Do you want to hear some great jazz? Conventional wisdom would suggest that you need to visit New York to see jazz in all of its glory. But, if you want to see live jazz and get the biggest bang for your hard-earned buck, you should check out a jazz festival. It doesn't matter where you're located or how big (or small) your budget is, there is likely a cool jazz event happening in a town or city near you.
The 36th Annual Atlanta Jazz Festival will kick off during Memorial Day weekend, May 25–27, in Piedmont Park. Fans will be able to enjoy the music of BWB (a super group comprising Rick Braun and GRAMMY winners Kirk Whalum and Norman Brown featuring special guest GRAMMY winner Chrisette Michele), bassist Meshell Ndegeocello, saxist Tia Fuller, and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire's quintet. The festival will also highlight up-and-coming artists such as vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant and pianist/composer Aaron Diehl with his quartet.
Over on the West Coast you can find more live music to savor at the 15th Annual Healdsburg Jazz Festival in Sonoma County in California. This year's 10-day schedule (May 31–June 9) includes a two-day tribute to 2013 Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Charlie Haden, featuring performances by multi-instrumentalist/composer Carla Bley, Haden's Quartet West with special guest GRAMMY nominee Ravi Coltrane, alto saxist Lee Konitz, guitarist Bill Frisell, and pianist Geri Allen, among others. Additional artists scheduled to perform during the festival include GRAMMY-nominated African-American a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey In The Rock, saxist/flautist Charles Lloyd and pianist Jason Moran, the Sylvia Cuenca Trio, and the Marcus Shelby Orchestra and HJF Freedom Jazz Choir.
If you are north of the U.S. border, don't worry. On June 28 Canada residents will enjoy the beginning of the International Jazz Festival in Montreal. Through July 7, the festival will feature an array of legendary musical talent, including GRAMMY winners Aretha Franklin, George Benson, Wynton Marsalis, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, among others.
The following event should not be missed: saxist/composer and multi-GRAMMY winner Wayne Shorter will celebrate his 80th birthday during the Montreal jazz festival with a star-studded performance with Danilo Perez, John Patitucci, Brian Blade, Joe Lovano, and the Dave Douglas Quintet. Also set to perform are ACS: Allen, Carrington, Spalding, which will feature pianist Geri Allen and GRAMMY winners drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and bassist Esperanza Spalding.
If you decide to fit a jazz festival into your summer plans this year, you are sure to hear fantastic music, meet cool people and enjoy great food, too.