Just as no two versions of a standard jazz song are alike, no two jazz festivals are the same.
Jazz festivals are popular events across the globe, which is not surprising, as it is a genre that has universal appeal, is easy to dance to, or enjoyed while you sit and relax. However, just as no two versions of a standard jazz song are alike, no two jazz festivals are the same. Each host city offers its own unique local flavor, making these festivals a great way to experience diverse cultures, with a common thread.
From New Orleans to Montreux to Cape Town, here are 5 of the World’s best Jazz Festivals.
New Orleans is without doubt the birthplace of Jazz. It’s roots reach deep into the region’s unique combination of Blues, Gospel, Brass Band, and Ragtime music, as well as the traditions of the Creole, Caribbean and African cultures.
The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, also known as the Jazz Fest, began in 1970. A 7-day cultural feast celebrating the city’s musical heritage, it encompasses Jazz as well as distinct genres like the Blues, R&B, Gospel, Cajun, Afro-Caribbean, Folk, Latin, Rock, Rap, Country, and Bluegrass. With many acts each day spread over 12 different stages, there is something for everyone.
While you are at the Jazz Fest take advantage of the many food vendors, serving up the famous unique local cuisine such as gumbo, jambalaya, po-boys, beignets, and other creations. No need to go hungry in this town.
The Jazz Fest also features multiple arts and crafts areas where you can see hundreds of local and international artisans and their work.
Since its inception nearly 50 years ago, the Montreux Jazz Festival has grown into the world’s second-largest jazz festival, and grows bigger and better with each passing year. Over the span of two weeks, Montreux comes alive with the sound of jazz music. You will find performances ranging from traditional jazz to big name artists from other genres such as Rock, Folk, Blues, Soul, and Electronic.
Set on the shores of Lake Geneva, the idyllic backdrop serves as a beautiful venue for all to enjoy. The food and beverage area is located on a lakefront promenade, allowing festival goers a gorgeous setting to relax in — so, be sure to take time to appreciate Lake Geneva’s exceptional natural beauty.
In addition to the usual stage venues, you can also join a special Jazz Cruise or a Jazz Train — the options are truly diverse and creative.
Photo: Booker T. Jones © 2014 FFJM – Mehdi Benkler
The Montreal International Jazz Festival was named the world’s largest Jazz festival by the Guinness Book of World Records. The line up consists of a colossal 3,000 artists and 1,000 concerts, held in venues spread across the entire city. Don’t let the size worry you — this is a well executed event every year. The core of downtown Montreal transforms into a pedestrian-only zone; plus, two thirds of the concerts are free to the public, probably why it attracts over two million Jazz lovers each year.
It may be hard to fit in some sightseeing, as the music starts daily at noon and continues until midnight, but if you can, be sure to visit the beautiful Old Montreal district and the Basilique Notre Dame.
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The Cape Town International Jazz Festival is affectionately referred to as “The Grand Gathering.”
A relatively new event, it is smaller compared to the other more established festivals; however, it has gained in popularity with its mix of African and other international acts, becoming the largest jazz festival in Africa. The festival spans two days, with performances spread over 5 stages.
In addition to the musical performances, fashion, photography, and other art forms are also showcased.
Be sure to take time to visit Cape Town’s breathtaking beaches and the spectacular Table Mountain. For the brave, there’s the option to take a shark diving eco-tour.
Copenhagen has long been considered a hub for European jazz. Each summer the Copenhagen Jazz Festival takes over the entire city. Spanning 10 days, music is heard in the Royal Theatre and Copenhagen’s Opera House, small clubs and cafes, as well as along the harbor front, with audience members swimming in the Danish sea.
The Festival even has special programs for kids, including live jazz, a circus, painting workshops and singing, making this event an attraction for the whole family.
Take in the sights while you are visiting Copenhagen, including the famous Kronborg Castle where you can walk in Hamlet’s footsteps, or any of the other gifts this city has to offer.