Where Is The World's Largest Jazz Festival Held?

Outdoor concert during the Montreal International Jazz Festival in Montreal. Editorial credit: Pinkcandy / Shutterstock.com
Outdoor concert during the Montreal International Jazz Festival in Montreal. Editorial credit: Pinkcandy / Shutterstock.com

Jazz music is a form of musical expression that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans in the late 19th century. This genre of music is characterized by blue notes and swing, polyrhythm and improvisation, and call and response. The composition and style of jazz music have changed several times over the years with each performer having personal interpretation and improvisation. The best place to enjoy the greatest and latest jazz is at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, annually held in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Although there are many jazz festivals held around the world, including the Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival in Indonesia, the Clearwater Jazz Holiday in Florida, the Copenhagen Jazz Festival in Denmark, and the Cape Town International Jazz Festival in South Africa. However, the world’s largest jazz festival is the Montreal International Jazz Festival in Canada.

About the Montreal International Jazz Festival

The Montreal International Jazz Festival is held annually from June to July in the city of Montreal. It has been an ongoing jazz festival since the early 1980s and has broken the world record, holding the 2004 Guinness World Record for the most attended jazz festival by entertaining over two million people. It features over 3,000 performers from over 30 countries who perform in over 650 concerts. The festival is held across 20 stages including indoor concert halls and free outdoor stages. During the jazz festival, parts of Montreal are closed for ten days from noon and midnight to allow for the several outdoor shows held in different venues at the same time. Some of the outdoor stages are located on the cordoned-off streets and on parking lots. An alternative festival is known as “the Montreal Off Jazz Festival” is also held annually in Montreal.

Brief History of the Festival

The first blues and jazz festival in Montreal known as the “Rising Sun Festijazz” was founded by Rouè-Doudou Boicel in 1978. Other jazz festivals held in the city included the three-day Jazz de Chez Nous festival held in 1979. The Montreal International Jazz Festival, formerly known as the Montreal Jazz Festival was first proposed by Alain Simard. Together with Denys McCann and Andre Menard, Simard formed an agency called L'Équipe Spectra which would bring together a number of artists during the summer festivals. The first summer festival was held in 1979. The following year, the Montreal Jazz Festival was held, attracting over 12,000 people. Since the inception of the festival, a number of artists have recorded their albums live at the event including Diana Krall, Ben Harper and Relentless7, Ahmed Jamal, and New Air.

The Concours de Jazz

A popular part of the Montreal International Jazz Festival is the Concours de jazz (jazz competition or contest). It is an annual concert that has been held since 1982. The competition is part of the festival’s outdoor program and is often held between Canadian musicians performing original music. The winners of the competition are often awarded, with most of the awards won by popular jazz musicians such as Michel Donato, Francois Bourassa, Chelsea Bridge, Brad Cheeseman Group, and Allison Au Quartet.


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