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Chris Sayer’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 03 Jul 2014

Location: Montreal, Canada

MapWaking around Montreal was like being in France, because French is the first language. For an outsider, it's very strange when considering that you’re still in Canada. Restaurants, bars and taxis all have the same greeting, “French or English?”, and everyone appears to have mastered both languages. Our great fortune was to be in this beautiful city at the same time as the Montreal International Jazz Festival. We had contemplated playing excessive dollars to see artists like Aretha Franklin or Diana Ross, but our bank balances thought better of it. Instead, we just roamed the streets to soak up the atmosphere, and soon discovered that it was like drowning in honey. The quality of bands playing for free was outstanding.

Over a few downtown blocks, the stages were many – some were set high above our heads, with large speaker bins projecting sound over a wide area, while others were much smaller in tents with a small bar at the side. The music emanating from all of them were exciting, infectious, totally free, and stretched the boundaries of jazz. We witnessed a local band called The Fat Tuesday Brass Band playing pure New Orleans jazz, a big band with a 15-piece brass section called The Sub Beer Band, and a dynamic rock/jazz trio from Denmark called Ibrahim Electric. The Danes were very exciting and we bought their CD, met them afterwards, and when finding out where we were from, they asked us about Princess Mary. They were three ordinary guys who made extraordinary and inspired improvised music, and were very friendly and approachable.

Afterwards, we ventured down to Old Montreal, found a restaurant, and were charmed by a waiter with a keen sense of humour. The Jazz Festival vibe had filtered down to the narrow streets of this historic part of town, several blocks away from the stages. It was with some remorse that we headed back to our hotel for an early morning departure for New York in a few hours. Montreal begs us for a return visit one day.