Whether you like swinging standards, sweet serenades, or daring fusion grooves, America’s original art form is alive and well this festival season. We don’t want to toot our own horn, but Ticketmaster has the inside scoop on all the best fests for jazz fans looking to get down this year. With their stellar lineups and destination-worthy locations, these fantastic events are the perfect getaway for fans of jazz, blues, R&B, and beyond. To help you find your rhythm, here are our picks for the year’s best jazz fests.
1. New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival – April 22-May 1, New Orleans, LA
Jazz was born in The Big Easy, and it’s headed home in a big way for the 46th annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Visitors to the New Orleans Fair Grounds will dig all the amazing performers at this year’s fest, but NOLA itself is also something of a headliner — don’t miss all the colorful flare, world-class cuisine, and multicultural history the city has to offer.
Lineup Highlights: Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Buddy Guy, Irma Thomas, Van Morrison, Bonnie Raitt, Irvin Mayfield & the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Herbie Hancock & Wayne Shorter Duo, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Mavis Staples, Maxwell
— New Orleans JazzFest (@jazzfest) April 3, 2016
2. Playboy Jazz Festival – June 11-12, Hollywood, CA
The Hollywood Bowl is one of the most beautiful and prestigious concert venues in the country, so what better setting for the amazing two-night Playboy Jazz Festival? After you boogie to the swinging rhythms and laugh along with host George Lopez, you can get starstruck at the Walk of Fame, the TCL Chinese Theatre, or any of Tinseltown’s other iconic sights.
Lineup Highlights: Jean Batiste & Stay Human, Janelle Monáe, Seth McFarlane, Fourplay Silver Anniversary (Bob James, Nathan East, Chuck Loeb and Harvey Mason), Cécile McLorin Salvant, Naturally 7, Freshlyground
3. Hampton Jazz Festival – June 24-26, Hampton, VA
Every year the Hampton Jazz Festival draws some of the biggest names in jazz, R&B, and blues to the Hampton Coliseum, and the 2016 installment is no exception. History buffs will find plenty to love about Hampton, VA’s colonial and Civil War past, and you can even make the short trip to nearby Washington D.C.’s if you’re feeling patriotic.
Lineup Highlights: Gladys Knight, New Edition, Charlie Wilson, Michael McDonald, Babyface, Boney James, Judith Hill
4. Vancouver International Jazz Festival – June 24-29, Vancouver, BC
Jazz fans in the Great White North will be lining up at Queen Elizabeth Theatre this June for the Vancouver International Jazz Festival. While in town, make some time to see everything Vancouver has to offer, from its bustling metropolis atmosphere and great dining scene to awe-inspiring ocean views and majestic forests.
Lineup Highlights: Ms. Lauryn Hill, Sarah McLachlan, Joe Jackson, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gregory Portor, Chick Corea and Bela Fleck, Hiromi: The Trio Project (with Alicia Hansen), Oliver Jones Trio
5. Montreal Jazz Festival (Festival International de Jazz de Montreal) – June 29-July 9, Montreal, QB
This legendary Montreal event holds the Guinness World Record for largest jazz festival, and it’s easy to see why — the massive celebration takes over Canada’s second largest city for a week and a half every summer, treating attendees to a whopping 11 days of world-class music. As you check out roughly 3,000 artists at venues all over town, you’ll also soak up the historic architecture, French heritage, and glistening island waterways of beautiful Montreal.
Lineup Highlights: Diana Ross, Santana, Wynton Marsalis, Lauryn Hill, Pat Metheny, Paco De Luca, John Fogerty, Noel Gallagher, Rufus Wainwright, St Germain, Ben Harper, Kamasi Washington, Joey Alexander
6. Newport Jazz Festival – July 26-31, Newport, RI
From Louis Armstrong to John Zorn, the Newport Jazz Festival has brought together a who’s-who of jazz at Fort Adams State Park for more than 60 years. In addition to the exceptional lineup, visitors can enjoy all the natural beauty this pristine oceanfront resort town has to offer.
Lineup Highlights: Norah Jones, Chick Corea, Kamasi Washington, Galactic, Charles Lloyd, Nels Cline, The Heath Brothers, Lizz Wright, Angélique Kidjo, José James
"The sound of @joeyalexandermusic playing piano at the Storyville and Quad stages on @60minutes last night was perfect; and that is the way the music always sounds at Newport. No matter which of the three stages you are at, the music fills your ears with happiness. Congratulations Joey, you're off to a great start." – George Wein
7. Jazz in the Gardens – March 18-20, Miami Gardens, FL
Jazz in the Gardens pulled out all the stops for its 11th edition, bringing a star-studded lineup of smooth and soulful acts to Sun Life Stadium earlier this March. It’s never hard to have fun in Miami Gardens (which is only a short hop north of Miami proper) — from beautiful beaches to sizzling night clubs, the action is always heating up in this vibrant city.
Lineup Highlights: Aretha Franklin, Charlie Wilson, Kool and the Gang, Usher, Janelle Monáe