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Top 5 Jazz Festivals to Attend in the US in 2024

Jazz has been described as a “living, breathing art”. Live performances only happen the way they do once – with each musical note doing a daring dance with every ambient note around it. Feeling its way through the obscure possibilities that exist without set sheet music. This genre is a reactive form of music, and we’ve listed five of the best jazz festivals to get into touch with this art form.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (Thu, 25 April – Fri, 5 May ; Louisiana)

Affectionately dubbed as “Jazz Fest”, this iconic festival is a meeting of rich cultural heritage and jazz. It also features a mix of blues, R&B, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, Afro-Caribbean, folk, Latin, rock, rap, country, and bluegrass. Around 400,000 of attendees flock here each year!

The event takes place at the Fair Grounds Race course and spans over two weekends. Besides an utterly unmatched diversity of music, discover contemporary and traditional crafts and more at the marketplace. Get your world rocked and horizons expanded at the Cultural Exchange Pavilion, and book a flavor explosion for your tastebuds at the local food vendors.

Headliners of 2024 include Foo Fighters, Greta Van Fleet, Vampire Weekend, John Batiste, Earth, Wind & Fire, HOZIER, Queen Latifah, Neil Young (Crazy Horse), Rolling Stones, and many more great artists.

DC Jazz Festival (TBA ; Washington, D.C.)

Formerly known as the Duke Ellington (who was born in the city!) Jazz Festival, this lively event lights up Washington, D.C. every year. With over 100 musicians taking the stage across 30 venues citywide, the festival transforms Washington into a musical wonderland. It’s a celebration of the city’s rich jazz heritage, showcasing this quintessentially American genre in all its toe-tapping glory.

From emerging artists to big-name performers, the festival brings together a vibrant mix of talent, aiming to breathe new life into jazz for the modern era. Get ready to groove to the sounds of Grammy Award winners, NEA Jazz Masters, and a diverse array of international, national, regional, and local artists as they light up the night with their soulful melodies.

Monterey Jazz Festival (Fri, 27 Sep – Sun, 29 Sep ; California)

Founded in 1958, this is one of the longest-running jazz events in the world. Annually, this three-day event hosts upwards of 500 artists from across the spectrum – traditional to experimental. In addition, this festival offers jazz conversations and panel discussions, workshops, exhibitions, and an international array of food, fun, and shopping.

More than just a music festival, the event is a nonprofit organization deeply committed to jazz education, channeling its proceeds into musical education initiatives since day one. Nestled within the scenic 8-hectare Monterey Country Fairgrounds, which has been its beloved home since the beginning, the festival will once again return to this iconic venue in 2024 to celebrate its 67th anniversary.

Chicago Jazz Festival (Thu, 29 Aug – Sun, 1 Sep ; Illinois)

Paul Riismandel, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, via flickr

As the oldest free music festival in Chicago and one of the biggest global jazz events, the Chicago Jazz Festival will celebrate its 45th anniversary this year. Held annually over Labor Day weekend in Millennium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center, it’s a magnet for music lovers and draws thousands to venues like Millennium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center.

Free neighborhood concerts lead up to the main show, and the diverse lineup spans traditional, contemporary, fusion, and experimental. Beyond concerts, the festival offers educational programs and workshops, fostering a deeper appreciation for jazz. It’s a vibrant platform for local musicians to connect and showcase their talent to the broader jazz community.

For more information and to stay up to date, check out the the lineup and FAQ.

Detroit Jazz Festival (Fri, 30 Aug – Mon, 2 Sep; Michigan)

What started in 1980 has now blossomed into the world’s largest free jazz festival, attracting over 300,000 pairs of happy feet annually. With its unwavering dedication to the genre’s vibrant legacy, the yearly lineup’s variety reflects the aberrant musical spirit.

Over 60 marvellous performances eats up the atmosphere on stages in Hart Plaza and along Woodward. The festival begins with a bang with the Friday Night Opening Party and continues over Labor Day weekend. Plus, with a delectable array of food vendors, attendees can refuel their energy to groove all weekend long!

For the scoop on all things music festival, head over here:

Inge Strauss