Canada produces a lot of top-flight jazz, but if you're not in the country, you'll probably have to head north to hear it. U.S. travel restrictions keep many of the nation's best musicians at home, where they've developed their own sound and scene.
Fortunately, Canada has wonderful jazz festivals. The granddaddy of them all is the Festival International du Jazz de Montreal (FIJM), a 10-day extravaganza which kicked off Thursday. Now in its 36th year, FIJM attracts more than six million visitors from around the world.
FIJM's success stems from artistic director André Menard's big-tent approach. Marquee concerts feature stars of rock, blues and jazz; hundreds of free events get the whole city involved. Street bands, jugglers and stilt walkers take over downtown Montreal's Place des Arts, turning it into an open-air carnival. Performers, too, come from around the world — nearly 2,000 of them, from more than 20 countries.
For Americans, FIJM offers a chance to discover jazz as the world hears it, and to discover the remarkable talents that lie just north of our border. WBGO's Michael Bourne and Simon Rentner are in Montreal to cover FIJM, as they do every year, and are currently previewing music from this year's festival artists on a streaming channel called The Jazz Bee.
This installment of Take Five features Canadian jazz artists worthy of wider attention. If you're heading to Montreal, they're not to be missed.
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