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.
The capital continues to host some excellent annual events, each highlighting talent from around the world and focusing on a large range 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 2021, the festival runs from June 30th through September 8th. 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 2021 edition runs over four separate and non-consecutive days: May 25th, May 28th, June 1st and June 4th. Visit the official website for more information on the lineup this year.
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 2021, the Jazz at La Villette festival runs between August and September (no precise dates have yet been announced). You can check the official website at a later date to see the complete program and buy tickets.
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 2021 edition of the festival ran as an online-only event due to health restrictions in France. No dates for 2022 have been announced as of yet. Check back at the official website for the program and info on purchasing tickets in early 2022.