The10 Best Jazz festivals



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There are things that are different, things ahead of its time, yet out of it… that’s Jazz up to a certain point. Through its history Jazz has broken the race, gender cultural barriers in society and at large in the World. There has been a Tehran Jazz festival recently… there was no free outdoors venues and it was held in secret to protect the musician from the authorities… but we are (the music world) reaching out to all.

For those of us who are free and can afford it, we give you the top 10 Jazz festival in the free World. Long live Jazz…


Montréal Jazz festival

The Montreal Jazz festival began in 1980; it has since grown to be the biggest event of the kind (2004 Guinness World Record). During 10 days, part of downtown Montréal is closed to traffic, since two-thirds of the performances are free outdoor shows and are held on many stages at the same time. The festival is held traditionally the last week of June and the first of July, the free outdoor shows starts around noon and they last till midnight. The concerts are held in a wide variety of venues, from relatively small jazz clubs to the large concert halls of the P.D.A. (Place des Arts) and of course the 10 free outdoor stages.

Since the first Festival de Jazz de Montreal, the event has features Jazz legends such as Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Dave Brubeck, Ornette Coleman, legendary vocalists Sara Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, to name a few, Jazz fusion guitarists Jeff Beck, Jeff Healy, John Mc Laughlin. Montreal’ own; Oscar Peterson, Oliver Jones and Leonard Cohen have also been featured. The list is impressive and each year great acts join in.

Festival de Jazz de Montreux

Le Festival de Jazz de Montreux

The festival came to life in 1967, when Jazz enthusiast Claude Nobs held the first festival on Lake Geneva’s shoreline, in Switzerland. It’s now the most famous of them all, it has featured Jazz greats, such as; Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Sonny Rollins, Larry Coryell, Oscar Peterson, Soul legend Ray Charles, singers Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald. Not to forget other well established musician like; Carlos Santana, Dexter Gordon, Kenny Burrell, Eric Clapton, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, B.B. King, Pablo Conte  and Prince.

Originally a pure Jazz festival, the Montreux Jazz festival opened up in the 1970s. During the 1971 festival a fire broke at the Casino during a Frank Zappa concert. It inspired Deep Purple to write the famous hit “Smoke on the Water”. Today the Montreux Jazz festival draws more than 200,000 people and the event is held in June and it last 2 weeks. With the years the Brazilian sound has come to Montreux, more recently a young boy from New Orleans has left a strong impression after a remarkable performance… his name… Trombone Shorty.

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

New Orleans is special; the peoples, the food… the air you breathe. Jazz was born in New Orleans and today it has the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. The Festival was born in 1970 when George Wein, the jazz impresario behind the Newport Jazz Festival was hired to design and produce a unique festival for New Orleans. Wein’s concept of the Louisiana Heritage Fair a large daytime fair along with an evening concert series, prove to be popular and it still work today. Quint Davis and Allison Miner, two young New Orleans music enthusiasts, were brought aboard to work on the event.

Today with 12 stages offering; jazz, gospel, Cajun, Blues, R&B, Rock, Funk, African, Latin and Caribbean music, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is a unique festival. If you attend the concert, bring back one of their limited-edition silkscreen posters, now recognized as one of the most popular poster series in the world, it made its debut in 1972. The event has showcased most of the great artists of New Orleans and Louisiana like; Fats Domino, The Neville Brothers, Wynton Marsalis, Dr. John, Harry Connick Jr. and a wide mix of internationally renowned guests, among them: Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Santana, Sarah Vaughan, the Dave Matthews Band, Tito Puente, Sonny Rollins, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Burning Spear and Dave Brubeck, to name only those.


Newport Jazz festival

The Newport Jazz is the grand daddy of North American Jazz festivals. Back in 1954, Jazz impresario George Wein, presented the first Newport Jazz Festival. It was the first annual jazz festival in America, 11,000 people showed up to the Newport Casino to hear Bille Holiday and other legendary performers. In 1955 Miles Davis made one of the most famous performances with his solo on “Round midnight”, to be followed the next year, in 1956 by the Duke Ellington band and their lengthy performance of “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blues. Since, It has hosted to some of the greatest acts in Jazz. Since them other historic performances have been performed at the festival, by such greats as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Miles Davis.

Although the  Newport Jazz festival was not held every year since then and that it changed venues and city, it’s back in Newport, Rhode Island, a city which is famed for its spectacular coastal scenery and jaw dropping architecture. The festival takes place 3 days in August.


Monterey Jazz festival

Located 112 miles (180Km) from San Francisco, CA and held 3 days in September, the longest-running jazz fest in North America, welcomes you to a fantastic location… Monterey CA.  Since its beginning in 1958, the 3 day event has always been held on the ground of central California's Monterey Fairgrounds. The 7 Grounds Stages (3 outdoor and 4 indoor), scattered over the 20-acre oak studded Monterey County Fairgrounds, will features 78 events held on Friday Night, Saturday and Sunday. The outdoor stages include the Arena/Jimmy Lyons Stage, the Garden Stage and the Courtyard Stage. Indoor stages include the Night Club/Bill Berry Stage, Dizzy's Den, the Jazz Theater and the Coffee House Gallery.

Beside West Coast Jazz legends, like; pianist Dave Brubeck, Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz and others the festival had a wide selection of greats, among those, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Dizzy Gillespie, the  Modern jazz Quartet, Cannonball Adderley, Gerald Wilson, Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard, Sonny Rollins, Carmen McRae, Max Roach, Diane Shuur. The  Monterey Jazz festival is more than a music event has it also features; an array of educational program, panel discussions, workshops and exhibitions. There is also place for shopping and West Coast cuisine.


Jazz in Marciac

Marciac is located 488 miles (777Km) from of Paris, in the south of France and only 80 miles (128 Km) West of Toulouse. This event takes place at the end of July and the beginning of August. This festival founded in 1978 by jean Louis Guilhaumon, welcomes more than 200,000 visitors a year and it’s one of the major Jazz festivals in Europe. During the 2 week, the medieval center of town hosts this fantastic free event under a giant tent, capable of entertaining between 5,000 and 6,000 people. The wide variety of restaurants and bar features jazz musicians performing for their guests. Trumpet player Wynton Marsalis is the ambassador at large of the event since 1991. A statue in his honor has been erected at the place du Chevalier d’Antras in the earth of the city.

The Jazz in Marciac festival always had a strong selection of artists among those; Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Coleman, Oscar Peterson, Gerry Mulligan, Herbie Hancock, John Zorn, Lionel Hampton, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Sonny Rollins, Diana Krall and the Buena Vista Social Club


Copenhagen Jazz Festival

This fantastic event hosted in the Danish capital began in 1979. Sonny Rollins who played the first year had this to say. "Jazz represents all music. Everything can be and is expressed through jazz and through the medium improvisation, this is the highest form of being able to create music. Jazz is like the days. Today it was cloudy, now it is sunny. That's jazz. You never know, what is happening,"

Ever since 250,000 people come each year to this very special festival, it is held at the beginning of July every year. The Copenhagen Jazz Festival is one of the largest and most respected music events of its kind in Europe. The festival has made the presentation of jazz in unique surroundings its trademark. Some of their original venues include an old, East-German trawler, the historic Royal Danish Theatre, the rustic Tivoli Gardens and an old printing plant, to name just a few.

It features the work of Danish Jazzmen along with international acts. Over 1,000 concerts are featured every year. Through the years; Art Blakey and the Jazz messengers, the Art pepper quartet, Stan Getz, Stanley Clark, Miroslav Vitous, the Wayne Shorter quartet, the David Sanborn group, Chick Corea, Wynton Marsalis & the Lincoln Center Jazz orchestra, Sergio Mendes, Tony Bennett have played at the Copenhagen Jazz festival.


Paris Jazz Festival

The Paris Jazz Festival is an annual summer event held on the grounds of the Parc Floral. The concerts take place every Saturday and Sunday throughout June and July. They are free, but there is a very reasonable fee to enter the Park, the gigs start around 3pm.

Even if the Festival is at an early stage in its career, it does features quality acts. Since the concerts run practically all summer, you should look it up if you are in Paris during that time. Paris Jazz Festival


Vancouver International Jazz Festival

The Vancouver International Jazz Festival began in 1986, in the wake of Expo 86. Thanks to the Coastal Jazz and Blues Society, it was solid from the start having a star studded lineup including Jazz greats; Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis, Tito Puente, Albert Collins, Bobby McFerrin, to name only those. Since then the festival has become the top event in the North West.

The 10 day event offers 400 gigs held in major venues; The Ironworks, the Orpheum, the Vogue Theatre, the Venue, SFU Woodward’s, the Performance Works and the Center, of these over 130 are free concerts and they are held in parks, selected concert hall and public plazas. More than 460,000 people comes each year to the Vancouver Jazz Festival

Festival de Jazz de Nice

Nice Jazz Festival

The Nice Jazz Festival began in 1948, a decade before Monterey and it’s been held non-stop ever since. The French Riviera’s 5 days event is the first international Jazz festival worth that name and it’s probably the flashiest and the most prestigious. It kicked off with Louis Armstrong and his All Stars has the headliners. Since then the biggest names in jazz; Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Diana Krall, Ray Charles, Helen Humes, Lionel Hampton and jazz titan Wynton Marsalis have all played here.

The Nice Jazz Festivalwas held until 2011, in the Roman ruins of the Jardins de Cimiez. Since, then the prestigious event has been moved to the center of town. There are 2 venues at the Jardin Albert I, both are connected by walkways, admission includes both venues.

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