As we’ve established by now, Montreal is the top city in Canada for live music. We’ve got festivals in every genre, often in multiples. This summer, for the 34th year running, we’ll be treated to the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, sponsored by Bell and officially starting tomorrow. Get excited, ’cause it’s the biggest, best, and jazziest jazz festival in the world. That one comes right from Guiness, by the way.

Sadly, the buzz from last month is true: the legendary Aretha Franklin canceled her scheduled appearance, though she would’ve been the top ticket at the fest. Despite that loss, there’s still something for everyone this year: Electro-swing sensations Caravan Palace, eclectic West Coast lounge lizards Pink Martini, chameleonic Halifax crooner Holly Cole, Nova Scotia folk-pop superstar Feist, UK indie popsters Belle and Sebastian, and London backpack hip-hop crew The Herbaliser, in addition to all that, you know… jazz.

And what about jazz? We’ve only got Canadian piano deity Oliver Jones playing solo, American ivory-tickler Keith Jarrett bringing his jazz and classical keys to bear, Pat Methany slinging his legendary hairdo and even more legendary guitar,  New Orleans trumpeter and Pulitzer(!)-winner Wynton Marsalis blowing us all away, and a proud legacy continuing as Ravi Coltrane, son of John Coltrane, returns to Montreal after a long absence with the Ravi Coltrane Quartet.

The biggest and best in the world, remember? 🙂

If you heard boisterous tunes surging from the venues today, don’t be confused — although the Fest officially starts tomorrow, a few groups could not be contained to the official timeline, and were part of a sold-out ‘preview’ today. Pink Martini rocked Salle Wilfrid Pelletier, as they always do, and Holly Cole filled up Théâtre du Nouveau Monde with reverberant soul. (Read the Gazette’s coverage here). In case you missed these fantastic acts, don’t fear — they’re still in town for tomorrow, and Holly Cole has another appearance after that.

Get tickets for upcoming events at the Jazz Festival official site and get a good night’s sleep tonight — you’ll need it. In the meantime, here’s a classic cut: Headlining Montrealer Oliver Jones with the (sadly, now passed) Oscar Peterson, in a duet of Peterson’s Jazz 101 classic “Hymn to Freedom”. If this doesn’t get you clicking for those tickets, you are officially a robot and we cannot help you. For all non-robots… See you at the fest!