The Montreal International Jazz Festival kicks off its 40th edition this week, starting June 26th, with a line-up sure to delight the most diverse of musical tastes. Often jazz festivals can be criticized for not showcasing enough jazz per se, but this year’s Montreal edition is particularly fruitful and ripe with a great selection of actual jazz artists. We’ve highlighted a few of our favorite offerings below true to our philosophy of bringing you the latest in new and innovative jazz music. We wish all those attending a great festival!
Curtis Nowosad: 5 PM at the Club Jazz à la place Heineken (Free)
Originally from Manitoba, drummer and social justice advocate Curtis Nowosad has over the years become a staple of the New York City jazz scene where he now resides. His new self-titled album, Curtis Nowosad, his third as a leader, is precisely crafted full of progressive grooves and soulful melodies. Don’t miss a unique chance to hear some of New York’s finest jazz musicians at this free outdoor show.
Vijay Iyer & Craig Taborn: 6 PM at the Gesù ($51.50)
Vijay Iyer and Craig Taborn are two of the most creative and revered pianists of their generation. Their duo performances, which began in 2009 at The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ, culminated with the release of their first joint album, The Transitory Poems, last March on the prestigious ECM label. This should be a remarkable and inspiring evening filled with virtuosic dialogues and thought-provoking inflections.
Brad Mehldau Quintet: 7 PM at the Maison symphonique de Montréal (from $44.75 to $64.75)
Pianist Brad Mehldau has assembled a special quintet for some carefully selected summer dates, which includes this year’s edition of the Montreal Jazz Festival. Featuring phenom trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and renowned saxophonist Joel Frahm, alongside bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Leon Parker, this exclusive line-up will give a fresh perspective to Mehldau’s always captivating compositions. This should be one of the highlights of the festival.
Melissa Aldana: 10:30 PM at the Gesù ($39.95)
Winner of the 2013 Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Saxophone Competition, Melissa Aldana has been on a rapid ascension to jazz stardom ever since. With four recordings under her belt, her latest Visions marking her debut on the noteworthy Motéma label, Aldana has been on a tear making her one of the most exciting young tenors of her generation.
June 28 to July 6
Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes: 7 PM at Cinéma du Parc ($13)
This award-winning documentary, directed by Sophie Huber, provides us with a captivating look into one of the most important record labels in jazz’ history. Through rare archival footage, current day recording sessions, and conversations with jazz icons and future legends, including Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Robert Glasper, Ambrose Akinmusire, Kendrick Scott, and Derrick Hodge, Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes is a must-see for anyone whose life has been touched by the iconic and visionary label founded in 1939 by Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff.
Yaron Herman Trio: 5 PM at Loto-Québec Scene (Free)
Israeli pianist Yaron Herman, now residing in Paris, doesn’t receive the accolades he deserves this side of the Atlantic Ocean, in part due to a notable lack of North American public relations. He has nonetheless been hard at work with nine albums as a leader since his 2003 debut, Takes 2 to Know 1, the last three of which have been released on the French subsidiary of Blue Note Records. Catch compositions from his latest opus, Songs of the Degrees, featuring the trio of Sam Minaie on bass and Ziv Ravitz on drums, during this free outdoor concert at the new Verdun satellite site of the Montreal Jazz Festival.
Donny McCaslin: 10:30 PM at the Gesù ($51.50)
Saxophonist Donny McCaslin has always been an integral part of the modern jazz discourse, notably with his group of trailblazing acolytes comprised of Tim Lefebvre, Jason Lindner, and Mark Guiliana. But his quartet’s appearance on David Bowie’s final recording, Blackstar, greatly added to his notoriety in the mainstream realm. Influenced by his collaboration with Bowie, McCaslin released Blow. last October on Motéma Music, a unique melding of jazz, art rock, and electronica. Get ready for an exciting night of cosmic explorations.
Linda May Han Oh Quintet: 5 PM at Loto-Québec Scene (Free)
We’ve sung the praises of bassist Linda May Han Oh for quite some time on these pages. Her 2017 release, Walk Against Wind, earned Nextbop’s Favorite Album of the Year. Her most recent album, Aventurine, garnered a glowing review from our Editor Anthony Dean-Harris. Why she is performing a free outdoor show at the Montreal Jazz Festival, just a few days before a one-week residency at New York’s most exclusive jazz club, the Village Vanguard, leaves us somewhat baffled. In any case, this is an incredible opportunity to witness one of jazz’ brightest young talents. We suspect the next time she’s in town, the tickets won’t be free.
Makaya McCraven: 10:30 PM at the Gesù ($42.30)
Drummer Makaya McCraven is simply one of our favorite musicians on the scene right now having been awarded Nextbop’s Favorite Album of the Year both in 2015 for his In the Moment release and once again in 2018 for his Universal Beings record, both on the International Anthem label. You won’t want to miss this one!
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: 8 PM at Monument-National ($54.65)
Trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah is undoubtedly one of the most revolutionary musicians of his generation. Fresh off his second Grammy nomination, this time for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album, a testament to the novel and unprecedented path he has chosen to tread, aTunde Adjuah will be presenting his latest Ropeadope album, Ancestral Recall, showcasing a new and distinct style he has christened Stretch Music, a jazz-rooted, genre-blind musical form that attempts to “stretch” jazz’s rhythmic, melodic and harmonic conventions to encompass as many other musical forms, languages, and cultures as possible. The anticipation is killing us!
Joshua Redman Quartet: 8 PM at Théâtre Maisonneuve, Place des Arts (from $51.90 to $61.90)
Not much can be said about saxophonist Joshua Redman that hasn’t already been said. Redman has managed to remain at the forefront of the jazz scene ever since winning the 1991 Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Saxophone Competition, constantly reinventing himself while always exploring new and novel directions. This year he will be presenting his new Nonesuch album, Come What May, with his immaculate quartet of pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Gregory Hutchinson. Always a crowd-pleaser, this concert will not disappoint.
Nate Smith, KINFOLK | BIGYUKI: 8 PM at the Monument-National ($50.50)
Drummer Nate Smith has performed with a who’s who of contemporary jazz artists, including Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Ravi Coltrane, Jose James, Mark de Clive-Lowe and Lionel Loueke, but it wasn’t until 2017 that he released his much-anticipated debut Postcards from Everywhere on Ropeadope Records with his group KINFOLK. Joining Smith on the double bill is NYC’s musical secret weapon, the always exciting Japanese keyboardist BIGYUKI who manages to create an entirely new sound by infusing elements of jazz, classical, hip-hop, soul, rock, dance, and electronica into his compositions. This should make for a great one-two punch.
Butcher Brown: 10:30 PM at the Gesù ($39.95)
We’ve been infatuated with everything Richmond, Virginia’s own Butcher Brown have released ever since their EPs A-Sides and B-Sides earned the number 4 spot on Nextbop’s Favorite Albums of 2013. The group, now comprised of Marcus Tenney, Morgan Burrs, Corey Fonville, Andrew Randazzo, and DJ Harrison never ceases to amaze with their trademark blend of rock, jazz, funk, and hip hop. This will be quite the party!
Gilad Hekselman Trio: 7 PM & 9:45 PM at the Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill ($35)
Gilad Hekselman is incontestably one of the most well-respected and admired jazz guitarists on today’s international scene, especially among his musical peers. His latest album, Ask for Chaos, released last September on Motéma Music, received critical acclaim establishing Hekselman as a technical phenomenon and a gifted and visionary composer. Joining Hekselman on the intimate stage of the Upstairs will be Montreal’s very own Rick Rosato on bass as well as drummer Kendrick Scott.
Kendrick Scott Oracle: 7 PM & 9:45 PM at the Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill ($45)
Drummer Kendrick Scott emerged from a four-year recording hiatus last April with his new album, A Wall Becomes a Bridge, his second on the prestigious Blue Note label. Beautifully written, thought-provoking, inquisitive and always aesthetically pleasing, the album has solidified Scott as a stalwart and a figurehead of the modern jazz scene. Joining Scott at the Upstairs will be a modified version of his Oracle band comprised of Mike Moreno on guitar, Taylor Eigsti on piano, and Harish Raghavan on bass.
Larry Grenadier: 10:30 PM at the Gesù ($38.75)
Among bassist Larry Grenadier’s many claims to fame are his seventeen albums as a member of the Brad Mehldau trio, notwithstanding appearances alongside Jack DeJohnette, Mark Turner, Joshua Redman, Chris Potter, Pat Metheny, and Charles Lloyd to name a few. Last February, the prodigious bassist released a solo album for ECM Records, entitled The Gleaners, based on the Agnès Varda’s film The Gleaners and I. In between his own pieces, including a dedication to early hero Oscar Pettiford, Grenadier will be exploring compositions by George Gershwin, John Coltrane, Paul Motian, Rebecca Martin, and Wolfgang Muthspiel.
July 5 & 6
Keyon Harrold: 7 PM & 9:45 PM at the Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill ($42.50)
Keyon Harrold has had a prolific career playing trumpet for some of music’s biggest names, including Common, Snoop Dogg, Jay Z, Beyonce, Rihanna, Eminem, and Maxwell. He also dubbed for Miles Davis in Don Cheadle’s 2015 biopic Miles Ahead, where Cheadle gave him the nickname “The Mugician”, a contraction of “musician” and “magician”, after which Harrold titled his latest album. Sweeping and cinematic, Harrold’s music draws on elements of jazz, classical, rock, blues, and hip hop to create something uniquely modern and eclectic in nature.