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Written by Juan Rodriguez - the Gazette
With its classic wood paneling, stone walls, long bar, and elegant linen covered tables Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill is an intimate throwback to the golden age where musicians and fans alike considered jazz clubs a home away from home – a social meeting place, a headquarters, and above all a place of inspired musicality. As such, Upstairs is Montreal’s leading jazz club, presenting music 52 weeks a year in an atmosphere that encourages attentive listening, facilitated by a first–class sound system filling the cozy semi-basement.
Whether you like your jazz accompanied by a variety of libations and snacks or full course meals, Upstairs offers an optimum musical experience. Call it the art of making it an evening – as dressed-up or casual as you like.
Upstairs has hosted leading international exponents in jazz, encompassing a wide variety of styles, including Sheila Jordan, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Mark Turner, Larry Grenadier, Ingrid Jensen, David Binney, David Liebman, Houston Person, Mark Murphy, Jim Black, Greg Osby, Nate Smith, Bill Stewart, Tim Hagans, John Hicks, Donnie McCaslin, Ben Mondor, Antonio Sanchez and such local leaders as Christine Jensen, Renée Lee, Joel Miller, Chet Doxas, Lorraine Desmarais, Steve Amirault, François Bourassa, Jean Derome, Jeff Johnstone, Julie Lamontagne, and many more.
While Upstairs has become a key “intime” venue at the annual Montreal International Jazz Festival, the club also symbolizes jazz as a year-round affair in Montreal. The club is headquarters for the city’s finest musicians, no matter what style they play in. It has been the site of live recordings and it hosts numerous CD launchings, and its Monday night jam sessions, led by drummer Jim Doxas, amount to works-in-progress on the local scene.
Musicians appreciate the classy amenities at Upstairs. On showcase nights (Fridays and Saturdays), from the moment the lighting dims and club owner Joel Giberovitch’s voice intones a polite advisory that this is a jazz concert and silence would be appreciated, the musicians own the stage, and attention levels throughout the club quickly hit their peak. The club’s crystal clear sound system accentuates this vibe.
With its décor complemented by a panel of vintage album covers, a strip of autographed photos of musicians along a ceiling, and an impressively large framed photo of Sonny Rollins towards the back terrace, Upstairs spells jazz. Giberovitch describes running Upstairs over the years as “an education in jazz. My appreciation of the city’s great musicians has grown enormously over the years.”
Located in the heart of the city’s business and college hub, Upstairs also attracts a faithful luncheon clientele.