It’s Jazz Festival Season!


Piazza IV Novembre at the Umbria Jazz Festival, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this summer.

(Photo: Giancarlo Belifore)

For many, it’s been a long, hard winter, and we could just as easily be talking about Los Angeles as the Midwest or Canada with this year’s crazy weather patterns. But the budding trees of spring are giving way to what we all hope is an endless summer, one packed with sun, fun and festivals.

In this edition of DownBeat’s annual guide to summer Festivals, there are just a few (more than 130) suggestions of what to do this summer, all packed with common themes — great locales, food, drink and, especially, music.

Access the Guide by clicking HERE.

This year’s jazz circuit is chock-full of special events, with artist dedications and anniversary celebrations aplenty.

For starters, the Umbria Jazz Festival, that granddaddy of Italian jazz festivals, celebrates its 50th anniversary this summer in the heart of Perugia. What began as a little experiment in an area off the beaten path of jazz has become one of the world’s true showcases for the art form, as you can read HERE.

Umbria is not alone in celebrating 50 years. Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon in Ulrichsberg, Austria, has staged 37 festivals, but was organized 50 years ago. And another Italian fest, Ravenna Jazz in Ravenna, Italy, also raises the flag on its 50th anniversary.

A handful of other festivals join in with 40-year anniversaries, including the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival in Vermont, the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans, the San Francisco Jazz Festival and the TD Victoria International Festival in Canada.

Turning 30 this summer, we have the Guelph Jazz Festival in Canada and the North Atlantic Blues Festival in Rockland, Maine.

Those celebrating their silver jubilees (25th anniversary) include the Menorca Jazz Festival in the Balearic Islands of Spain, the Enjoy Jazz festival in Heidelberg, Germany, the Twin Cities Jazz Festival in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the Healdsburg Jazz Festival in California. Check out the terrific feature about Healdsburg, its founder Jessica Felix and its current artistic director, Marcus Shelby, HERE.

Other events with a little something extra to cheer about include the Rochester Jazz Festival in New York at 20, and three other festivals celebrating their 10th anniversaries: Montavilla Jazz Festival in Portland, Oregon, as well as the Berkshire Gateway Jazz Weekend and the Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival, both in Massachusetts.

Not to be left out, there are momentous celebrations on the artist side, too. The Indy Jazz Festival will celebrate the centennial of guitar legend Wes Montgomery, a favorite son of Indianapolis.

Trumpeter Steven Bernstein celebrates the 25th anniversary of his band Sexmob with a tour that will be hitting several stops on the festival circuit.

And Shakti — that amazing musical amalgamation formed by guitarist John McLaughlin and percussionist Zakir Hussein — will be celebrating the group’s 50th anniversary with tour stops around the globe.

Finally, at the end of this year’s Monterey Jazz Festival, Tim Jackson, its longtime artistic director, will step down. He and his team deserve our thanks for doing amazing work out there in Northern California, and chances are very good that the festival will send him off with an event to be remembered for the ages. DB

  • 23_Village_Vanguard_Joey_Baron_by_Michael_Jackson_copy.jpg

    “Bill Stewart has nothing to prove,” Baron says. “I aspire to that ethic.”

  • 23_Charles_Lloyd_1_by_Dorothy_Darr.jpg

    “At this point in my life I’m still looking for the note,” Lloyd says. “But I’m a little nearer.”

  • McBride__Kahn_copy.jpg

    ​Christian McBride and writer Ashley Kahn meet for a DownBeat Blindfold Test hosted by New York University’s Jazz Studies program.

  • Samara_Joy_%C2%A92023_Mark_Sheldon-4639.jpg

    Samara Joy brought fans to their feet in the middle of her Newport set!

  • Christian_McBride_by_Ebru_Yildiz.jpeg

    ’You can’t simply book a festival with things that you like,” Christian McBride says of the Newport Jazz Festival. “You have a responsibility to present up-and-coming artists who people don’t know yet. And you have to get people in the seats.”