Montreal: jazzier than ever!

June 29, 2023

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Montreal’s annual jazz fest – the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (FIJM) – is the flagship event of our summer festival season. Since its launch 43 years ago, the event has only kept growing, earning a Guinness World Record as the world’s biggest jazz festival. From June 29 to July 8, it will attract crowds to hear hundreds of local and international artists, from up-and-comers and established talents to absolute legends. We spoke with programming director Maurin Auxéméry about the 2023 edition.

What can you tell us about this year’s edition?

Maurin Auxéméry: I’ve been with Spectra and the FIJM for ten years now, and I can say it’s the edition I’m most proud of. The program is our deepest yet, and we’re going to present unprecedented quality on every stage, both indoor and outdoor. I’m especially thrilled with the number of local and international new talents our audience will get to hear this year.

Can you share a few key names?

M.A: For local talent, I want to mention FELP, a saxophonist and producer who has been putting his stamp on the Quebec sound for a few years now. He’ll be on stage at Club Montréal TD on July 7 with his collaborators Klô Pelgag, Laurence-Anne, Hubert Lenoir and Greg Beaudin. There’s also the excellent pianist Anomalie, who’s better known abroad than here at home, who will perform with a big band on the Rio Tinto stage on July 1; Nigerian-Québécoise singer Debby Friday, at Club Montréal TD on July 4; and producer High Klassified, on the same stage with his band on July 8. Some visiting artists to discover include the French keyboard player Mezerg, on the Rio Tinto stage on July 4, and Israeli drummer Roni Kaspi on the TD stage in Place des Festivals on July 1.

What’s your advice for people who want to make the most of the festival?

M.A: A good trick is to identify an artist you want to see then set aside some time before and after their show. If you arrive a bit early and leave a bit late, you’re sure to discover something that’s new to you. Throughout the festival, there are also free indoor shows at Studio TD – a very successful format that we introduced last year.

You’ve said that people who say they don’t like jazz simply haven’t found the style that’s right for them. How should people go about finding their style of jazz?

M.A: Jazz is the most diverse musical form, and to me it’s more than a musical style – it’s an attitude, a sense of improvisation. What’s the connection between a 1920s Dixieland band and someone like Roni Kaspi? Jazz can sometimes be hard to figure out, but you can’t let yourself be intimidated. Be curious instead!

Did you get into jazz at an early age?

M.A: Well, I could have found it anywhere but my first real contact with the music happened thanks to my father, in my hometown of Marciac, France. I must have been 10 or 12, and there was a Wynton Marsalis concert. My father led me inside the big tent and I was blown away by Roy Hargrove’s trumpet. I remember turning to my father and saying, “Your music isn’t so bad, dad!”

Finally, how is the FIJM adapting to musical evolution?

M.A: We watch trends and, for the last ten years or so, we’ve contributed actively to the emergence of new scenes. I’m thinking of British jazz, which at the time didn’t have the exposure that it does now, until we gave it a gateway to the international scene. I think we’re in an inspiring era, where we’re seeing the emergence of many young musicians who have both jazz talent and jazz attitude. And while for decades jazz was influenced by other musical movements, now we see artists from other genres contributing to the evolution of jazz. It’s fantastic! Jazz might still be niche music, but it’s becoming cool niche music.


The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (FIJM)
From June 29 to July 8, 2023