guide Montreal Jazz Fest festival 2023

Thundercat, Hanorah, DJ Premier

Your guide to the 2023 Montreal Jazz Fest

Our top recommendations for (mostly) free and (some) ticketed shows at all nine days of the festival that’s about to take over the Quartier des Spectacles.

After a spectacular return to full form last year, the Montreal International Jazz Festival lays out a spread for its 43rd edition that’s sure to please every kind of music fan, from casual fest-goers to hardcore jazz enthusiasts and everyone in between. 

No other nine-day-long party in the world offers so much variety and asks only that people show up to enjoy the early summer vibes. From June 29 to July 8, Place des Festivals’ free outdoor stages, along with clubs and venues throughout the Quartier des Spectacles, is the place to be. 

The lay of the land is promising. While our Montreal Jazz Fest guide is by no means exhaustive — and with further lineup announcements expected — a big part of the fun at the festival is hearing the buzz around town and getting excited to discover something new. 

For now, we’ll at least point you in the right direction to personalize your party plans.

Thursday, June 29

Opening night is always a great way to just get in the mood, but admittedly our guess is as good as yours about what not to miss. The festival’s free stages put the power of choice in your hand. 

But if you want a safe bet and lean toward folk-ish rock with a backbone, Montreal favourites the Franklin Electric set it off at MTelus with opener Billie Marten. (8:30 p.m., $52.50)

Friday, June 30

The freaks won’t wanna miss Snarky Puppy at MTelus, but be warned: tickets are in the $200 range. The geeks already know that blues guitar legend Buddy Guy headlines a sold-out Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier. As of presstime, there are still a few balcony tickets to see his contemporary, John Scofield, at Monument-National. (8 p.m., $78.50)

For those who just wanna dance and sweat in a huge crowd, Cuban pop star Cimafunk is the free headliner on the TD Stage. (9:30 p.m.)

Keep the party moving with Montreal’s Alias on the Club Montréal TD stage. (11 p.m., free)

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Saturday, July 1

Your guide to the 2023 Montreal Jazz Fest: Trio Bruxo

Start things off early with excellent old-school samba-jazz from Montreal’s Trio Bruxo at the Pub la Traversée Molson Export. (5 p.m., free)

All the way from Nigeria, CKay connects with Montreal’s Moonshine crew to throw down at MTelus. (8:30 p.m., $59)

Vocal jazz and R&B fans can celebrate Canada Day with Dawn Tyler Watson at the Rogers stage (9 p.m. and 11 p.m., free.) 

Hip hop fans will put aside patriotism to be at the TD stage, because Saturday night’s show-stopper is DJ Premier, without a doubt. The DJ, producer and Gang Starr co-founder is a certified GOAT. Primo takes over the big stage accompanied by the Badder Band. (9:30 p.m., free)

Afterwards, Montreal’s venerable Urban Science Brass Band follows the leader at the Club Montréal TD stage. (11 p.m., free)

Sunday, July 2

Show up early, bring the family, enjoy a Sunday evening of fun and free entertainment and get to the TD stage in enough time to get a nice spot for Vance Joy. The “Riptide” singer is sure to draw big numbers and big smiles. (9:30 p.m., free)

Monday, July 3

How far will you go to witness living icon Herbie Hancock bring his decades of cool at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, joined all the way at the other extreme of the generational scale with 2022 festival buzz-drivers DOMi & JD Beck? You’ll have to figure it out on your own, but somewhere out there, someone has a ticket to sell you. Good luck! (7:30 p.m., sold out) 

Try your chances with the Shed, which takes over M2 (upstairs at MTelus) at the midnight hour for a three-night run. They’ll be joined throughout their late-night jam series by Robert Glasper Experiment saxman Casey Benjamin. You never know who might show up at the Shed. Last year, fest headliner Kamasi Washington stopped by. You get three wishes! (11:59 p.m., free, July 3–5)

Your guide to the 2023 Montreal Jazz Fest: Casey Benjamin

Tuesday, July 4

It’s another good night to wander around, enjoy the sights and sounds, and discover something new on any of the outdoor stages. But hey, wanna take a shot on an uncut modern jazz act? Minnesota quartet the Bad Plus is a good look at Monument-National. (8 p.m., $62)

And, just in: You missed Hancock last night, you also missed DOMi & JD Beck. Not to fear. A late-game announcement from festival organizers means the whole city gets to drop its collective jaw as the duo bends the laws of sound on the TD Stage. (9:30 p.m., free)

Wednesday, July 5

It’s quittin’ time, and you can finally honour Mother Earth while appreciating live psychedelic jazz like you’ve been waiting to do all day! The Plastic Waste Band has you covered at Pub la Traversée Molson Export. (5 p.m., free)

And be warned: Thundercat serves up all the slinky six-string bass and soul crooning you can handle. Good times, guaranteed, and if you don’t already know — go find out. (9:30 p.m., free)

Thursday, July 6

Your guide to the 2023 Montreal Jazz Fest: The Budos Band

Club Soda is the spot for a full-on New York doom-funk experience as the Budos Band gets asses shaking all night. If that gets you hot and bothered, so will the fact the show is sold out — but where there’s a will, there’s a way. (9 p.m., sold out)

Friday, July 7

You may be starting to see a trend here. If you think there’s a seat left in the house at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier for Led Zep’s golden (if somewhat saggy) god Robert Plant and first lady of bluegrass Alison Krauss, think again. (7:30 p.m., sold out)

But Montreal band TEKE::TEKE is a worthy runner-up to win your hard-earned concert dollar. They bring their brand of high-energy fun to Club Soda with openers Ghost Funk Orchestra. (9 p.m., $31)

There’s plenty of space to get on down with Toronto’s most beloved jazz-benders, BADBADNOTGOOD, who headline the night on the TD Stage. (9:30 p.m., free)

Saturday, July 8

Jazz Fest sends us off with a soul shakedown party.

Montreal’s own Hanorah knocks your socks off with an early-ish show on the Club Montreal TD stage. (7 p.m., free)

Then boogie on over to the Rio Tinto stage and get down with local heavy-hitters the Brooks. (8 p.m., free)

By then, you’ll be well warmed up to get loose with tens of thousands of music fans and a pop music mainstay as crowd-pleaser Macy Gray brings the 2023 edition of Jazz Fest to its joyful conclusion on the TD Stage. (9:30 p.m., free)

Have fun out there and don’t miss Cult MTL’s online reviews, previews and photos as Jazz Fest 2023 unfolds. ■

The Montreal International Jazz Fest runs from Thursday, June 29, to Saturday, July 8. For more, please visit the festival’s website.

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