Paris is legendary for its jazz scene, rivaling New Orleans and New York at certain points in history. While the golden days of Dizzy Gillespie or Duke Ellington are arguably past, the city continues to harbor some excellent annual festivals highlighting talent from around the world and focusing on the whole panoply of jazz genres. Whether you're a hardcore fan or a curious amateur, make sure to get in on these fantastic happenings in the city.
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Every summer, the vast Bois de Vincennes park holds a series of quasi-free jazz concerts at its lovely Parc Floral (floral gardens). Spanning around six weeks, the Paris Jazz Festival at the Parc Floral sees talented jazz performers take to the open-air stage for languid afternoons of great music. Pack a picnic and blanket and enjoy the riffs.
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For jazz fans, May is the sweetest of months in Paris: the St-Germain-des-Pres Jazz festival brings dozens of talented performers from around the world to some of the city's legendary streets and indoor venues for a series of concerts. Some are even free. St-Germain may be better known for existentialist philosophers grimly pondering the world in cafes rather than for exuberant riffs on the sax, but the now-conservative district takes on an entirely different vibe for the occasion of the annual festival.
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Jazz fans visiting Paris might instinctively attempt to track the ghosts of greats like Dizzy Gillespie or Django Reinhardt at some of the city's more classical jazz clubs, but the contemporary pulse of jazz-- with the exception of edgier clubs like New Morning-- is mostly now found in the northern suburbs. The Paris jazz festival dubbed Banlieues Bleues takes the northern towns of St Denis, Pantin and others by storm every year in the early spring, proffering a dizzying program of jazz talents from around the world. All genres, from Afro-Cuban rhythms, New Orleans style, to acid and experimental, are represented.