Bringing Back the Festivals!


The Monterey Jazz Festival, one of many reopening for late summer.

(Photo: Monterey Jazz Festival)

In what has to be billed as the great jazz reopening, festivals are coming back online, many with late-breaking plans and talent lineups that are still being hashed out. DownBeat’s July 2021 issue features more than 70 festivals that are up, running and giving it a go this year, even if it’s virtually. You can see that here. Below, we take a look at 19 fests around the globe that merit a must-go/must-see stamp of approval. Each event will be following local COVID safety protocols and procedures.

Jazz Aspen Snowmass, Colorado, June 18–Sept. 7
Jazz Aspen Snomass plans a full summer season of small-venue concerts. To go along with the stunning vistas of Aspen, Colorado, musical highlights include Take 6, Monty Alexander’s Harlem-Kingston Express, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Bettye Lavette all on June 25. In July, catch Curtis Stagers, The Yellowjackets, Shelly Berg & Friends, Etienne Charles & Creole Soul. And August features Christian McBride, Kurt Elling, Catherine Russell and more. (

Vail Jazz, Colorado, July 8–Aug. 26
Vail Jazz features eight all-star Thursday performances throughout the summer, along with another eight free Sunday evening performances. This year’s lineup features Curtis Stigers, Chuck Lamb’s Tribute to Dave Brubeck, Ann Hampton Callaway, John Chin Plays the Music of Mose Allison featuring Richard Julian, Catherine Russell, Julien Labro’s Django Collective and the Harold López-Nussa Trio. (

Gent Jazz ‘Back to Live,’ Ghent, Belgium, July 8–18
Like many festivals, Gent Jazz in Belgium is happening this year after having serious conversations about whether it could go live or not. The lineup is stellar, featuring José James “The Dreamer,” Naima Joris, Gonzalo Rubalcaba & Aymée Nuviola, Cinema Paradiso, Niklas Paschburg, Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog, Antoine Pierre Urbex Electric, Lady Linn, Compro Oro and more. (

Cathedral Park Jazz Festival, Portland, Oregon, July 16–18
The 41st annual Cathedral Park Jazz Festival is back live, featuring a lineup of local acts around Portland, Oregon, including soul singer Jarrod Lawson, Steve Cheseborough, Lloyd Jones with The Atlas Horns, Fenix Rising, Melao de Cuba, Korg & Bass, 500 Miles High (A Tribute to Chick Corea) and Soul Vaccination. (

Jazzaldia, Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain, July 21–25
This resort town on the Bay of Biscay in Basque Country has been delivering great jazz for 56 years. This year’s highlights include the Brad Mehldau Trio, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Noa & Gil Dor, “Afterallogy” + Iñaki Salvador, the Bill Frisell Trio, Mulatu Astatke, Gonzalo Rubalcaba & Aymée Nuviola, the Kenny Barron All Star Quartet and more. (

Vision Festival 25, New York, July 22–31
For its 25th edition, Vision Fest will again be live with concerts in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side of New York City. Organizers will also be streaming shows. This year’s lineup includes William Parker, Amina Claudine Myers Lifetime Achievement, the Elder Ones, Jaime Branch, Fay Victor, Nicole Mitchell, James “Blood” Ulmer, David Murray, Cooper-Moore, James Brandon Lewis, a Tribute to Milford Graves with John Zorn, Andrew Cyrille and more. (

14th Chicago Latin Jazz Festival, July 23–24
While the Chicago Jazz Festival is on hiatus over this year’s Labor Day weekend, the city’s Latin Jazz Festival in Humboldt Park will be en fuego with James Sanders’ Conjunto, Luis Ewerling & AMADA. (

Newport Jazz Festival, Rhode Island, July 30–Aug. 1
The granddaddy of American jazz festivals returns this summer to Fort Adams Park with a smaller, but mighty, lineup including Wynton Marsalis, Andra Day, Khruangbin, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Mavis Staples, Ledisi singing the music of Nina Simone, Robert Grasper, Christian McBride, Cory Wong, Charles Lloyd and much more. (

Satchmo SummerFest, New Orleans, July 31–Aug. 1
Satchmo SummerFest promises more than 20 acts, including the Roots of Music, Treme Brass Band, Kermit Ruffins, James Andrew Charmaine Neville, The Nayo Jones Experience, Meschiya Lake, Robin Barnes, the Hot 8 Brass Band and more. (

34th Annual Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, Wilmington, Delaware, Aug. 4–8
Here’s one where the lineup has yet to be announced, but it will be live. Check online for more details. (

YstadSweden JazzFestival, Aug. 4–7
On Sweden’s southern coast, the YstadSweden JazzFestival promises a wide variety of events for all ages with a concert lineup featuring a healthy dose of European artists. This year’s artists include Andreas Schaerer, Yamada Costa, Caroline Henderson and her Danish band, Lily Dhab and her German/Argentine band, the Emile Parisien Quartet, Jan Lundgren, Lars Danielsson, Georg Riedel and more. (

Bix Beiderbecke Festival, Davenport, Iowa, Aug. 5–7
This is the 50th anniversary of celebrating one of the legendary trumpeters of early jazz in his hometown. A bastion of trad-jazz, the Beiderbecke fest delivers with the Chicago Cellar boys, Cakewalkin’ Jass Band, Miss Jubilee and the Yas Yas Boys, Joe Smith and the Spicy Pickles and more. (

San Jose Summer Fest, California, Aug. 13–15
This staple of summer in Northern California has gotten the green light to go live. Stay tuned for details. (

Telluride Jazz Festival, Colorado, Aug. 13–15
The 44th edition of Telluride is ready and raring to go with Galactic featuring Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph, Robert Glasper, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, The Budos Band, The Hot Sardines, Poncho Sanchez, The Dip, Christian Sands and more. (

DC Jazz Festival, Washington, D.C., Sept. 1–5
The 17th annual DC Jazz Festival features Regina Carter, Maria Schneider Orchestra, Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Orrin Evans, Lakecia Benjamin, Cyrus Chestnut, Laurin Talese, Immanuel Wilkins and more. (

Detroit Jazz Festival, Michigan, Sept. 3–6
Billed as the world’s largest free-admission jazz festival, Detroit delivers with Dee Dee Bridgewater as Artist-in-Residence, Herbie Hancock, Matthew Whitaker Quartet, Kenny Barron, Jerry Bergonzi Quintet, Kurt Elling’s Big Band, Gregory Porter, Kenny Garrett, Abdullah Ibrahim, Anat Cohen Tentet with musical director Oded Lev-Ari and more. (

Music at the Intersection, St. Louis, Missouri, Sept. 10–12
This new festival features a stellar lineup for a post-Labor Day bash with Lalah Hathaway, Gregory Porter, Roy Ayers and more. The fest also takes a “St. Louis Made” approach, bringing in many national acts with local roots including Keyon Harrold, The Baylor Project, Nikki Hill and more. (

Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival, Pennsylvania, Sept. 17–19
Presented by Pittsburgh’s August Wilson African American Cultural Center, this festival offers its 11th edition with Chaka Khan, Dianne Reeves, Marcus Miller, Gregory Porter, Jazzmeia Horn, Christian Scott, The Baylor Project, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Lakecia Benjamin and Kenny Garrett Quintet. (

Monterey Jazz Festival, California, Sept. 24–26
Another of the grand dames of live jazz, the Monterey Jazz Festival returns to Northern California this September with a mission to reunite the jazz community. This year’s lineup features Herbie Hancock, George Benson, Terri Lyne Carrington + Social Science, Pat Metheny Side-Eye, Christian Sands Group, Kandace Springs and more. ( DB

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