At first glance, Woody Allen, Aretha Franklin and Leonard Cohen would not seem to have all that much in common, but at least one shared thread easily pulled is that all three are among the performers scheduled to appear at this summer's annual Montreal Jazz Festival, June 26 to July 6.
Clarinet in hand, Woody Allen will be making his Montreal debut when he appears, for one night only, June 30, with his New Orleans Jazz Band.
The great blues and jazz singer Aretha Franklin also will be making her first appearance at the festival.
She will take the stage on July 3 and July 4.
Leonard Cohen, at 73 a favorite (if not venerated) son of Montreal, will do three prefestival shows, on June 23, 24 and 25.
Cohen, a poet, novelist and songwriter and singer, is best known for "Suzanne" and "Hallelujah" and will be singing new songs as part of his tour, his first since 1993.
Other performers and groups lined up for the 29th edition of Canada's biggest jazz festival include singer-songwriter James Taylor; Omara Portuondo, the 78-year-old diva from Cuba; brilliant bassist Charlie Haden and his new band; a saxophone summit comprising Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman and Ravi Coltrane; and jazz-rock fusion group Steely Dan.
250,000 to attend
A Battle of the Bands, featuring the Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey orchestras, will close out the festivities.
With an expected attendance of about 250,000 overall and 100,000 from the U.S., according to a festival spokesman, the 11-day Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, as it is known to Francophiles, is the highlight of the city's tourism calendar.
According to Tourisme Montreal's Pierre Bellerose, the jazz festival benefits the area in two major ways.
"First, by animating the city," said Bellerose. "Other jazz festivals, like those in New York and Montreux, will have great artists just like in Montreal, but they are mostly indoor festivals.
"What we have in Montreal is special, as the whole city and its visitors can really be a part of the festival's urban animation, which takes over the city for days.
"Second, the festival has clearly become an institution that attracts visitors to Montreal, favorably impacting hotel, restaurants and retail sales."
In all, the Montreal Jazz Festival this summer will be host to 3,000 musicians and street artists from as many as 30 countries who will participate in 658 scheduled performances, including 372 free shows, 189 indoor shows and 97 shows in Montreal jazz clubs.
The festival and four participating hotels are offering visitors discounted accommodations packages, commissionable at 10%, that include goodies such as an official festival T-shirt; a shoulder bag with a festival logo; one concert ticket for the Jazz d'Ici La Presse series; accreditation offering free entry to the Jam Sessions TD Canada Trust and the Montreal Guitar Show; and a booklet of savings vouchers worth about $137.
The four hotels and their rates (all prices are per person, double, U.S. currency) follow:
• The Hyatt Regency Montreal. This hotel is the official headquarters of the festival, and it's where most of the performers stay while in town.
It's a great place to match the pictures of the stars in the ubiquitous free program guides with the instrument-toting musicians riding in the glass-enclosed elevator with you.
The hotel, at 1255 Jeanne-Mance St., is offering two-night ($284) to six-night ($790) packages that include an American buffet breakfast.
• The Opus Hotel Montreal. This 136-room boutique property, located in the heart of the city at 10 Sherbrooke St. W., just minutes from Old Montreal and the Plateau Mont-Royal, has rooms starting at $246 for two nights, up to $678 for six nights.
• The Hotel le Dauphin Montreal Downtown. All 72 rooms in this property, at 1025 Bleury St., are equipped with a personal computer and free high-speed Internet access. A two-night package is $192; six nights, $516.
• Hotel Travelodge Montreal Centre. Within walking distance of the festival, Chinatown, Old Montreal and Old Port, the Travelodge, at 50 Rene-Levesque Blvd. W., has a two-night package for $180 and six-night package for $480.
All packages can be booked by calling (888) 515-0515 or online through Ticketpro Canada at www.montrealjazzfest.com.
To contact reporter Joe Rosen, send e-mail to [email protected].