In an interview with Montreal Jazz Fest VP of Programming Laurent Saulnier, we talk about the upcoming 2015 festival, what to expect, and who to expect. The festival takes place June 26 to July 5.
Ranked as the world’s largest jazz festival by Guinness World Records, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal has been synonymous with a passion for music for over three decades. Every year, North America’s French-speaking metropolis welcomes global music fans to 10 days of jazzcentric celebration, where fans of all types of jazz-related music rub shoulders with aficionados of the genre in its purest form. The Festival hosts some 30 countries, 3,000 musicians and public entertainers, 1,000 concerts and activities—two-thirds of them free—in 15 concert halls and on 8 outdoor stages, welcoming more than 2 million visitors to the city, from noon to midnight.
Tell me a little bit about what to expect from this summer’s festival.
For its 36th edition, you can expect only good things from the biggest Jazz Fest in the world. You will see a new show around the music from Baz Luhrmann’s movie, as well as some of the best jazz musicians from all over the world including Jamie Cullum, Stanley Clarke, Snarky Puppy, Dee Dee Bridegwater, and others, along with many some special events taking place throughout the festival.
Looking back over the years, how has the festival evolved in terms of attracting talent and reaching an international audience?
The stars love the Montreal Jazz Fest. Over the years, we have had so many living legends including Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and countless others. I think stars attract stars, and therefore the future is brighter than ever!
Why do you think the festival has been so successful?
There are some major names participating but there are also all the free concerts where people can see some new faces and hear new talents playing new music. A lot of people are dropping by the free site without really knowing who’s playing that night. They just want to chill with some friends at the Jazz Fest and both watch and listen to great performers.
How would you describe the relationship between the festival and the city of Montreal?
The Jazz Fest is really part of the summer spirit of the city. It’s a trademark but it’s also something that Montrealers still love, cherish and are really proud of. Now, its kind of impossible to imagine a summer in Montreal without the Jazz Festival.
What are you most excited about for 2015?
I’m always excited by new things. For the first time, GoGo Pingiun, Snarky Puppy and Charles Bradley will play at the Jazz Fest. I’m always excited by new projects too: Dee Dee Bridgewater with Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, for example. And, still, I’m a real fan of Robert Glasper and it’s always a pleasure to have him on board.