With the International Jazz Festival merely weeks away, the Upstairs Jazz Bar and Grill on Mackay is the place to be for a taste of what’s to come. Widely known throughout the city as the premiere spot to catch some amazing music on any night of the week, I gave it a try and what a great night it turned out to be. There’s no better way to set a mood than with music. A rainy day becomes a cozy afternoon with a little Miles Davis and a home cooked dinner becomes that much more lively with some Acid Jazz and a great bottle of wine. In the case of a night out at Upstairs Jazz Bar, a live band provides the soundtrack for a truly remarkable evening. Open for just under 20 years, Upstairs is an intimate venue where every seat in the house is a good one. The focus here is on the music and we are encouraged to listen to what is being played for us.

When we arrived, the first thing I noticed was that there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. People were laughing and chatting over food and wine as they waited for the band to get started. The ambiance is warm with stone walls, a beautiful dark wooden bar and small amounts of light dancing in flickering candles. Looking around the bar, it’s hard not to wonder who might have played on the stage. I spoke briefly with Joel Giberovitch, the owner of the restaurant, and he mentioned that jazz has been played at Upstairs every night for the last 20 years, so music has permiated every little nook and cranny imaginable.

The night we went Mike Goudreau and his band were set to take the stage. Their music has been featured on TV shows and movies across the US and Canada and they have played in Montreal on several occasions. They played a mostly Blues set of original music with a couple of covers peppered throughout and it was delightful. One cover in particular left me quite impressed, “Wasn’t that a party” by the Irish Rovers (I shouted that it was the best song at the most quiet moment imaginable and heads turned, of course). I haven’t heard the Irish Rovers since I was a child and I couldn’t have been happier to hear it interpreted through Blues. The entire band seemed to be having as good a time as the audience.

The food and service at Upstairs was excellent. I had very well cooked filet mignon with fries while my friend tried a delicious burrito, both of which went quite well with the bottle of Chateau St. Jean we chose. The meal was served with a smile and the wait staff maneuvered around the tightly packed tables like pros.

If you’re from the city, or planning a visit and you’re looking for a night out that isn’t typical, try the Upstairs Jazz Bar but I do recommend a reservation so you don’t miss out on an amazing night.

Enjoying a good meal and a great glass of wine while a live jazz band fills the space around you with wonderful music – just sit back, smile and enjoy it.