Jazz Festivals – What a Difference a Year Makes


Charles Lloyd and the Marvels performing at Jazz Middelheim in Belgium.

(Photo: Courtesy Jazz Middelheim)

This year’s summer jazz festival season is cause for special, and excessive, celebration. The entire jazz ecosystem — from artists and managers to festival organizers, stage crews, roadies, vendors, fans and grizzled, old jazz journalists — knows this special season deserves our complete attention, and our hearfelt enthusiasm.

While a few festivals were able go live last summer, many more are back live this year, some offering both in-person and online experiences as a matter of course.

Be sure to check those calendars before booking your favorite festival, because dates may have changed. Most prominently, the DC JazzFest had such success over Labor Day weekend last summer that it has moved there permanently. That means a lot of great choices with major jazz fests going strong that weekend in Chicago and Detroit, too.

Who’s on tour this summer? It might be faster to say who isn’t.

Enjoy singers? Cyrille Aimée, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Gregory Porter are just a few who will be all over the festival circuit this summer.

Looking for great instrumentalists? Charles Lloyd, Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Ravi Coltrane, Melissa Aldana and plenty more will be at your soulful service.

How about something from the outer frontiers? William Parker, Mary Halvorson, Craig Taborn, and Dave Douglas & Joe Lovano’s Soundprints are good bets.

Whatever your pleasure, presenters are going above and beyond to ensure that jazz fans have a safe experience.

“This summer will be a joyous celebration of music,” said Amanda Blevins, executive director at Vail Jazz. “The past couple of summers have presented some challenges, but we worked through them to present live music, and we’re pleased to be able to do this once again.”

“Right now — this minute — is an amazing time to love music,” wrote Michael Gordon, David Lang and Julia Wolfe, artistic directors of a new festival in Brooklyn called Long Play. “Musicians and listeners from every corner of the music world are pushing beyond their boundaries, questioning their roots, searching and stretching for the new. There has never been a time when music contained so much innovation and diversity, so much audacity and so much courage.”

Agreed. You’ll find some 140 festivals around the globe listed in DownBeat’s 2022 International Festival Guide. It’s time to get ready to sit back and soak it all in. DB

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December 2022
Kenny Barron
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