Europe, at this time of year, is very easy to fall in love with. The sun warms the architecture with its golden rays, chatter and the clinging of silverware spills from cafés everywhere, and everyone has a noticeable spring in their step (albeit seasonal). As wonderful as all of this may be, it is the countless jazz festivals that have deepened my love for Europe.
I have attended a half dozen or so of jazz festivals in Europe, and I’ve always caught my plane/train home smiling. Jazz has a wonderful knack for attracting people from all ages and all corners of the world; the same is true about the musicians who perform as well. I’ve danced and had many a conversation with lively folks, especially in Copenhagen and Brussels. What’s more, is that it is such a joy to see so many musicians doing what they love, living their dreams.
Jazz festivals tend to vary by city, but the one thing they all have in common is that each city lives and breathes jazz. Even the tiniest restaurants and coffee shops make room for live performances. And it is those small, intimate performances and those that take place on street corners that tend to be the most memorable. From latin jazz to swing to acid jazz, it’s all there.
I think Brussels has the most seamlessly organized of the ones I’ve attended. They somehow manage to host a 3-day festival with over 400 performers and make it free. Yes, that’s right, every single performance is free – even the shuttle buses that take festival-goers from site to site is free. And I have to give it to the Belgians: they sure know how to make the festival a huge success, irrespective of the weather.
A couple years back, I saw a wonderfully fun band called Swing Strings, which played at a tiny record store in an uptown neighborhood of Copenhagen. After two hours of sultry jazz vocals and laid-back beats, their cds sold out. If you can get your hands on the Red Shoes album, do so – you won’t regret it.
But enough of me and all this talk of festivals. Spring is here, and it’s time for you to break out a nice bottle of French rosé, throw on a Dave Brubeck cd, go soak up some rays, and celebrate being alive.
For those jazz junkies out there, I’m listing a handful of this summer’s major jazz festivals below. If you need help planning your trip or with any other logistics, feel free to email me with questions firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jazz Festivals in Europe
28 April – 3 May: The Cheltenham International Jazz Festival – Cheltenham, UK http://cheltenhamfestivals.com/jazz/
16 May – 30 May: Jazz in Saint Germain des Prés – Paris, France http://www.festivaljazzsaintgermainparis.com/festival-jazz-saint-germain-des-pres-paris/en/
28-30 May: Brussels Jazz Marathon – Brussels, Belgium http://www.brusselsjazzmarathon.be/
10-12 June: Stockholm Jazz Festival – Stockholm, Sweden http://www.stockholmjazz.com/en
2-11 July: Copenhagen Jazz Festival – Copenhagen, Denmark http://www.jazz.dk/en/copenhagen-jazz-festival
2-17 July: Montreux Jazz Festival – Montreux, Switzerland http://www.montreuxjazz.com/2010/en
17-24 July: Nice Jazz Festival – Nice, France http://www.nicejazzfestival.fr/
23 July – 1 August: Venezia Jazz Festival – Venice, Italy http://www.venetojazz.com/index.jsp
16-24 August: Oslo Jazz Festival – Oslo, Norway http://www.oslojazz.no/indexENG.php