Millions of music lovers expected at 31st Montreal Jazz Fest

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Sonny RollinsTenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, one of the most influential bebop and post-bop jazz musicians, is among the headliners set to perform this summer at the Montreal Jazz Festival, which will transform the center of the city into the jazz capital of the world.

The festival, which is celebrating its 31st anniversary, will be held June 25 to July 6 and is expected to attract 2.5 million attendees.

Rollins, who will turn 80 on Sept. 7, has outlived most of the jazz greats with whom he played and recorded during his career, including Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Max Roach. In August, Rollins will become the first jazz composer to be awarded the prestigious Edward MacDowell Medal, joining past recipients such as composer Leonard Bernstein, architect I.M. Pei, dancer Merce Cunningham and painter Georgia O'Keeffe.

He was the 2001 Grammy Award winner for Best Jazz Instrumental Album for "This Is What I Do."

Rollins will be returning to the festival for the first time in five years.

According to a festival spokesman, "We're on our way to confirming 150 ticketed concerts" for the 12-day span, including performances by Lionel Richie and Cassandra Wilson during the opening-night gala; David Sanborn; Boz Scaggs; the Manhattan Transfer; Taj Mahal and the Fabulous Thunderbirds; George Benson in a tribute to Nat King Cole; a battle of the bands with the Harry James Orchestra and the Artie Shaw Orchestra; the Gipsy Kings; Joan Armatrading; and Steve Miller and the Doobie Brothers.

In addition to the ticketed indoor concerts, the spokesman estimated there would be 350 free outdoor shows, about 25 fewer than last year because "we will have one less outdoor scene" but will be adding performances at the Guitarissimo series at the Montreal Guitar Show. In all, 3,000 musicians are expected to grace the festival's many stages.

About 76,000 fans are expected to cross the border from the U.S. for the festival, which again is expected to generate upwards of $80 million in expenditures by visitors to the city.

This year, three hotels are participating in a two-night accommodations package: the four-star Hyatt Regency Montreal, the two-star Dauphin Montreal Centre-Ville and the three-star Days Inn Montreal Centre-Ville.

The package includes two breakfasts; a festival T-shirt; a shoulder bag with the festival logo (one bag for two people); one concert ticket for the Jazz d'Ici La Presse series or Rythmes Bell series; special access to all indoor concerts; free entry to the Jam Sessions at Maison du Festival and the Montreal Guitar Show; a walking tour of the Quartier des Spectacles; a ticket to the "We Want Miles" exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and a 10% discount on the exhibition catalog; and a 2009 festival CD compilation.

The rates for the package (prices are per person, double, U.S. currency) follow:

• The Hyatt Regency Montreal, $295 plus taxes. Most of the performers stay here, the festival headquarters. All the festival venues are within easy walking distance of the hotel. The hotel is at 1255 Jeane-Mance St.
• The Dauphin Montreal Centre-Ville, $205 plus taxes. All major tourist sites are well within range of this 72-room property. The hotel is at 1025 Bleury St.
• Days Inn Montreal Centre-Ville, $185. This eight-story, 123-room hotel is also centrally located. The address is 215 Rene-Levesque Blvd. E.

The package, which can be booked by calling (888) 515-0515, is commissionable to travel agents at 10%.

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