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John Zorn's dissonant sax work is still ringing in my ears, and not in a bad way, as I make my way out into the night. My head's a-swirl with thoughts of what I just heard onstage -- a nearly inconceivable summit of avant-garde New York City heavyweights Zorn, Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed.

 

The defiantly nonmainstream affair, as expected, proved only marginally popular with the crowd. Some audience members hurled insults and expletives (both in English and French), while hundreds walked out. All that only made the proceedings more exciting to me -- as if I were watching something memorably controversial, akin to what happened when Stravinsky shocked Parisian audience members with the debut of

 

"The Rite of Spring" in 1913.

 

And then, a few minutes later, my mind and ears were on to the next thing -- a hefty dose of Chicago blues, courtesy of Mississippi Heat. I hung with that for 10 minutes, then moved on to catch one of jazz music's all-time greats, pianist Ahmad Jamal.

 

Oh, yeah, and somewhere along the way, I managed to enjoy some pretty swell (and inexpensive) Lebanese food.

 

That's pretty much how one rolls at the Montreal Jazz Festival, one of the music world's marquee events, one that offers up hundreds of different kinds of artists -- from big-name pop stars to little-known (at least in this country) world-music acts to,

of course, the legends of jazz.

 

Yet, the music is only part of the draw; the city itself, Canada's second-most populous, is an equally sweet attraction. For to spend time in Montreal -- for whatever reason, be it the festival, a work-related trip or something else -- and not take time to enjoy the people, the culture and, oh, yes, the cuisine, is nearly unthinkable.

 

Fortunately, the two go hand in hand. The concerts take place right in the heart of downtown, as opposed to some remote spot serviced by shuttle bus, so the blend of festival attractions and Montreal's other delights is downright seamless.

 

You'll see what I mean if you attend the 32nd annual Montreal Jazz Festival, which is shaping up to be one of the best in history. The event runs for 10 days, from June 25 to July 4, and should be nothing less than nirvana for the music fan.

 

Although the full lineup won't be announced until April 26, what we already know about the offerings in 2011 is mighty enticing. Organizers are once again stocking up on big stars and talented performers, including classic rock icon Robert Plant, a brand-new lineup of legendary fusion group Return to Forever, an exquisite pairing of pianist Brad Mehldau and Berkeley saxophonist Joshua Redman, multiplatinum smooth-R&B diva Sade, Billie Holiday-influenced jazz chanteuse Madeleine Peyroux, virtuoso flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia, Afropop vocalist Angelique Kidjo and Brazilian music great Milton Nascimento.

 

Each year, the festival also hosts artists in settings that you're unlikely to see duplicated on the regular tour circuit (such as last year's Zorn/Anderson/Reed collaboration). That's one of the aspects that makes Montreal Jazz so worth your travel dollar. In that

regard, the 2011 festival will host the first-ever solo performances by Diana Krall, who will be in town for a three-night stand (June 26-28).

 

IF YOU GO

Where to eat:

Bagel shops: Montrealers are justly proud of their bagels, which little resemble the common New York variety, and the best can be found at Fairmount Bagel (74 Fairmount St. W., 514-272-0667) and St-Viateur Bagel (263 Saint Viateur St. W., 514-276-8044).

Schwartz's Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen: People from around the world wait in extremely long lines to try the famed Schwartz's smoked meats. (3895 Saint-Laurent Blvd., 514-842-4813).

Restaurant Boustan: The place to go for falafels and tasty Lebanese food. (2020 A Rue Crescent, 514-843-3576).

 

Where to stay:

You'll get the most out of time in Montreal if you stay near the Jazz Festival grounds. Here are some options:

Hyatt Regency Montreal (1255 Jeanne-Mance St., 514-982-1234, http://www.hyatt.com)

Hotel Le Dauphin Montréal (1025 De Bleury St., http://www.hoteldauphin.ca, 888-784-3888)

Hilton Montreal Bonaventure (900 de La Gauchetiere W., 514-878-2332, www1.hilton.com)

See the "Plan Your Stay" page on the festival's website for more options, as well as to see package prices.

 

Things to do:

Olympic Stadium: Tour the home of the old Montreal Expos and the 1976 Olympics. (4545 Avenue Pierre-De Coubertin, 877 997-0919, http://www.rio.gouv.qc.ca).

Mount Royal Park: Landscaped by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also did up drew up a little patch of green known as New York's Central Park, Mount Royal is great for hiking and biking, and provides nice views of downtown Montreal. (1260 Remembrance Road, 514-843-8240)

"Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archeology": Fans of the adventure series won't want to miss this. Runs April 28-Sept. 18. (Montreal Science Center, King Edward Pier in the Old Port, 877-496-4724, http://www.indianajonestheexhibition.com)

St. Joseph's Oratory: The sanctuary's dome is second in size only to St. Peter's in Rome. (3800 Queen Mary Road)

Bell Centre: There won't be any hockey going on during the summer months, but you can still tour the home of the NHL's winningest team, the Montreal Canadiens. (1260 de La Gauchetiere Quest, 514-932-2582, http://www.centrebell.ca)

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts: Features both permanent installations and rotating exhibitions. (1379-1380, Sherbrooke Quest, 514-285-5000, http://www.mbam.qc.ca)

 

(Courtesy of Mercury News)

 

:highfive:

Edited by jesseps
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C'est un article formidable pour Montréal. Pour son festival de jazz, pour le ''set-up'' unique, en plein Centre-ville, et pour la restauration en générale. Cela peu facilement influencer des personnes (américains) qui se cherchent un endroit original pour passer de 3 à 7 jours.....que ce soit lors du festival de Jazz ou non.

 

D'ici deux ans il pourra ajouter le Marriott sur Bleury pour un endroit non loin du site du Festival.

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