Top Summer Jazz Festivals in France in 2017

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    History of Jazz in France

    Nice Jazz Festival, 2011
    ••• Pierre Behar / Nice Jazz Festival

    The love affair of France and jazz is a long one, dating back to World War I. Black musicians came as soldiers to fight in France and brought their new music to a Europe where dance music was still pretty staid. At first it was thought too American and too different but the popularity of the music spread. The 1920s saw musicians like Sidney Bechet then Archie Shepp settling permanently in France. In 1934 the Quinetette du Hot Club de France, one of the greatest and most influential jazz groups was formed, with Django Reinhardt as the principal guitarist adding another layer with his gypsy swing. Very soon France was jazz crazy.

    The first jazz festival in France was in Nice in 1948 with Louis Armstrong as the headline act. Today you’ll find jazz festivals all over France, from small villages to large cities. It's a roll call of the great and the good and during the summer months, the top jazz players make their way around France. So don’t worry if you miss the likes of Wayne Shorter...MORE or Wynston Marsalis in June or early July; chances are you can catch them in another corner of France where the music and the weather combine to make France's jazz festivals the best in the world.

    Here is a small selection of top summer jazz festivals in France.

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  • 02 of 11

    Django Reinhardt Jazz Festival

    Aimee & Django Festival All-Stars At Birdland
    ••• Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images / Contributor

    You can hear great jazz in Paris in the Bois de Vincennes Parc Floral on weekend afternoons in June and July. But for something different, try the 36th Django Reinhardt Festival on the island of Samois-sur-Seine where the great gypsy guitarist lived until his death here on May 16th, 1953.

    You'll also find a lot of improvised concerts, jam sessions, and exhibitions here and in and around the nearby town of Fontainebleau.

    Dates: July 1st-9th. 2017

    More Information

    Festival Website
    Tickets 28 to 32 euros, 5-day pass 110 euros

    Fontainebleau Tourist Office

    Where to Stay

    L’Aigle Noir
    27 pl Napoleon Bonaparte​
    Tel.: 00 33 (0)1 60 74 60 00
    Website
    A private 17-century house just opposite the Chateau. Lots of comforts and the Empire style.

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  • 03 of 11

    Besancon Jazz Festival

    Besancon
    ••• Besancon. BRINGARD Denis hemis.fr/Getty Images

    The 35th Festival Jazz & Musique Improvisée in Besançon is the place to make for if you're a fan of new music. Each year top musicians are joined by international innovative artists producing some amazing combinations of sounds and concepts. Most of the music is at the Théâtre Musical and Cinéma Kursaal, but some concerts take place in historic buildings like Château de Joux near Pontarlier.

    Dates: June 27th-July 1st, 2017

    More Information

    Festival Website
    Tickets on line or at many outlets in Besancon. Some concerts free.

    The dates are still to be decided; contact the festival website or the tourist office for more information. 

    Besançon Tourist Office

    Where to stay

    Chateau de la Dame Blanche
    1 chemin Goulotte
    Tel.:00 33 (0)3 81 57 64 64
    Website
    Just north of central Besancon, this delightful small chateau has a spa and pretty gardens to relax in

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  • 04 of 11

    Calvi Jazz Festival in Corsica

    Jam Session during Calvi Jazz Festival, Corsica
    ••• Calvi Jazz Festival

    The Calvi festival in Corsica takes place against the beautiful backdrop of the Citadel, built in 1268. The festival starts with a free concert, then continues with big names. The dates are not yet fixed for Calvi and there's a question mark over the whole festival, so check with the tourist office. 

    Dates: June 18-22, 2017

    More Information

    Calvi Tourist Board Website

    Where to stay

    Hostellerie de l’Abbaye
    Montee de l’Abbaye
    Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 95 65 04 27
    Website
    Comfortable, well-decorated rooms in a former 16th-century Franciscan abbey with a great garden.

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  • 05 of 11

    Vienne Jazz Festival

    viennejazzoff
    ••• G. Cibert

    The annual festival attracts the big names of jazz to the Roman city of Vienne, south of Lyon in the Rhone valley. The main stage is spectacular: it’s in the great Roman amphitheater which was built to hold 13,000 spectators and was one of the greatest urban theatres of the Roman Empire.

    Today the shouts of gladiators and the rumbling of chariots are replaced by names like Kool & the Gang, Ibrahim Maalouf, Robert Plant and Quincy Jones. There are four different stages and plenty of jazz in the towns and villages around. You can also sign up for workshops at the Academie du Jazz.

    Vienne has a great last Saturday night, with music played throughout from 8.30pm to 6am the following morning when coffee and croissants are served.

    Dates: June 29th-July 3rd, 2017

    More Information

    Festival website
    Tickets 36 euros to 47 euros

    Vienne Tourist Office

    Where to Stay

    Grand Hotel de la Poste
    47 cours Romestang
    Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 74 85 02 04
    Website
    Rooms recently renovated and decorated in bright colors make...MORE this a very good value option. But ask for a room overlooking the courtyard which will be quieter

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  • 06 of 11

    Jazz a Luz in the Pyrenees, July 13th to 16th, 2016

    luzjazzoutdoor
    ••• Luz Jazz Festival 2011. © Patrick Godeau

    Jazz à Luz is fabulous, taking place in high summer in a wonderful village right in the Pyrenees national park, just 30km south of Lourdes. They put on exciting acts, including improvised music and contemporary jazz interlaced with poetry, dance, cinema and percussion using different groups.

    This Festival d'Altitude is one of the most interesting and lively, with opportunities to meet the musicians and talk about their music. Like many of the other festivals, quite a few events are free.

    Dates: July 12th-15th, 2017

    More Information

    Festival website
    Tickets free or special four-day tarif from 70 euros to 100 euros depending on how soon you book.

    Luz Tourist Office

    Where to Stay

    Le Montaigu
    9 route de Vizos
    Esqvieze-sere
    Tel.: 00 33 (0)5 62 92 81 71
    Website
    42 rooms in a hotel at the foot of a ruined chateau. Big rooms, some renovated recently. Ask for one with a balcony and mountain view.

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  • 07 of 11

    Nice Jazz Festival

    nicejazzddbridge
    ••• Dee Dee Bridgewater at Nice Jazz Festival 2012. © Nice Jazz Festival

    Nice is the big daddy of jazz festivals, the first one ever to be held in France, starting in 1948. Originally in the Arènes de Cimiez high above the town, the festival is now more accessible in the Jardin Albert 1er down by the sea. There are still two stages, Massena and the theatre de Verdure, but the atmosphere is different.

    Dates: July 17th-21st, 2017

    More Information

    Festival website
    Tickets are from 27 euros to 37 euros for the day; 2-day pass 58 euros and 5-day pass 115 to 130 euros

    Nice Tourist Office

    Where to Stay

    If you want a luxury stay, try the newly opened Chateau Le Cagnard, 54 rue Sous Barri, Cagnes-sur-Mer. It's right in the heart of the hilltop village and is beautifully decorated. Tel: 00 33 (0)4 93 20 73 22; website

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  • 08 of 11

    Jazz a Juan-les-Pins

    Jazz at Juan-les-Pins
    ••• D. Vincendeau

    Jazz a Juan is one of my favorite jazz festivals, and the first one I ever went to. Against the backdrop of the stunning Mediterranean, the small town of Juan-les-Pins is taken over by jazz and jazz fans. Ever since Sidney Bechet arrived here in 1951, jazz has meant a lot to Juan.

    Dates: July 15th-23rd, 2017

    More Information

    Festival website
    Tickets 25 euros to 75 euros per concert

    Antibes-Juan-les-Pins Tourist Office

    Where to Stay

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  • 09 of 11

    Jazz in Marciac, Midi-Pyrenees

    Jazz in Marciac
    ••• Francis Vernhet

    In contrast to the big blockbuster festivals, this is a delightful, intimate jazz festival in tiny, 13th-century Marciac which lies between the cities of Pau and Auch. But it still attracts the big names, and being small, you really get close to the music. The festival began in 1978 with one concert organized by a local teacher. It grew and grew, totally transforming the town. Today the local College de Marciac school even offers a specialist jazz education.

    Jazz à Marciac takes place on two stages: Chapiteau and L’Astrada. There’s also Off jazz on the place de l’Hotel de Ville.

    Dates: July 28th-August 15th, 2017

    More Information

    Festival website
    Tickets from 32 euros to 40 euros. 4 concerts 156 euros to 190 euros, 6 concerts from 213 euros to 261 euros, 8 concerts from 260 euros to 320 euros; other packages also available. Free concerts as well.

    Marciac Tourist Office

    Where to Stay

    Villa Navarre
    59 av Trespoey
    Tel.: 00 33 (0)5 59 14 65 65
    Website
    Just outside the city center in its own park, this...MORE is 1865 building offers pretty gracious accommodation and a dining room open to the skies on summer evenings.

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  • 10 of 11

    Souillac en Jazz

    Jazz Festival
    ••• Edu Hawkins / Getty Images

    This is something special -– a jazz festival that opens in the spectacular underground Grottes de Lacave near the sacred site of Rocamadour. Then it takes over the small town of Souillac in the Dordogne with performances in the place Pierre Betz, and finishes in the cloisters of a church. It attracts some of the great names but also highlights young musicians.

    There’s plenty of free al fresco entertainment as well, and groups play through Souillac and the neighboring villages.

    Make it part of a trip around the Dordogne.

    Dates: July 15th-22nd, 2017

    More Information

    Festival website
    Tickets 20 euros to 30 euros.

    Dordogne Tourist Office

    Where to Stay

    Le Pavillon St-Martin
    5 pl St-Martin
    Tel.: 00 33 (0)5 65 32 63 45
    Website
    Charming 3-star hotel with pretty rooms in a historic 16th-century building opposite the ​bell tower. Breakfast is in a stone-vaulted room.

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  • 11 of 11

    Jazz en Ville, Vannes

    A jazz saxophone player.
    ••• Beverley Goodwin / Creative Commons via Flickr

    Jazz en Ville is the new name of an established festival at Vannes which invades the medieval city of half-timbered houses and cobbled streets at the end of July. It’s the biggest jazz festival in Brittany, taking over various different venues including the port where many free concerts are held, and attracting a large audience.

    The New Orleans-inspired festival begins with a free concert on the right bank of the port.

    Dates: July 23rd-30th, 2017

    More Information

    Festival website
    Tickets 15 to 35 euros; 4 nights 50 to 100 euros.
    Vannes Tourist Office

    Where to Stay

    Hotel Villa Kerasy
    20 av Favrel et Lincy
    Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 97 68 36 83
    Website
    On the Golf of Morbihan, this hotel and spa of just 12 well-designed rooms is a great place to stay. Spa packages and a garden inspired by Japan in the summer.