“There’ll be music, sweet music; there’ll be music in the air…” The lyrics of the Martha & The Vandellas hit song Dancin’ In The Streets captures the spirit on Montreal’s Jazz Festival

We refer to the Jazz Fest with pride and passion when travelling; but we’re not travelling during those ten magical nights during the Jazz Festival. We’re right here when the focus of the musical world turns to Montreal, and we are so proud of being Montrealers. We’re the ‘cool kids’ for ten days.

Most of us refer to it as “the Jazz Fest”; Montreal’s musical extravaganza that has been declared the World’s Largest Music Festival by the authoritative Guinness Book of Records. When partners Alain Simard, André Ménard and Denise McCann started the festival forty years ago – they had no idea that they would one day be the biggest and arguably most important jazz festival on the planet.

While the line-up of performers has expanded to include blues, Rhythm & Blues, and Rock ‘n’ Roll, the core feature of jazz artists, from trios to big bands has remained. Perhaps because of the Jazz Festival, there are a number of clubs where Montreal jazz musicians and singers can perform, acquire and develop their stage presence and graduate to larger venues and go out on tour.

For most of us – the festival is a time head on down Place des Festivals, go to a few indoor concerts and bask in the summertime glow of music and the friendly atmosphere at one of the outdoor shows.

I don’t have enough space to list all of the artists playing at all of the venues; and all that information is well presented on the festival’s web site; www.montrealjazzfest.com. If a name attracts you and you want to see and hear more about them before purchasing tickets; you’ll also find links to their videos on the festival website.  I’ve selected a few artists to highlight – with a focus on the indoor ticketed shows.

George Benson: Salle Wilfrid Pelletier, July 1st at 7pm

Jazz guitarist George Benson has won 10 Grammy Awards – and has been nominated for an additional 15 – since 1977. His wins include Record of the Year for “This Masquerade” (1977), Best Pop Instrumental Performance for “Breezin'” (1977) and “Mornin'” (2007), Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for “On Broadway” (1979) and “Give Me the Night” (1981), and Best R&B Instrumental Performance for “Theme From Good King Bad” (1977) and “Off Broadway” (1981). His unique style of playing notes an octave apart created a distinctive and very pleasing sound.

In 1990, Benson was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from the Berklee College of Music. And in 2009 the National Endowment of the Arts recognized him as a Jazz Master, the nation’s highest honor in jazz.

Now in his 70s, Benson released a Walking To New Orleans in April, a new album of songs recorded by Chuck Berry and Fats Domino.  Walking to New Orleans toggles between tracks written and/or recorded by Berry and Domino as though Benson were moderating a musical conversation between Missouri and Louisiana. It kicks off with a rock-solid rendition of Berry’s 1964 post-incarceration story song “Nadine (Is It You?),” which Benson makes his own by scatting in unison with his guitar solo. Then a horn section pumps up Fats’s 1951 R&B hit “Rockin’ Chair” and his first R&B-pop crossover smash, “Ain’t That a Shame,” from 1955, with Benson’s guitar standing in swingingly for the originals’ sax solos. For tickets: www.placedesarts.com/en or 514-842-2112