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History of Jazz in France
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... 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.Continue to 2 of 11 below.
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Django Reinhardt Jazz Festival
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
Tickets 28 to 32 euros, 5-day pass 110 euros
Where to Stay
27 pl Napoleon Bonaparte
Tel.: 00 33 (0)1 60 74 60 00
A private 17-century house just opposite the Chateau. Lots of comforts and the Empire style.Continue to 3 of 11 below.
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Besancon Jazz Festival
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
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.
Where to stay
Chateau de la Dame Blanche
1 chemin Goulotte
Tel.:00 33 (0)3 81 57 64 64
Just north of central Besancon, this delightful small chateau has a spa and pretty gardens to relax inContinue to 4 of 11 below.
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Calvi Jazz Festival in Corsica
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
Where to stay
Hostellerie de l’Abbaye
Montee de l’Abbaye
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 95 65 04 27
Comfortable, well-decorated rooms in a former 16th-century Franciscan abbey with a great garden.Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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Vienne Jazz Festival
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
Tickets 36 euros to 47 euros
Where to Stay
Grand Hotel de la Poste
47 cours Romestang
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 74 85 02 04
Rooms recently renovated and decorated in bright colors make... this a very good value option. But ask for a room overlooking the courtyard which will be quieterContinue to 6 of 11 below.
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Jazz a Luz in the Pyrenees, July 13th to 16th, 2016
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
Tickets free or special four-day tarif from 70 euros to 100 euros depending on how soon you book.
Where to Stay
9 route de Vizos
Tel.: 00 33 (0)5 62 92 81 71
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.Continue to 7 of 11 below.
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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
Tickets are from 27 euros to 37 euros for the day; 2-day pass 58 euros and 5-day pass 115 to 130 euros
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; websiteContinue to 8 of 11 below.
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Jazz a Juan-les-Pins
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
Tickets 25 euros to 75 euros per concert
Where to StayContinue to 9 of 11 below.
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Jazz in Marciac, Midi-Pyrenees
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
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.
Where to Stay
59 av Trespoey
Tel.: 00 33 (0)5 59 14 65 65
Just outside the city center in its own park, this... is 1865 building offers pretty gracious accommodation and a dining room open to the skies on summer evenings.Continue to 10 of 11 below.
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Souillac en Jazz
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
Tickets 20 euros to 30 euros.
Where to Stay
Le Pavillon St-Martin
5 pl St-Martin
Tel.: 00 33 (0)5 65 32 63 45
Charming 3-star hotel with pretty rooms in a historic 16th-century building opposite the bell tower. Breakfast is in a stone-vaulted room.Continue to 11 of 11 below.
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Jazz en Ville, Vannes
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
Where to Stay
Hotel Villa Kerasy
20 av Favrel et Lincy
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 97 68 36 83
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.