And so we reach the grand finale of our quest for the world’s jazziest city. In Parts I and II we nominated Tokyo, Copenhagen, Gent, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Berlin. You’ll have your own preferences, no doubt, so please keep that in mind as we announce which two cities take first and second place as the world’s jazziest. Offering the widest array of jazz venues, cafes, clubs and jam sessions, with the most fertile jazz scene, boasting a host of legendary jazz musicians and loyal aficionados, who together make up a melting pot that boils over with groovy greatness.
Much like France, which tends to do its own thing in the world, Paris has its very own vibe when it comes to jazz. There’s always something going on in the French capital. For heavier, more experimental stuff, head over to the northern quarters of St Denis and Patin in March and April for the annual Banlieues Bleues Jazz Festival, proffering a dizzying programme of jazz talents from around the world. All genres, from Afro-Cuban rhythms, New Orleans style, to acid and experimental, are represented. With performances of fresh and established artists from around the globe, including Kahlil El’Zabar, L’intuition Vincent Curtois – Michael Ackerman, Andre Minvielle, and Charles Tolliver Music Inc.
There are jazz venues galore in the Saint Germain quarter, which is why the Festival Jazz a Saint-Germain-des-Pres is held there annually in May (go next year!). The festival is held in clubs, on boats, in cultural centres, but there’s also plenty to see out in the street. There’s a Young Talent Competition for upcoming artists and there are all sorts of side-exhibits. Big names at this year’s festival were Erik Truffaz and Eliane Elias.
Every weekend in June and July, the Paris Jazz Festival is on at the Parc Floral de Paris. For the past 20 years, this botanical garden has proved to be the perfect setting for this small-scale festival with international allure. Take a picnic blanket along and enjoy the natural and musical surroundings.
Here’s an overview of great jazz venues in Paris.
1. New York
No other city can match New York in terms of the melting pot of cultures that is so characteristic of the jazz scene. The city is full of Asian, European and Israeli artists looking to play outside the box. New York is also “the city that never sleeps” when it comes to jazz. You’ll find sessions all over town every day, as well as intimate concerts and major gigs with great ensembles and international artists playing at the major clubs. On the flipside, musicians have to fight for survival, despite the many venues, because competition is fierce with so much talent on offer. The city is like a candy shop for jazz lovers. There are also numerous festivals, including the annual Winter Jazz Fest, which is relatively small by New York standards, but attracts lots of scouts and programmers. It’s a showcase festival featuring rising stars who are about to break through on the bigger stages, as well as underdogs who have cut their teeth. The festival, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, has helped launch the careers of international stars such as Vijay Iyer, Anat Cohen, Robert Glasper, JD Allen, Gretchen Parlato, Jonathan Batiste, Ambrose Akinmusire, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Aaron Parks, and many more. The Winter Jazz Fest is always held in the first week of January and can be perfectly combined with a trip to New York at Christmas and New Year.
Try also the Blue Note Jazz Festival, which is on from 1 through 30 June at 15 different venues, with more than 150 artists, including Aretha Franklin, Bobby McFerrin & Questlove, Michael McDonald, Reggie Watts and Dee Dee Bridgewater.
Here’s an overview of the best jazz clubs in New York.
And this link will take you to a previous KLM blog featuring five jazz joints you really must visit in New York.