If you love jazz and long to travel, are you ever in luck. Every year, hundreds of the world’s best travel destinations also just happen to host some of the world’s best jazz festivals.
Jazz is one of the few cultural creations America can truly call its own, a lively, soulful, passionately expressive style of music that has spread and is respected the world over.
Why then does it seem that people in other parts of the world have more respect for jazz than we do? These, it’s all about rock, country and hip-hop.
Among black kids in particular, jazz seems to be thought of as old folks’ music. When you consider that it was black America that gave jazz to the world in the first place, there’s something especially sad about that.
These days, you often have to hunt for a good jazz station on commercial radio — and in much of America, you won’t find one. Were it not for Internet radio, a lot of Americans might never hear a jazz broadcast.
In your typical music shop, the jazz section will be among the smallest in the store…and you may have noticed it shrinking over time.
AMERICAN MADE, RESPECTED WORLDWIDE
But jazz was more than just America’s first homegrown cultural artifact. It also was America’s first cultural export, and it has spread just about everywhere.
Outside the United States, there is no generation gap when it comes to jazz. It’s as popular with the young as it is with their parents, and new waves of jazz musicians around the world are pushing it forward.
What does all this mean to you as a traveler?
It means that if you want to pack your bags and see the world while you listen to some of its greatest jazz artists in the world — old and new — at the same time, you have a delightfully dizzying array of destinations from which to choose.
All over the world, virtually any time of the year. Straight ahead jazz, Dixieland jazz, “smooth” jazz, Latin jazz, acid jazz, and everything in between. It’s all out there for you.
TOO MANY TO COUNT
My first plan for this blog entry was to count up all the major jazz festivals around the world so you could have your own list of options. When I got to a hundred with no end in sight, I stopped.
Your best bet is to choose a region and pick a season, then do a Web search on your chosen destination along with the term “jazz festivals.” Unless you’re contemplating a vacation in Antarctica or North Korea, you’ll probably find at least one.
One? Between them, the United Kingdom and France at least 30.
Theoretically, you could easily do a summer jazz fest in Britain one night, then hop the Eurostar train under the English Channel the next morning and catch one somewhere in France the next.
After stopping for a leisurely lunch and a kir in a Paris cafe.
Equally short rail runs could take you to major jazz gatherings in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Italy, Austria.
Denmark? Norway? Sweden? Russia? Ja, ja, ja and da. Finland? Jep! Montreux, Switzerland and island of Malta. Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Europe is awash in jazz.
Not in the mood for Europe? What about Asia or the Pacific? China. Japan. The Philippines. Thailand. India. Indonesia. Hong Kong. Australia. New Zealand.
Prefer to stay a just closer to home? The Caribbean is dotted with gorgeous destinations — and jazz festivals. The Dominican Republic, Aruba, Jamaica, Barbados, Anguilla, Trinidad & Tobago, Cuba.
Want to catch a major jazz festival on the Mother Continent? The Cape Town Jazz Festival in South Africa has got you covered.
If you’ve got some favorite jazz artists, and a part of the world you’ve always wanted to see, the odds are pretty good that at least one of them is playing in festival in at least one of those places in any given year.
If the timing of your vacation won’t allow you to hit the big jazz fests — and given the number of options you have on both side of the Equator, that’s frankly hard to believe — the world’s great cities also are home to many of the world’s great jazz clubs. Especially London and Paris.
Paris, in particular, has a love affair with jazz that goes back to the days of World War 1, when black American soldiers and expatriates introduced it to them, along with gospel music (and you’ll find festivals in Paris for that, too).
For black Americans, Paris is as much the City of Sound as it is the City of Light.
At these varied festivals around the planet, you’ll hear the best jazz artists on the planet — not just the established superstars of the music world, but local and regional greats, up-and-comers whom you might never hear if you had to rely strictly on American commercial radio.
The only downside to that is that your monthly budget for music may go drastically up. But really, is that such a bad thing?
So when you’re ready, start packing, pick your destination, and go take a listen to the sound that America gave to the world!