Hundreds of cities world wide host jazz festivals every year. These festivals all have their own unique vibe and feel about them. But together they all help to celebrate the local, national and worldwide cultural significance of jazz music.
Often set outdoors, with multiple stage set-ups, the major Festivals usually play host to many different famous saxophone players. Depending on the size of the festival these musicians may be invited from other cities or countries.
It can be an comfortable change from frequenting Jazz clubs to get a taste of your favourite music, expecially from guest artists that you may not spot regularly in your local area. While there are far more festivals than can be covered in a short period of time, the following festivals are generally considered to be among the world’s best.
New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
Often referred to simply as Jazz Fest, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is held every year in New Orleans, Louisiana. First started in 1970, Jazz Fest usually begins at the end of April and runs for two weekends. If you attend you be immersed in 10 days of pure Jazz culture. While early incarnations of the festival were devoted to celebrating local jazz music, the line-up eventually expanded to include nationally touring acts. The festival has also expanded from jazz to include blue, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, R&B, hip-hock, rock, Afro-Caribbean, hosting performances from artists such as James Taylor, Tony Bennett, Neil Young, Bon Jovi and Pete Seeger.
Montreal International Jazz Festival
Billed as the world’s largest event of its kind, the Montreal International Jazz Festival boasts performances by around 3,000 artists every year and nearly 2.5 million visitors. The festival’s concerts are divided between outdoor stages and indoor concert halls. Out of more than 650 total concerts, 450 are free to attend. The Montreal International Jazz Festival was first held in 1980 and has since welcomed artists like Ray Charles, Chick Corea and Pat Metheny.
Montreux Jazz Festival
Held every July on Lake Geneva’s shores in Switzerland, the Montreux Jazz Festival is the world’s second largest yearly music festival next to the Montreal International Jazz Festival. The big gig in Montreux began in 1967, quickly establishing a reputation and pulling in acts such as Nina Simone, Keith Jarrett and Ella Fitzgerald. In the 1970s, the festival began to host performances by soul, blues and rock artists such as Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton and B.B. King. The festival is also home to several jazz competitions, awarding prizes for guitarists, pianists and vocalists.
Monterey Jazz Festival
With roots dating back to 1958, the Monterey Festival is one of the world’s longest consecutively running music festivals. The festival is held on the Monterey County Fairgrounds in California and features a bill of over 500 respected jazz artists and groups. In addition to performances, the festival also features panels, workshops, clinics, exhibitions and other similar diversions. Every year, all of the profits from this incredible event are donated to help fund musical education. The festival is also associated with a scholarship fund. Since its inceptions, the Monterey Jazz Festival has hosted performances by jazz greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Sonny Rollins and Duke Ellington.