With roots in ragtime and blues, jazz music is often spontaneously built from improvisation. Attending a live jazz performance can be a musical experience like no other, which is why jazz enthusiasts seek out festivals all over the world.
Jazz precipitated out of America’s complex and turbulent history. In celebration of this musical heritage, the largest and most iconic jazz festivals take place in North America.
One of the most well-known events—at the very birthplace of jazz—is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which takes place every year on the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May. But the celebration of jazz isn’t limited to just those two weekends, New Orleans’ Armstrong Park hosts a live jazz concert for eight weeks every spring (on Thursdays from late April to early June) and eight weeks in fall, featuring local bands.
On Labor Day Weekend, come to the four-day Jazz Festival in Chicago, which has free admission and aims to educate and encourage visitors of all ages, as well as showcase Chicago's vast jazz talent.
The Winter Jazzfest in New York City gathers prominent musicians from around the world and spotlight discussions on gender, immigration, and social issues within jazz music.
Europe has a very diverse music scene, and a jazz festival for every taste.
One of the biggest and best-known annual jazz festivals in the world is the Montreux Jazz Festival. Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Marvin Gaye, Prince, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, and Stevie Wonder are only a few great artists who have graced the stages of this festival. Organizers highlight that “...in Montreux, the artists are up close and personal with their fans, which encourages deeply memorable, and even legendary, moments. Here, music is experienced in a truly unique fashion, further enhanced by exceptional comfort and acoustics.” This is truly an iconic event that every jazz enthusiast should experience at least once.
Another do-not-miss jazz event is the Copenhagen Jazz Festival. Dive into an "ocean of music styles” across multiple days on more than a hundred different stages that are located all over the Danish capital. The festival guests enjoy the talents of Danish and international jazz greats inside world-class concert halls, on the city streets, in bars, and along the harbour front. There is also something for experimental music aficionados. The festival offers a programme called “Something Else” which presents music that is on the cusp of jazz and other genres.
The Cappadox Festival, in central Turkey, offers visitors a truly outstanding experience. The breathtaking landscapes of Cappadocia are filled with music, contemporary art, gastronomy, and outdoor activities to heal your body and soul. Fill your day with intimate morning concerts, more performances throughout the day, and outdoor activities such as sunrise and sunset yoga and meditation sessions. Music genres at this festival range from ethno and jazz to electro-funk and experimental rock—there is something for every type of jazz lover here.
One of the most significant jazz events in Europe is Jazzuary which takes place during the second half of January in Belgium. This extravaganza features world-class musicians, and encompasses three jazz events: the Brussels Jazz Festival, the River Jazz Festival, and the Djangofolllies.
South America, Africa and Asia have events to delight and surprise jazz fans, too.
Don’t miss Africa’s Grandest Gathering (officially known as the Cape Town International Jazz Festival) where a star-studded lineup and enthusiastic crowds make it the number one music event in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Jahazi Literary and Jazz Music Festival is a unique event with a distinctive atmosphere where famous African musicians, writers, and poets get together to make music and recite literary works.
Another must-see and must-hear event is the Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival. With free street parties, jazz and soul concerts, and educational events, this event is great for all ages.
As for jazz in Asia, the Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival is one of the biggest jazz events in the Southern Hemisphere, which features many Indonesian artists as well as internationally known stars.