10 days and 20 ways to make the most of Montreal jazz fest

Wade through over 350 concerts at the city’s biggest music event with these top picks.

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If this week’s heat wave didn’t convince you, there’s another sure sign of summer on the horizon: the 44th Montreal International Jazz Festival takes over the downtown core, June 27 to July 6. 

For 10 straight days, the city’s biggest music fest presents over 350 concerts by acts from around the world, more than two-thirds of them free. And while roaming the site on any given night and seeing what you come across is one of the best ways to do jazz fest, sometimes it helps to have a destination in mind. 

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To help you parse through the wealth of offerings, Gazette staffers have assembled our daily picks, one outdoor and one indoor. Of course, making choices means leaving things out. We tried to steer clear of sold-out shows by illustrious headliners including rapper André 3000, who plays songs from his new album of ambient flute music, June 30 at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier; Norah Jones, holding court July 2 and 3 at the same hall with hometown opener Martha Wainwright; Inuk singer Elisapie, June 30 at Théâtre Maisonneuve; and Quebec neo-classical composer Alexandra Stréliski, July 2 and 3 at Maison Symphonique. 

Bonus hot tips that didn’t make it onto our list include Brooklyn R&B singer Yaya Bey, June 27 at 7:30 p.m. on the TD Stage; New Orleans legends The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, June 28 at 8 p.m. at Théâtre Maisonneuve; Oakland-born jazz trumpetist Ambrose Akinmusire playing a solo set at Gesù, June 28 at 10:30 p.m., and in a duo with bassist Dave Holland, June 29 at 9 p.m. at Théâtre Jean-Duceppe; Atlanta rapper Killer Mike, July 3 at 8:30 p.m. at MTelus; Toronto soul singer Charlotte Day Wilson, July 3 at 9:30 p.m. on the TD Stage; and power-piped Montreal indie-rock singer La Force, July 4 at 7 p.m. on the Club Montreal TD stage on the Place des Arts esplanade. 

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Without further ado, here are 20 shows to see at this year’s jazz festival:

The Stephen Barry Band to perform at the 2024 Montreal International Jazz Festival
Stephen Barry Band. Photo courtesy Montreal International Jazz Festival.

Thursday, June 27: 

Stephen Barry Band (6 p.m., Gesù). The bluesy rootsy Montreal outfit are celebrating their 50th — !?!? — anniversary with their umpteenth jazz fest appearance. One of the city’s oldest bands happens also to be one of our best combos and they have a brand spanking new album Only a Dream — 50 ans de blues to remind those who need reminding of how good they are. (Brendan Kelly)

Hiatus Kaiyote (9:30 p.m., TD Stage, free).  Led by powerhouse singer-guitarist Nai Palm, Australia’s Hiatus Kaiyote stretches from rock fusion to sultry soul and angular electronica on the early singles from its new album Love Heart Cheat Code, out June 28. The through lines are jazz chops and a thirst for adventure. (T’Cha Dunlevy)

Aja Monet to perform at 2024 Montreal International Jazz Festival
Aja Monet Photo by Shannon Finney /Getty Images for V-DAY

Friday, June 28: 

Aja Monet (7 p.m., Studio TD, free). She dubs herself a surrealist blues poet. Aja Monet was named Grand Slam Champion at NYC’s Nuyorican Poets Café in 2007, at age 19. The transportive, incantatory, jazz-based compositions of her debut solo album When the Poems Do What They Do earned her a 2024 Grammy for Best Spoken Word Poetry Album. (TD) 

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Cory Wong (9:30 p.m., TD Stage, free). Jazz fest program director Maurin Auxéméry told me Wong is the perfect example of the genre-hopping jazz he likes to book. This Chinese-American guitarist is unquestionably a jazz artist but he’s also oh-so-funky when he whips off one Prince-like guitar riff after another at a frantic pace. (BK)

Laufey to perform at 2024 Montreal International Jazz Festival
Laufey  Photo by Chris Pizzello /Invision/AP

Saturday, June 29: 

Laufey (2 p.m., Maison Symphonique, and 7 :30 p.m., Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier). This is one of the hottest tickets at the fest. This Icelandic jazz crooner has been described as Norah Jones meets Billie Eilish and the 25-year-old singer-songwriter has millions of followers on TikTok. So expect a much younger crowd than the usual indoor jazz-fest show. (BK)

Dominique Fils-Aimé (9:30 p.m., TD Stage, free). When she last performed at the jazz fest, in 2022, Dominique Fils-Aimé wowed a sellout crowd at Théâtre Maisonneuve. Now everyone will be able to take in the Haitian Montrealer’s enthralling jazz-soul sounds, Saturday night on the main stage, prime time. (TD)

Keyon Harrold to perform at the 2024 Montreal International Jazz Festival
Keyon Harrold   Photo by Kwafu Alston

Sunday, June 30: 

John Roseboro (8 p.m., 10 p.m., Rio Tinto Stage, free). Who would argue against the concept of a little cool bossa nova-style jazzy fare on a hot summer night? Exactly. Precisely no one. Then when you hear that this young Brooklyn-based musician ditched a successful career in California as a mortician to move east and make music and you know you have to see this show. (BK)

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Keyon Harrold (9 p.m., Théâtre Jean-Duceppe). A onetime protégé of Wynton Marsalis, Missouri native Keyon Harrold has collaborated with Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Cirque du Soleil. He hosts a “trumpet summit” featuring fellow African-American horn players Theo Croker and Maurice Brown as well as Montreal’s Rémi Cormier, and plays 10:30 p.m. sets at Gesù, June 29 and July 1. (TD)

Robert Glasper to perform at the 2024 Montreal International Jazz Festival
Robert Glasper Photo by Todd Cooper

Monday, July 1: 

Geoffroy (8:30 p.m., MTelus). The Quebec singer-songwriter is riding high on the heels of the release of his excellent album Good Boy, which takes his atmospheric ethereal pop and adds some new elements, notably a little cumbia and other Latin and African grooves. Tailor-made for a club show. (BK)

Robert Glasper and guests (July 1, 9:30 p.m., TD stage, free). On his Black Radio albums and elsewhere, the American jazz pianist-keyboardist has collaborated with a who’s who of hip-hop and R&B elite. A festival regular who usually plays ticketed shows indoors, it’s a stroke of genius for the festival to put him on the big free stage outside. (TD)

Thee Sacred Souls to perform at the 2024 Montreal jazz festival
Thee Sacred Souls   Photo by Ebru Yildiz

Tuesday, July 2: 

Thee Sacred Souls (9:30 p.m., TD Stage, free). This Californian band is signed to Daptone Records, the Brooklyn-based label that’s home to Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and Charles Bradley, and if you like the cool soulful sound of those two, then you’ll dig Thee Sacred Souls. Listen to their records and you’d swear they were recorded in Memphis circa 1966. As in, super cool soul vibe. (BK)

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Saya Gray (10 p.m., Le Studio TD, free). Toronto nomad Saya Gray is a fearless explorer. The singer-songwriter-producer thrashes through genres, from art-pop alt-rock, future-soul and edgy electronica. Last year’s Qwerty EP and this year’s Qwerty II display the voracious creativity of a singular artist unbound by convention. One of several free indoor shows throughout the festival at Le Studio TD. (TD)

Jeremy Dutcher to perform at the 2024 Montreal International Jazz Festival
Jeremy Dutcher   Photo by Sara Melvin

Wednesday, July 3: 

Jeremy Dutcher (7:30, TD Stage, free). After winning the Polaris Music Prize for best Canadian album for his 2018 debut Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, Jeremy Dutcher settled in Montreal. The classically trained tenor and member of the Tobique First Nation continues to entrance on his second album, Motewolonuwok, with breathtaking hymns that build bridges and blur boundaries. (TD)

Ana Moura (8 p.m., Théâtre Maisonneuve). This Portuguese fado artist is one of the top singers in the genre but don’t go expecting old-fashioned fado. Her latest album, Casa Guilhermina, from 2022, is steeped in the Lisbon novo fado scene. So think traditional Portuguese fare but spiced-up 21st-century style by avant-garde DJs. (BK)

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Thursday, July 4: 

Kroy (7:30 p.m., TD Stage, free). Anyone up for a little evocative electropop? Of course you are. Kroy is the nom de stage of Camille Poliquin, who is one-half of the alt electronic duo Milk & Bone, and her project burst on to the scene with a highly original debut album, Scavenger, in 2016. Think trip hop, new wave synth pop and something oh-so-Montreal. Fun. (BK) 

Alfa Mist (9 p.m., Club Soda). British drummer-pianist, producer and rapper Alfa Mist rhymes on just two songs on his fifth album, Variables, released last year. The rest of the time, he — and we — get lost in the music, a free-flowing mix of jazz with splashes of hip hop and soul. (TD)

Pink Martini to perform at the 2024 Montreal International Jazz Festival
Pink Martini  Photo by Don Dixon

Friday, July 5: 

Pink Martini (7:30 p.m., Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier). This breezy jazzy American ensemble first made it big in France so it’s natural that they’ve always been a hot item round these parts. Their multilingual mix of a bunch of styles — Latin, trad, jazz-inflected pop — is also a natural for Montreal music fans, which is why they’ve played here so often over the years. (BK)

Orville Peck (9:30 p.m., TD Stage, free). Beyoncé isn’t the only one reinventing country. Gay South African-Canadian singer-songwriter Orville Peck puts his own mischievous, masked twist on the genre. The baritone’s recent duets EP Stampede: Vol. 1 boasts collaborations with Willie Nelson, Elton John and Allison Russell. His new single Midnight Ride has Kylie Minogue and Diplo. (TD)

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Orville Peck to perform at 2024 Montreal International Jazz Festival
Orville Peck  Photo by LARRY WONG /Postmedia Network

Saturday, July 6: 

Papish (5 p.m., TD Stage, free). This promises to be one of the great outdoor dance bashes of this year’s fest. Papish is a Montreal trio made up of three hot-shot musicians with South American roots who blend Latin/Caribbean genres like cumbia and bachata with contemporary electronic sounds. Bring your dancing shoes. (BK)

Ichiko Aoba (7 p.m., Maison Symphonique). Japanese singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ichiko Aoba is a natural fit for the immaculate Maison Symphonique, where you can hear a pin drop across the concert hall. In this case, you’ll catch every intricate detail of Aoba’s ethereal reveries, as she is accompanied by a string quartet. Montreal electronic producer Ouri opens. (TD) 

AT A GLANCE: The 44th Montreal International Jazz Festival takes place June 27 to July 6. For tickets and information, visit montrealjazzfest.com  

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