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Jazz Across the USA: The Best Festivals and Events

Jazz is one of the oldest forms of popular music in the world. Not surprisingly, it still has millions of devoted fans who seek out the best places to hear that unique blend of saxophones, guitars, drums, and soulful vocals that many other genres of music just can’t match. For American jazz fans, there’s never a shortage of places to go to see their beloved music live and in person.

For starters, there’s the Monterey Jazz Festival in Monterey, California. This is the oldest jazz festival in the country, dating back to 1958. It’s a three-day celebration of all things jazz, and some of the greatest performers in the world play here each year. Not only does it feature live music, but it also has jazz workshops, clinics, panel discussions on the meaning of jazz, and other festivities that take place on the enormous 20-acre fairgrounds.

The second biggest jazz festival in the country is located in Jacksonville, Florida, and it’s appropriately called the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. Part jazz concerts, part art show, and part wine tasting, this festival is where some of the genre’s biggest names have performed, including Roberta Flack, the legendary Miles Davis, Kenny G, and Harry Connick Jr.

Fans of more traditional Southern jazz can enjoy a free festival in New Orleans, Louisiana, at the French Quarter Festival. It features almost every subgenre within jazz, including old-timey styles all the way to new experimental forms of jazz. Bands that specialize in R&B, New Orleans-style funk, International jazz, and more often make appearances as well. This festival also features a huge food and beverage offering, and there are more than 65 booths for guests to sample cuisine from around the world.

People in the Northeast can also experience jazz at the Great Connecticut Traditional Jazz Fest in River Valley, Connecticut. With a giant 140-acre setup, this jazz festival offers an entire weeklong celebration complete with camping, boating on the Salmon River, mini golf, and more. It’s more than just a jazz festival—it’s almost like a theme park that has something for the entire family.

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