Paris is legendary for its longstanding jazz scene, rivaling New Orleans’ and New York’s at certains points in history. While the golden era of Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington and Django Reinhardt bringing the city’s cavernous clubs to thrilling life has past, there’s no need to despair or wallow in nostalgia. Paris continues to harbor some excellent annual events, each highlighting talent from around the world and focusing on a whole panoply of jazz subgrenres and styles. Whether you’re a hardcore fan or a curious amateur, these 4 Paris jazz festivals are worth marking in your calendar or making time for if you’re visiting in spring or summer.
1. Jazz Festival at the Parc Floral (Bois de Vincennes)
Every summer, the vast Bois de Vincennes park just east of the city limits holds a series of inexpensively-priced jazz concerts at its lovely Parc Floral (floral gardens). Running for around six weeks, the Paris Jazz Festival at the Parc Floral sees talented jazz performers take to the open-air stage for languid afternoons of great music. Pack a picnic and blanket and enjoy the riffs– from classic to poppy and experimental.
Dates and Tickets: In 2019, the festival runs through September 4th. You can find information on this year’s festival and the lineup at the official website. It’s in French, but you can use the “translate page” function in your browser to see it in English.
2. Saint-Germain-des-Prés Jazz Festival
For many jazz fans, May is a bumper month in the French capital, thanks to the St-Germain-des-Prés Jazz festival. Now in its 19th year, it brings dozens of talented performers from around the world to some of the city’s legendary streets and indoor venues for a series of concerts. Some are even free.
St-Germain may be better known for existentialist philosophers grimly pondering the world in cafés rather than for exuberant riffs on the sax, but the now-posh district takes on an entirely different, more laid-back vibe for the occasion of the annual festival.
Dates and Tickets: The 2019 edition took place in May, and dates for 2020 have yet to be announced. Check back here in March for more information, or visit the official website.
3. Jazz at La Villette
The enormous contemporary park and cultural complex in far north Paris known as the Parc de la Villette has become a genuine epicenter for music in the French capital. There’s a Philharmonic designed by Frank Gehry, a museum dedicated to music– and an annual jazz festival with a particular focus on giving innovative artists from around the globe a platform. Concerts are held on the main stage and in smaller venues around the Cité de la Musique (the latter mainly for performances from newer, up-and-coming artists).
Dates and Tickets: In 2019, the Jazz at La Villette festival runs from Thursday, August 29th through Tuesday, September 10th. You can see the complete program and buy tickets at the official website.
4. Banlieue Bleues
Jazz fans visiting Paris might instinctively attempt to track the ghosts of greats like Dizzy Gillespie or Django Reinhardt at some of the city’s more classical jazz clubs, but the contemporary pulse of jazz– with the exception of edgier city-center clubs like New Morning— is mostly now found in the northern suburbs.
The jazz festival dubbed Banlieue Bleues takes the northern towns of St Denis, Pantin and others by storm every year in the early spring, offering up a dizzying program of jazz talents from around the world. All genres, from Afro-Cuban rhythms, New-Orleans style, to acid and experimental, are represented in the program.
Dates and Tickets: The 2020 edition of the festival will run from March 6th through April 3rd. Check back at the official website for the program and info on purchasing tickets in February.
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