic salmon. They are known for having an extensive wine list- what goes better with a nice red than some jazz? It is possible to hold private events here. Stop in for an all-around unique lounge experience.
One of the oldest record shops in Montreal, it focuses heavily on jazz, blues, avant-garde and experimental offerings. It is located in the center of the city above a Vietnamese restaurant. There are more than 10,000 records and CDs to rummage through, so you are bound to find something that gets your toe tapping. You’ll want some jazz to take home with you so you can continue your enjoyment outside of Montreal. Cheap Thrills is also proud to offer a wide selection of used books, making this a cozy and popular spot for many in the city. They even have an online catalog of their records if you are looking for something specific, or don’t want to leave your couch right away.
Place des Arts
If you’re looking for a more dedicated, large-scale jazz experience, the Place des Arts is perfect for you. It is the largest performing arts location in the city, and offers year-round jazz programming, including during the International Jazz Festival. Each venue within the center has plenty of primo seating and excellent acoustics. You can also browse one of the many art exhibitions within the venue between sets. There are even some convenient in-house restaurants for when you get hungry. It is easy to get there via public transportation, and it is within walking distance of most hotels downtown. Aside from jazz, they also offer drama, comedy, classical and french songs.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hearing wonderful music in the city of Montreal. The deeper you go, the more you will find. Don’t be afraid to hit the town and do some exploring of your own!