5 Places to Enjoy Jazz Music in Montreal

Posted on July 16th, 2009 by .

The MONTREAL JAZZ FEST has just wrapped up. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find great spots around the city to hear trumpets and saxophones year-round. Here’s my list of recommendations for those of you who missed some of the big gigs from the summer festival. Read out more about my alternative picks to enjoy up-and-coming young musicians, old ragtime classics or world-influenced jazz beats.

This trendy bar on Mont-Royal Avenue is home to Montreal’s French intelligentsia (made up of musicians, filmmakers and writers who come here for ABSINTHE or Becherovka, a favourite Czech shooter). On weekdays from 6 to 8pm, they play jazz music that’s mostly made by local artists. With high ceilings, mosaic floors and ostrich heads coming out from the walls, Bily Kun is a modern tavern that feels like a French bistro. On the second floor, at O Patro Vys, catch some jazz, world or folk music, and look at the small exhibition by a monthly guest artist.

Formerly known as the Biddle (named after legendary jazz bassist Charlie Biddle) the House of Jazz hasn’t changed much since its inception. Set on Aylmer Street, it’s still one of the best places to find real, fine jazz music along with fabulous meals in a bistro atmosphere. And don’t worry about DJs and electronic music moving in after 9, this place is entirely dedicated to trumpets and saxophones, and welcomes musicians from all across Canada.

Located on Ontario Street, this well-known joint is home to all sorts of crazy and experimental shows, from an opera on feminism made by lesbians to edgy jazz performances. It first opened in the 1930s, when Montreal was shaking with dancing, drinking and smoking all night long, then closed down in the 1970s only to reopened its doors some twenty years ago. It still has a very bohème spirit, bringing original and wacky people together for memorable shows, whether it’s a small trio of saxophonists from Vancouver, or up-and-coming ragtime bands who’ve crossed the border just for the night.

The name says it all. Here, you’ll find friendly jazz music influenced by traditional rhythms from Eastern Europe and the rest of the world, with ensembles and trios that will remind you of EMIR KUSTURICA’S MOVIES. Expect something a little trashy and messy in this bar where Rufus Wainwright started singing, years before doing Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall. Arrive early, as the bar gets packed in no time, especially in the summer. Živjeli! (Cheers!)

Walk down this hidden venue on St. Denis Street, between Rachel and Duluth, and discover a new jazz club that recently opened its doors in the middle of the Plateau. Rather than finding the usual suspects of characters who frequent smoky jazz joints, here you’ll find local musicians, playing and hanging out with friends.

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