The Saint Lucia Jazz Festival (pictured) is among the many fests that should be on…
The Saint Lucia Jazz Festival (pictured) is among the many fests that should be on any serious jazz traveler's bucket list.
There's no denying that jazz is a global phenomenon, with a network of artist and fans that extends to every corner of the world. Dispersed as we are, we're also more connected than ever, convening on sites like JAZZIZ.com to discuss, celebrate and occasionally argue over the music that binds us.
Occasionally, we even get to congregate in person, and jazz festivals, like the ones we list in this guide, allow us to connect to the music — and each other — on a deeper level.
Attending a festival is certainly one of the most exciting ways to experience jazz, but it's also a way to interact with a new place and culture. Jazz festivals afford attendees the opportunity to hear familiar sounds in a far-off setting, but they also encourage festivalgoers to taste new foods, see new sights and meet new people. So, in the spirit of making the jazz world seem a little smaller, we've compiled a list of festivals that should be on any jazz fan's bucket list. These are the festivals that, for reasons musical and historical, have made an impression on the jazz world that endures to this day. Of the 20 festivals listed, 10 are in the United States and Canada and 10 are international. Their start dates range throughout the year, so no matter when or where you're planning your trip, you'll be sure to find some jazz nearby.
Biamp PDX Jazz Festival
Portland, Oregon, United States
Next Edition: February and March, 2020
Nationally and regionally supported as a cultural tourism initiative in celebration of Black History Month, PDX Jazz Festival is dedicated to preserving America’s indigenous art form by presenting internationally recognized jazz masters alongside local jazz musicians.
Atlanta Jazz Festival
Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Next Edition: May 25-26, 2019
Over its more than 40-year history, the Atlanta Jazz Festival has been the backdrop to musical legends such as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Nina Simone. This free outdoor fest, held inside the beautiful Piedmont Park, is the perfect way to spend your Memorial Day weekend in ATL. Jacksonville Jazz Festival
Jacksonville, Florida, United States
Next Edition: May 23-26, 2019At the Jacksonville Jazz Fest, attendees will experience two stages of live jazz, local food, drinks, shopping and entertainment. Since first taking place in 1981, the Jazz Fest has become one of the largest jazz festivals in the country, offering a fun and vibrant street festival atmosphere in downtown Jax.New York Winter Jazzfest
New York City, New York, United States
Next Edition: January 9-18, 2020Winter Jazzfest is New York City’s premiere showcase for improvised music, practically unrivaled in size and scope. The festival’s signature event is the Winter Jazzfest Marathon. These endurance-listening sessions offer up to six hours of continuous music by performers from across the jazz spectrum. Clearwater Jazz Holiday
Clearwater, Florida, United States
Next Edition: October 17-20, 2019The Clearwater Jazz Holiday is a four-day and four-night, world-class, live, music festival, enjoyed by over 35,000 people the third week of every October and now in its 40th year. The music festival has evolved from a series of concerts on the back of a flatbed truck and at venues around Clearwater into an annual, international, music festival that draws tens of thousands of visitors each year. Iowa City Jazz Festival
Iowa City, Iowa, United States
Next Edition: July 5-7, 2019The Iowa City Jazz Festival is a three-day weekend of live jazz performances and delicious local dishes, capped off with a full-blown fireworks display over the University of Iowa Pentacrest.
Montreux Jazz FestivalMontreux, Switzerland
Next Edition: June 28 - July 13, 2019The Montreux Jazz Festival is one of the world’s most important fests, founded in 1967 on Switzerland’s Lake Geneva shoreline. The festival — the world’s second largest — was founded on a philosophy of pure jazz, and memorable performers from years past include Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans. Today, jazz is still the festival’s guiding light, but its musical palette has expanded to include artists on the pop side of the musical spectrum. For the 2019 edition, that includes Sting, Elton John, Slash and ZZ Top.North Sea Jazz FestivalRotterdam, The Netherlands
Next Edition: July 12-14, 2019The Netherlands’ North Sea Jazz is the largest indoor music festival in the world, known for its pan-generational view of jazz and eclectic musical bookings. Visitors are regularly treated to new and emerging acts in the genres of jazz, blues, avant-garde rock, funk, soul and R&B, and the fest regularly accommodates more than thousand musicians spread out over 150 performances and fifteen different stages. But for such a large-scale event, the North Sea Jazz Fest in Rotterdam still manages to maintain an intimate character, reminiscent of its early days at the Hague, when legends like Count Basie and Stan Getz graced its stage.Umbria Jazz Festival
Next Edition: July 12-21, 2019The Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia is Italy’s most famous jazz celebration, known throughout the region as the premier musical celebration of the summer. The fest began in 1973 as a showcase for Italian jazz artists but in the years since has grown to accommodate musicians and ensembles from around the world. Though it has a strong jazz flavor, the fest attracts artists and jazz fans from related genres like funk, soul, experimental music and R&B. All of it takes place amid the modern-meets-historical landscape of Perugia, one of the most beautiful cities in Umbria region of Central Italy.Havana Jazz Festival
Next Edition: January 1-19, 2020
This fest, a dream destination for fans of Afro-Cuban jazz, allows attendees to experience all the sensuous sights and sounds of Cuba. Among this year's scheduled performing artists are Chucho Valdes, Arthur O'Farrill, Joe Lavano, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ted Nash and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Numerous cultural organizations plan trips to this festival every year. Book yours now.Jazz in Marciac
Next Edition: July 25 - August 15, 2019Jazz in Marciac, held every year in a charming, centuries-old village in southwestern France, turns a very small town into a very big jazz locale. The marquee seats 5,000 people for the prestigious evening concerts — regular headliners include Wynton Marsalis Cecile McLorin Salvant — but just as many people spend time outside of festival grounds. The whole village is the scene of myriad activities: free concerts on the square, art exhibitions, films, a market for local products and stands selling craftwork from further afield, not to mention the cafés and bars on every corner. Cape Town Jazz FestivalCape Town, South Africa
Next Edition: March 2020
[caption id="attachment_19174" align="alignleft" width="1024"] Cape Town International Jazz Festival Free Concert Greenmarket Square (Photo: Bruce Sutherland)[/caption]
The Cape Town Jazz Festival is one of South Africa’s most anticipated musical events, drawing fans from around the world to this coastal city for two days of outstanding music and educational programming. The festival takes a wide-view when it comes to its lineup — past years’ headliners have included Chaka Khan and Jeff Lorber — but there’s also a strong focus on local artists, such as drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo and trumpeter Darren English. Next year, Cape Town will be the site of the International Jazz Day Global Concert, an event that will vault the city even further into the jazz spotlight. Jarasum International Jazz Festival
Jarasum, South Korea
Next Edition: October 4-6, 2019"Stepping onstage at the Jarasum Jazz Festival is like stumbling into an alternate universe where jazz is suddenly young, hip, sexy and cool," says saxophonist Joshua Redman. The festival — which takes place on an island at the center of the Korean peninsula just a few hours from Seoul — attracts upwards of 100,000 attendees per year from countries far and wide. The headlining artists are equally vast and varied, with previous headliners including the Carla Bley Trio and saxophonist Grace Kelly. This is one fest where attendees aren’t afraid to get down and dance to the music, so if you’re planning a trip, be sure to bring your dancing shoes. JazzFest Berlin
Next Edition: October 31 - November 3, 2019
[caption id="attachment_19176" align="alignleft" width="1024"] Jazzfest Berlin 2017 ® Camille Blake[/caption]
In 1964, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the opening remarks at the Berlin Jazz Festival, honoring jazz’s role as a force of integration, progress and cross-cultural understanding. More than 50 years later, jazz musicians from Berlin and all over the world continue to come together to play at the Jazzfest, making the festival one of the oldest and most prestigious in Europe. The festival is jam-packed with music but well-distributed across town, with concerts taking place in intimate jazz clubs throughout the city, allowing you to sample all that Berlin has to offer as you take in sounds of international jazz artists.Cheltenham Jazz FestivalCheltenham, England
Next Edition: May 2020Jamie Cullum is a fan. So is Moira Stuart. And it’s no wonder why. With over 20,000 music-fans getting in the festival swing every year, Cheltenham Jazz Festival has become one England’s most beloved jazz celebrations. Taking place amid the stunning Montpellier Gardens at the heart of Cheltenham, this fest is the perfect place to soak up the sounds of today’s biggest jazz stars (and to catch a glimpse of the jazz stars of tomorrow), while wining and dining on festival grounds. This fest is family- and foodie-friendly, with an array of vendors offering local fare and activities for kids. “The great thing about Cheltenham Jazz Festival is that it brings together so many genres under the umbrella of jazz,” says Cullum. Melbourne International Jazz Festival
Next Edition: May 31 - June 9, 2019Every year, Melbourne comes alive with the jazz spirit as the Melbourne Jazz Fest takes place across the city’s concert halls, arts venues and jazz clubs. Now in its third decade, the festival typically sees more than 40,000 people attend over 100 public events, with over 500 international and Australian artists performing and collaborating at over 20 of Melbourne’s iconic venues. The fest specializes in world premieres by visiting and local jazz artists, making this fest a true one-of-a-kind experience. This fest is the very pinnacle of jazz Down Under.
Panama Jazz Festival
City of Knowledge, Panama City, Panama
Next Edition: January 13-18, 2020
The brainchild of pianist Danilo Perez, the Panama Jazz Festival is a much-sought-after jazz event in South America, attracting over 300,000 jazz fans worldwide and offering students more than 4.5 million dollars in scholarships on an international level. Its educational component — supported by Berklee College of Music — brings 5,000 music students from all over the world to perform with Berklee faculty and alumni every year.Copenhagen Jazz Festival
Next Edition: July 5-14, 2019
Copenhagen has played an important role in the history of jazz, serving as home to American expatriates and Danish innovators alike. And since 1979, the Copenhagen Jazz Festival has been shining a spotlight on the city’s vibrant music scene. Lasting 10 days, the festival envelops the Danish capital, offering a sumptuous musical feast to the 250,000 guests. Attendees can enjoy live jazz on the city’s streets, in its clubs, cafés and concert halls, and at open-air night venues – all in the very heart of historical Copenhagen.St. Lucia Jazz Festival
St. Lucia, Greater Antilles
Next Edition: May 4-12, 2019The St. Lucia Jazz Festival Produced in Collaboration with Jazz at Lincoln Center will showcase more than a dozen performances by world-renowned artists in intimate venues and public settings throughout one of the Caribbean’s most magnificent islands. If the pristine beaches, lapping waves and billowing palms aren’t enough to entice a visit, consider the musical programming, which this year will included a gospel jazz brunch on Mother’s Day, jazz cruises under the stars, concerts in waterfront venues and breathtaking open-air performances.Red Sea Jazz Festival
Next Edition: August 25-27, 2019
The Port of Eilat, a modern tourist town with a spectacular backdrop of blue sea and red desert mountains, provides the captivating location for this yearly celebration of jazz culture. Catch immersive sets by some of the biggest names in jazz in shipping freighters that have been transformed into music halls, indulge on local food and wine, or simply sit back and watch the yachts drift in from the sea. It’s all there at the Red Sea Jazz Festival. Java Jazz Festival
Next Edition: March 2020Jakarta International BNI Java Jazz Festival (JJF) is one of the largest jazz festivals in the world and arguably the biggest in Southern Hemisphere. Held in Jakarta, Indonesia, this annual Jazz got its start in 2005 when approximately 102 groups and 1,227 artists performed in 146 shows. It recently celebrated its 15th anniversary with a bigger-than-ever bash that featured headliners Toto and H.E.R.