What better way to enjoy the long summer days than with some soothing jazz grooves washing over you. With fusion festivals popping up left, right and centre – bringing funk, R&B, pop and electro sub-genres into the mix – jazz has never been more accessible. So regardless of whether you know your 12-bar blues, here’s a short introduction to some of the oldest, biggest and most diverse jazz festivals around.
Berlin, Germany | May
This May there was a new kid on Berlin’s jazz scene: XJAZZ Fest. Hosted in various Kreuzberg venues all within walking distance of each other, XJAZZ Fest brought together a selection of avant-garde locally-based artists (the likes of Micatone and Kyodai DJ set) to bring some fresh and innovative new vigor to the scene. The curator, Sebastian Studnitzky, was keen to present jazz in a much broader and more contemporary sense, exploring different cross-genres of jazz like electronic, singer/songwriter and neo-classical. This year it partnered with Iceland, a country renowned for its diverse and cutting-edge music scene.
Tickets from €8
Festival Django Reinhardt
Samois-sur-Seine, France | June
Named after the pioneering gypsy jazz guitarist, Jean Baptiste Django Reinhardt, the festival is an annual tribute to Django and his work – some even take time out of the jam-packed schedule to pay respect to Rienhardt’s grave over in Samois. This year’s programme is brimming with improvised concerts, jam sessions and art exhibitions, and with artists like Levis Adel Reinhardt Quartet, Gypsy Eyes, Thomas Dutronc and Cyrille Aimée gracing the various open air stages, the 35th edition promises to be another resounding success.
Around €30 for a day ticket
Jazz Fest Wien
Vienna, Austria | June/July
Spread out across 9 grandiose locations throughout the music capital of the world, Jazz Fest Wien is the flagship jazz festival of the year, and consistently stands up to its reputation. Boasting a real mix of everything from classical through to modern jazz, with offshoots of R&B, blues and pop, the festival caters to a diverse audience of both jazz newcomers and seasoned experts. This year’s programme will include big names like Al Jarreau, Pet Shop Boys, Julia Biel, Sinead O’Connor and Natalie Cole. Need to tighten your purse strings a little this summer? Head to the Town Hall Square and Summer Stage by the Danube for free performances!
Prices range depending on venues, up to €90
EDP Cool Jazz
Oeiras, near Lisbon, Portugal | July
Over the course of July, the EDP Cool Jazz is bringing both local and international names to its stages, including Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club and Laura Mvula. And set in two wonderfully idyllic parks – the Jardins Marquês de Pombal and the Parque dos Poetas – it promises to be a perfect combination of music, nature and heritage.
Tickets range from €25-50
Montreux Jazz Festival
Montreux, Switzerland | July
Since its conception back in in the 60s, the Montreux Jazz Festival has grown up to become one of the world’s major cultural events, ever-developing its programme of music, activities and events. With jazz at its core, it’s hosted all major rock and roll acts and adopting various other music styles along the way – this year its stages will be graced by a whole range of contemporary artists from Paloma Faith to Massive Attack. Take heed, though. Even at €1,300 a pop, tickets sell out, and fast.
Tickets ragen from €1,300-1,600
Gent Jazz Festival
Ghent, Belgium | July
Spread out over the course of 2 weeks, Gent Jazz Festival coincides with the city’s mainline 10-day Gentse Feesten to culminate in a huge city-wide party of art and music. This second week tends to spin off into jazz sub-genres like pop, soul and electronic, attracting a more diverse audience of less hardcore jazz fans. This year saw another nice mix of both international and home-grown talent, including the likes of Briskey and Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires.
Day tickets from €39
North Sea Jazz Festival
Rotterdam, The Netherlands | July
North Sea Jazz Festival is undoubtedly The Netherlands’ main headliner in the way of jazz festivals. Year on year it delivers a lineup that spans a huge variety of jazz styles presented by musicians from all over the world. Among a host of other top acts are Buena Vista Social Club, Pharell Willams, Joss Stone, Quincy Jones and John Scofield Überjam. For the first time in the festival’s history, it’s totally sold out before day 1.
Sold out! Though a weekend ticket would normally cost you €195
Perugia, Italy | July
For 10 days each year, the beautiful Renaissance town of Perugia is overcome by the sweet melodic sounds of jazz which dance through its medieval squares and lush green parks. Having just celebrated its 40th birthday, Umbria Jazz is widely considered the granddaddy of all jazz festivals. Each year it continues to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to the heart of Perugia to see the likes of Mario Biondi, Al Jarreau, Galactic, Herbie Hancock, Natalie Cole and The Roots.
Tickets range from €10-40
Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul Festival
Birmingham, UK | July
Tucked away in Birmingham’s suburbs you’ll find the annual Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul Festival. With just two stages and a delightful lakeside backdrop, its setting in Moseley Park provides the perfect intimate ambiance. Now in its 5th year running, the festival is calling some big names to the stage, with legendary 5 times Grammy Award winner Al Mckay bringing his Earth, Wind and Fire Experience to headline on the Saturday.
Tickets range from £35 – £85
Festival de Jazz de San Sebastián
San Sebastián, Spain | July
The Heineken Jazzaldia plays host to around 100 different concerts in 12 stages dotted around the city of San Sebastián. Worldwide acclaimed artists from a range of different genres always feature in the festival’s lineup, resulting in a diverse mix of performances from the likes of Ray Davies through to Echo and the Bunnymen. The shows set on the Zurriola Beach and the terraces of the Kursaal Auditorium are guaranteed crowd-pullers. Sun, sea and jazz – what more could you need?
Favourite jazz festival not on our list? Chat with us @GoEuro!