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Live Review: 39th Montreal International Jazz Festival

Herbie Hancock, Kamasi Washington, John Medeski, and Mark Guiliana are just a few standout performers among many over 10 days

Herbie Hancock and Lionel Loueke at the 2018 Montreal Jazz Festival
Herbie Hancock (left) and Lionel Loueke at the Montreal Jazz Festival, July 2, 2018

Despite a record-breaking heatwave over the Canada Day holiday weekend, the 10-day music marathon that was the 39th Montreal International Jazz Festival (June 28-July 8) proceeded in fine fashion, with a smorgasbord of high-caliber performances rooted in jazz, blues, pop, world music, and other genres. Hundreds of thousands of concertgoers flooded onto the streets around the Place des Arts performing arts complex for a fest featuring 500 indoor and outdoor shows—two-thirds of them free—on 20 stages by 3,000 musicians from 300 countries.

Round one was capped with a sprawling, high-energy performance by Herbie Hancock, who took a 100-minute fusion and funk voyage with the help of guitarist Lionel Loueke, bassist James Genus, and drummer Trevor Lawrence Jr. “Buckle up your seatbelts,” he told the adoring crowd at the plush, 2,990-seat Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier theater, before launching into a spacy “Overture” that, like most pieces, found the legendary keyboardist, composer, and jazz innovator playing electric piano as well as synthesizer and acoustic piano.

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