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Montreal International Jazz Fest, June 26-July 5

Al Di Meola, Stanley Clarke, John Scofield, Ron Carter, King Sunny Ade, John Medeski, Wayne Shorter, Chris Botti, Steve Miller Band, Erykah Badu, Lucinda Williams, John Mayall, James Cotton, Madeleine Peyroux and Robert Glaspar might be giants but the essence of the upcoming Montreal International Jazz Festival June 26-July 5 are the free shows of Ragtime, Cajun, Celtic, Blues, Folk, Rock, hiphop, Dixieland, Swing, Bebop, Fusion, Gospel, Folk, Pop, and every other imaginable genre!

The 36th annual Montreal Jazz Festival will take place from June 26 to July 5. This year's fest promises to be one of the best ever. The 2004 Guinness Book Of World Records listed the event as the largest jazz fest in the world. Event organizers claim roughly two million people attend the hundreds of shows spread out over 11 days with approximately 80% of the shows for free. This year The Stanley Clarke Band, Erykah Badu, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Cibo Matto, Robert Glaspar, Madeleine Peyroux (pictured) and Joss Stone might be the hippest of the hip but Rodrigo y Gabriela (pictured), Bobby Bazini with special guest Booker T. Jones, Lucinda Williams with Justin Townes Earle, the Wayne Shorter Quartet, solo John Medeski, tributes to Edith Piaf and Billie Holiday, King Sunny Ade and two super groups (NeTTwork with Stanley Jordan, Jeff Tain Watts and Charnett Moffett and Heads of State with Buster Williams, Gary Bartz, Larry Willis and Al Foster) will set heads spinning. I’m particularly looking forward to the brilliant American trumpeter/composer/producer Christian Scott, 32, whose eight CDs in 13 years show a maturation almost unequaled in the history of modern music (not to mention the unique spark he’s contributed to the CDs of 14 other artists since he was a mere 16). Some of the free shows include Montreal Dixie who swing Latin, Sweden’s Hell’s Kitchen whose industrial rock is an attempt to, as they say, “de-Claptonize the blues.” There's Gruv’n Brass (a world-music nonet), Jazzmatik Avec Un Cas (a brass-filled fusion of jazz and hiphop), L’ esprit de la Nouvelle-Orleans (trumpet, banjo, sousaphone, drums and clarinet in “Big Easy” joy), Hot Pepper Dixie, (more New Orleans-styled joyousness), Sunday Orkestra Severni (Klezmer, Moldavian, Serbian, Bulgarian and Turkish traditional), Tevet Sela (Middle-Eastern jazz from a saxophone/flute maestro), Speakeasy Electro Swing (conceptual dance music marrying prohibition-era hot jazz like on Boardwalk Empire with 21st Century technology), Urban Science #Lecypher (a bastardization of beatboxers, rappers, MCs, audience jammers and covers of Kanye West and A Tribe Called Quest), Gypsophilia (a melange of Gypsy Jazz like Django Reinhardt [1910-1953] and Stephane Grappelli [1908-1997] plus funk, reggae, samba and salsa, plus hundreds of other genre-busting delights. Then there's South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, plus local favorites 418 Blues Caravan and Colin James, one of Canada's most exciting rock stars with a wild stage show and 16 albums of material to choose from. Some of the conceptual shows promise to be amongst the highlights. Check this out: performance troop For The Record (pictured) will approximate the crazy visuals and mind-bending melds of eras and styles that have made the motion pictures of Baz Luhrmann so trippy. Rabih Abou-Khalil is a virtuoso who has recorded and collaborated with musicians from many genres. From jazz to classical to world, he blends east and west and always entrances. It may be ambitious and I may keel over after Day #1 but I’ve been assured my hotel is in walking distance, my hosts speak English, the dollar is particular strong right now and I have been promised the time of my life. I’m so there. They’ve been doing this for 35 years. Over 3,000 artists from 30 countries are expected this year. 450 of the 650 concerts are free at the 10 indoor and 10 outdoor stages. A major part of Montreal’s downtown area is closed to vehicular traffic during the fest. Its 1980 debut starred Ray Charles, Chick Corea and Gary Burton. A four-CD boxed set of selected live performances was released in 2000. A huge free blow-out blues bash in honor of BB King, who died May 14, 2015 at the age of 89, is still in the planning stages, will end this year’s proceedings. For further information, is a good place to start.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20: Madeleine Peyroux performs on stage at Royal Festival Hall as part of the London Jazz Festival 2009 on November 20, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Andy Sheppard/Redferns) *** Local Caption *** Madeleine Peyroux
Rodrigo y Gabriela
For The Record
Rabih Abou-Khalil