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A music lover’s guide to the fest

June 2009

Like many Montrealers, Moz Taylor looks forward to that rite of summer, the Montreal jazz fest, but perhaps with a touch of trepidation.

Moz Taylor hosts a jazz radio show Photo: Kristine Berey

“It’s the busiest time of the year,” says the host and producer of Jazz Boulevard, a late-night radio-show for night owls, featuring news, interviews with jazz artists from near and far, and mostly, “music, music, music.” The program recently won the Best English Community Radio Show of the Year award at the 2009 SOBA (Sounds of Blackness Awards) Gala and will celebrate its 5th anniversary on Friday, June 12, with local jazz artist Susie Arioli co-hosting the show with Taylor.

Stevie Wonder

Surprisingly, Taylor is not the jazz aficionado you’d expect him to be. “I grew up listening to whatever was coming out of the radio,” Taylor said. “I knew about jazz all my life, but came to it from a populist background. I’m not a ‘jazz freak.’ I’m always looking for an accessible edge in a song.”

Though Taylor originally got a business degree, something was missing from his life. “Music became an irritating hobby – I wanted it to be more,” he said. So he got a second degree, this time in music. “I had to reinvent my life, to make a leap of faith.”

Ranee Lee

His instincts were right on, and in the years before accepting the radio gig, Taylor established his credentials as a composer, songwriter and audio producer here and in the States.

His definition of jazz is generously broad. “Jazz can be very elitist, like 20th century music,” he says. “There is the music our parents grew up listening to, like Billie Holiday or the other extreme, as soon as anything starts sounding recognizable, you’ve got to destroy it. I lean on the accessible side, globalization and cross pollination of all styles.”

Taylor says everything, hip-hop, African, Indian, can blend into jazz. “Just look at the jazz fest, with Stevie Wonder opening. It’s much more than a jazz festival, it’s a music festival.”

Taylor said the event’s success – in its 30th year it professes to be the biggest jazz fest in the world – is partly due to its musical diversity. “It’s been a longstanding discussion at the festival: How pure are they to their roots? Jazz is a very indie-driven music form. It doesn’t have the infrastructure of pop. You need to have a big music festival to bring in people, allowing you to invite big-name jazz artists. Jazz purists would disagree, but all the big jazz fests have broadened their appeal to draw in larger audiences.”

Angele Dubeau

This year’s festival boasts of “very robust” programming, Taylor says. He explains the program is organized into several thematic series. For example, Jazz d’ici features local performers, including Ranee Lee, Oliver Jones and Michel Donato. “Montreal artists never had as much access to the stage as this year.”

Some of Taylor’s picks include Eliane Elias, an artist from Brazil who brings the Bossa Nova beat to her music, Lee Konitz accompanied by the jazz trio Minsarah (Hebrew for “prism”) and the Battle of the Bands, featuring the music of bands “that have gone on longer than their founders, where two big bands go on stage and go through that whole canon of big band music.”

Though the Montreal International Jazz Festival ends July 12, there are two other festivals, one in Ottawa and another in Burlington, that Taylor will be covering. “This becomes a ver y busy time. I always feel like I need a vacation afterwards.”

The Montreal International Jazz Festival runs from June 30-July 12. For info call the Bell Info-Jazz line at 514 871-1881 or visit

Tune in to Jazz Boulevard Fridays from midnight to 2am at 102.3 FM or To listen to past shows, visit



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