The ecumenical nature of the Montreal International Jazz Festival may irk jazz purists, but to open-minded music lovers the wide sweep of the scheduling is pure catnip. Now celebrating its 32nd year as a go-to event, the 2012 festival (June 28-July 7) ropes together artists ranging from such jazz luminaries as Wayne Shorter (pictured above), Bill Frisell, Stanley Clarke and Ron Carter to popsters James Taylor, Rufus Wainwright, Melody Gardot and Norah Jones to world-music giants including Ziggy Marley and Lila Downs.
The festival also provides a great forum for renowned European jazz artists rarely seen in the States. This year, guitarists Philip Catherine and Terje Rypdal, accordionist Richard Galliano and pianist Tord Gustavsen will perform, as will a host of unfamiliar but, judging from past years, often revelatory indigenous Canadian talent. And if you want to hear some blues, R&B, New Orleans funk, rock, electronica, lounge or any number of other musical genresâ€”no problem. The festival finds room for all of it, and much of it is offered for free at open-air stages that surround the festivalâ€™s perimeter. For kids (and parents who could stand to brush up on their music fundamentals), there’s the daily Little School of Jazz show. And then thereâ€™s the onsite Montreal Guitar Show, which displays enough beautifully crafted instruments to make even the most jaded six-string aficionado tear up with joy and astonishment.
All of this takes place in one of North Americaâ€™s most distinctive, welcoming cities. In Montreal, the fun has just begun.