Alright, there's something we have to get out of the way before heading into this list. There are two common misconceptions about jazz that need dealing with, for everyone's benefit.
First, the idea that jazz somehow lays outside of, or is beyond, the spectrum of other musical genres, untouched by the unworthy hands of lower forms of music. This is simply not true. All genres, even jazz, influence and are influenced by each other, and this is a good thing.
Second, and perhaps more perilous, the notion that jazz is dying or already dead (thanks La La Land). This really couldn't be further from the truth. Sure, the stereotypical image of trumpet, sax, keys, bass and drums coming together to play music that sounds like Kind of Blue B-sides may not draw the audiences it did in the 60s, but that doesn't mean the genre is on life support.
Jazz, like all other genres, has evolved, changing with the times and incorporating new sounds and approaches as it goes along. The only way for a genre to die is for it to dry up creatively and get stuck in the same sounds (just look at rock and roll these days). It would mean far worse things for jazz if its traditional sound did still draw the same attention it did in decades past.
Anyways, rant over. Just stick on some Yussef Kamal, Yazz Ahmed, Kamasi Washington or Terrence Martin and tell me jazz is irrelevant.
And now with your faith in the genre reaffirmed, here are the top 10 jazz festivals in Europe.
Wicked Jazz Sounds Festival
Headliners: Tony Allen, Jungle By Night,
The first festival on our list perfectly embodies the contemporary jazz scene. Presenting lineups of not only jazz but hip hop, afrobeat, soul and electronic genres, Wicked Jazz Sounds isn't for the traditionalist, but the music lover. Free spirited and full of 20somethings ready to let loose, this is about as far from jazz's bourgeoise image as you can get.
When & where: 24 June 2017, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Jazz à Vienne
Headliners: Herbie Hancock, Jamie Cullum, Mary J. Blige
Taking over the charming and historic town of Vienne every year, Jazz à Vienne is an all-around powerhouse. Offering the biggest names in jazz and its related genres, the festival could take place in the ugliest of settings and still be one of the best festivals of its kind. Thankfully, though, this isn't the case. Using a roman-built, 7000 seat amphitheater as its main stage, this is a festival like no other.
When & where: 29 June - 13 July 2017, Vienne, France
Love Supreme Jazz Festival
Headliners: The Jacksons, Herbie Hancock, George Benson
Love Supreme is perhaps the biggest testament to jazz's intertwined nature with the broader musical landscape on this list. The three day affair fills out its jazz-focussed lineup with an eclectic array of acts from pop to soul to hip hop and beyond. It's at festivals like this that you can really see the interconnectedness of all genres.
When & where: 30 June - 2 July 2017, Lewes, United Kingdom
Montreux Jazz Festival
Headliners: Herbie Hancock, Solange, Grace Jones
The most famous of the bunch, Montreux Jazz Festival is also one of the biggest jazz festivals in the world. Though over its half century it has expanded to include boundary-pushing acts of all genres, jazz is still the anchor keeping the Swiss festival firmly rooted as one of the most respected festivals in the world. Oh, and Lake Geneva and the Alps act as a backdrop for the festival. Not so bad, right?
When & where: 30 June - 15 July 2017, Montreux, Switzerland
Django Reinhardt Festival
Headliners: Larry Graham & Graham Central Station, Asaf Avidan, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
Started as a one off tribute to the legendary guitarist, Django Reinhardt Festival grew into an annual celebration of modern jazz. Less about legacy acts and more about contemporary creativity, the festival carries on its namesake's mission to innovate and influence.
When & where: 6-9 July 2017, Fontainebleau, France
Gent Jazz Festival
Headliners: Grace Jones, Herbie Hancock, Kamasi Washington
Spread across two weekends, Gent Jazz Festival is the best of both worlds. The first weekend is a purist's delight, offering a more traditional take on jazz, while the second explores how the genre's fingerprints can be found throughout music, with a more varied group of artists on display.
When & where: 6-9 and 13-15 July 2017, Gent Belgium
North Sea Jazz Festival
Headliners: Norah Jones, Herbie Hancock, Van Morrison
Some festivals take time to take hold, others are just so perfect they are an instant hit. North Sea Jazz Festival is firmly in the latter category. Starting in 1976 with a bang, featuring the likes of Miles Davis, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie and more, organisers haven't looked back since. Now the largest indoor jazz festival in the world, North Sea Jazz should be on the bucket list for any fan of the genre.
When & where: 7-9 July 2017, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Headliners: Brian Wilson, Kraftwerk, Jamie Cullum
Presenting modern sounds in a historic setting, Umbria Jazz festival is all about comparing and contrasting. Here time is not linear, genre not defined. The city itself is a university town known for its artistic intellectualism which has no doubt influenced the festival's atmosphere. It's all about musical creativity and exploration.
When & where: 7 - 16 July 2017, Perugia, Italy
Headliners: Tony Allen Quartet, Bill Frisell, Van Morrison
One of the oldest continual jazz festivals in Europe, Jazz Middelheim dates back to 1969. Taking place at the serene Park Den Brandt on a riverbank surrounded by forests, the festival is a long weekend escape into sound. A festival doesn't last a half-century by chance. Organisers expertly curate lineups of up-and-coming and established talent, keeping the festival fresh year after year.
When & where: 3-6 August 2017, Antwerp, Belgium
Headliners: Jamie Cullum, Gregory Porter, Beady Belle
With upwards of 90 performances spread across 18 venues throughout downtown Oslo, ranging from small clubs to large concert halls, Oslo Jazzfestival is a week long musical celebration. Being decentralised, it feels like the entire city is ablaze with jazz fever, and a palpable buzz takes over the Norwegian capital.
When & where: 12-19 August 2017, Oslo, Norway
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