andre 3000 montreal jazz festival 2024

André 3000

The Jazz Fest is the mother of all Montreal music festivals

The 44th edition of the big-tent music happening mounts countless free outdoor shows and ticketed events from June 27 to July 6.

In a town renowned for its vibrant year-round festival culture, a debate over which Montreal summer mega-fest takes the crown for all-out best would likely end in a stalemate. But there is no disputing the mother of them all. 

The Montreal International Jazz Fest holds its 44th edition from June 27 through July 6, with countless free concerts on several open-air stages at Place des Festivals and in venues and clubs around the city.

Jazz Fest may just be the summer music event that has bounced back most dramatically from the pandemic beatdown. With programming that does its best to please jazz music lovers, fans of prestige acts in associated genres and a general audience of concertgoers, the festival has succeeded in recent years by managing to trim the fat while taking some new risks. 

Take last year’s decision to book Quebec contemporary classical pianist Jean-Michel Blais on the main outdoor stage — on a Monday night, no less. Blais drew a crowd estimated at over 40,000 attendees, and one could hear a pin drop in the heart of downtown as Blais brought a 90-minute performance to its moving finale. 

The old “not enough jazz at Jazz Fest” argument is easily 20 years past its shelf life. If the purist’s point of view is that without Dixieland brass and trios, quartets and quintets playing every hour on the hour on every stage, Jazz Fest is just another music festival, then so be it.

The lion’s share of festival programming still offers modern jazz discoveries imported from all around the world. The common ground for performers is cross-cultural influence. Tradition is still at the heart of the jazz ethos, and any tradition is unique to its origin. As a cultural event that values discovery over genre, Jazz Fest has always been about music. 

Here are a handful of programming picks to point you in the right direction this year.

hiatus kaiyote montreal jazz festival
Hiatus Kaiyote is playing the 2024 Montreal Jazz Festival. Photo by Rocket Weijers

June 27

The 44th edition gets off the ground with a distinctly Montreal offering at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier as Elisapie, Martha Wainwright, Alexandra Stréliski, Beyries and Maxime Le Flaguais pool their talents for Mixtape: Un hommage musical à Jean-Marc Vallée. Expect this tribute to the departed Quebec director of films that included C.R.A.Z.Y. and Dallas Buyers Club to honour Vallée’s distinct ear for creating memorable soundtracks, with a lineup that can pull at heartstrings accordingly. (7:30 PM, tickets $89–$118)

The main outdoor event sending this year’s festival into the night air for the next week is not to be missed. A rare visit from Melbourne sound benders Hiatus Kaiyote and their classy brand of cool is a perfect Jazz Fest entree. 

June 28

NOLA institution the Preservation Hall Jazz Band shares its legacy at Place des Arts’s Théâtre Maisonneuve (8 p.m., $59–$89), while across the way in the venue’s Cinquième Salle, hometown hero Kid Koala brings the awesome theatrics of The Storyville Mosquito back for the first of three performances, with two more on Saturday. (June 28 at 8 p.m, June 29 at 3 & 8 p.m. $53–$75)

Don’t sleep on the opportunity to catch mixed emotions with Nashville’s Sunny War, pre-dusk at the Rogers Stage (7 p.m., free)

Montreal-based Salin is so nice, she does it twice on a Friday. Anyone who witnessed the Thai-born talent in 2022 knows that this drummer, vocalist, composer and bandleader lays down the boogie. (Rio Tinto Stage, 8 and 10 p.m., free)

June 29

Dominique Fils Aimé Montreal Jazz Festival 2022 photos
Dominique Fils-Aimé is playing the 2024 Montreal Jazz Festival. Photo by Cindy Lopez

A little rock ’n’ roll raunch with Kurt Vile & the Violators on a Saturday night won’t let anyone down. (MTelus, 59 Ste-Catherine E., 7:30 p.m., $48)

Quebec crowd favourite Dominique Fils-Aimé headlines the outdoor lineup on the TD Stage. (9:30 p.m., free)

Afterward, Les racines du hip-hop au Québec bills itself as a block party at the Club Montréal TD stage over on the Esplanade de la Place des Arts. Not sure what to expect, but I’d bet on a good time.

And fest mainstays Urban Science #LeCypherX take the party to the wee hours at M2 (59 Ste-Catherine E., 11:59 p.m., free)

June 30

If you don’t have your tickets yet, you’ll have to get to searching the resale market, but I think it’s safe to say the FOMO crowd will find a way to be in the building when Outkast’s André 3000 brings his experimental flute project New Blue Sun to life in the intimacy of Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier. (7:30 p.m., sold out)

Similarly, Elisapie fans will have to figure out how to get into a sold-out performance at Théâtre Maisonneuve. (8 p.m., sold out)

Headlining outdoors to make it feel like a three-day weekend, American rap star and actor Freddie Gibbs gets live with New York’s El Michels Affair, together on the TD Stage. (9:30 p.m., free)

July 1

Canada Day gets some serious jazz fireworks as festival regular and modern genre icon Robert Glasper and special guests bring it to the masses. (TD Stage, 9:30 p.m., free)

Montreal’s own Planet Giza gets intergalactic afterwards, on the Rogers Stage. (11 p.m., free)

July 2

Another interplanetary traveler, L.A.’s first lady of post-P-Funk Georgia Anne Muldrow lands at the Gesù. (1200 Bleury, 10:30 p.m, $59)

July 3

Jeremy Dutcher Montreal Jazz Festival 2024
Jeremy Dutcher is playing the 2024 Montreal Jazz Festival

Award-winning tenor, composer, pianist and Secret City Records artist Jeremy Dutcher takes it to the TD Stage for a mid-evening moondance with the Great Spirit. (7:30 p.m., free)

Proud Atlantan and certified jewel runner Killer Mike celebrates his gospel-steeper,  triple-Grammy-winning 2023 solo album Michael at MTelus with live band the Mighty Midnight Revival, when the Down By Law tour rolls into Jazz Fest. Must not sleep, must warn others. (59 Ste-Catherine E., 8:30 p.m., $53)

July 4

A live orchestra joins Quebec EDM star Apashe to take on the headlining slot for the night at the TD Stage. (9:30 p.m., free)

July 5

Flatbush Zombie Erick the Architect gives the Jazz Fest babies a little something to call their own at Club Soda, with support from a Montreal legend in his own right, Jai Nitai Lotus. (1225 St-Laurent, 9 p.m., $38.25)

July 6

Fernie Osheaga Get Together 2021
Fernie is playing the 2024 Montreal Jazz Festival. Photo by Cindy Lopez

Make the last night of Jazz Fest count and get started early with local soul pop phenom Fernie, who hits the Club TD Montreal stage. (7 p.m., free)

In a decidedly bold and welcome move, the festival shuts down the TD Stage with U.K. legends the Cinematic Orchestra. I’m not sure the last time the outfit — who once upon a time ran the new jazz world with peers such as the Herbaliser — made it to Montreal. This is a solid choice, sure to give fest-goers that discovery vibe one last time as the 44th edition comes to a close. (9:30 PM, free)

But don’t go home yet. First Nations outfit the Medicine Singers get the last word when they summon the ancestors to the Rogers Stage. (11 p.m., free)

There is no way we’ve done much more than scratch the surface of all there is to experience at Jazz Fest, so we’ll leave it here: no matter what you do, if you’re headed down for one evening or all eight nights, take the opportunity to explore the entire festival site and its many outdoor stages. Ask people what they’re excited about. Take risks. Discover something new.

Cult MTL will be out taking notes and snapping pics, so check out our online coverage throughout the festival for more suggestions as we do the same. See you there. ■

For more on the Montreal International Jazz Fest (June 27–July 6), please visit their website. This article was originally published in the June 2024 issue of Cult MTL.

For more Montreal music coverage, please visit the Music section.