Montreal tunes up for jazz festival's 25th year

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MONTREAL -- Decidedly more hip than hip-hop, the International Festival de Jazz de Montreal -- the Montreal Jazz Festival to anyone this side of Sidney Bechet -- is gearing up for its 25th anniversary, and already the city's hotels are rolling out programs designed to entice U.S. visitors to cross the border for America's home-grown musical art form.

Just as the jazz festival runs the gamut from blues to bop and beyond, the range of special hotel options is extensive, from $270 per night for the four-star Hyatt Regency Montreal to $115 for accommodations in the Travelodge Montreal.

Prospective attendees should be aware, however, that hotels fill up fast for the festival, and fans have been left to scramble for accommodations as early as May.

All prices are per room, per night, and include breakfast and taxes for the run of the festivities, which launch June 29 with a performance by singer Diana Krall and conclude July 10 with main-event concerts by the Oliver Jones and Oscar Peterson trios. Rates include a two-night minimum for Friday or Saturday arrivals.

In addition to the jazz artists listed above, performers scheduled to appear include K.D. Lang and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, July 7; Ibrahim Ferrer of Buena Vista Social Club fame, July 8; and Dianne Reeves, July 9. Of course, the roster of jazz greats will expand exponentially in the next few weeks and will be formally announced in May.

The Hyatt Regency Montreal, formerly a Wyndham property, is the festival headquarters and, as such, is front-row center for many of the performances.

Every show, from those staged at major venues like the Bell Centre to those at church auditoriums and raffish nightclubs, is within walking distance of the Hyatt Regency.

Indeed, all of the properties offering specials are close enough to the festival performances -- 350 of which are free -- to allow for easy access by foot or public transportation.

Other properties featuring festival specials are the Crown Plaza Montreal Centre, $150; the Days Inn Montreal Downtown, $142; Fairmont Reine Elizabeth, $180; Hilton Bona-venture, $206; Quality Hotel Avenue du Parc, $137; Novotel Montreal Centre, $168; and the Hotel-Suites La Faubourg, $164.

Also available for festival-goers is a Fun Pack ($37.50) that is good for a T-shirt not sold at on-site boutiques, preferred access to indoor shows, a jazz compilation CD, a daily bottle of water, daily frozen-fruit bar for a child with the loan of a stroller, access to jam sessions at the Hyatt Regency, one ticket for the Jazz d'Ici series (featuring local musicians), massage service and a two-for-one tour of the city with Gray Line Montreal.

All hotel packages (commissionable at 8%), concert tickets and the Fun Pack are available through Alio, the official travel provider for the jazz festival. Alio can be contacted on the Web at www.alio.ca/spectra/fijm2004/e/.

To contact Executive Editor Joe Rosen, send e-mail to [email protected].

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