Jazz Fest

Jay Mafela

Jazz. The musical gateway to the soul. A testament to America’s culture. And there’s no better place to find it than the Jacksonville Jazz Festival.

The Jacksonville Jazz Festival returns for its 42nd year May 26–29. Ever since starting in 1980 as the Mayport And All That Jazz Festival, the event grew until it became not only a core part of the city’s arts and culture, but one of the biggest jazz festivals in the country.

The event is free to the public with VIP and preferred seating packages available for a fee. Those who purchase preferred seating receive benefits such as front row seating and private bathrooms; meanwhile VIPs receive all those and more. One additional benefit for VIPs includes tickets and special seating to the Piano Competition on on May 26. Five pianists will go key-to-key in front of a panel of judges for a cash prize and the opportunity to join the festival lineup. The competitors this year include Rafael Zaldivar, Seth Finch, David Caldwell-Mason, Jason Yeager and Jordan Williams. VIPs get special seats to the event while the general public can watch if they have their free ticket.

From there, the festival begins with back-to-back performances each day from 4–11 p.m. The festival will feature performances from the United States Air Force Airmen of Note, Patti LaBelle, Herbie Hancock and many more to be announced. The Jacksonville Jazz Festival is split between two stages: The Swingin’ Stage on Riverfront Plaza and the Groovin’ Stage by Ford.

On Saturday, the festival and Hot 99.5 FM hold a “jam session” where jazz performers, jazz students and anyone else who registers can come up on stage and play some improv jazz. This year, the event is hosted by the John Lumpkin Trio. Saturday will also feature a performance by members of the Jacksonville JHall of Fame and the UNF Jazz Ensemble.

Along with the concerts, the festival will announce who will be enshrined in the Jacksonville Jazz Festival Hall of Fame this year. Individuals who have already received the honor include Teddy Washington, Bernard Howard and Jake Godbold.

Not only will attendees be able to enjoy the jazz music floating across the St. Johns, but they can also go to the Jazz Marketplace, where they can purchase art and other wares. The market will sell this year’s commemorative poster for the festival, created by Jacksonville artist Chris Clark.

An entire weekend of food, art and jazz, right here in Jacksonville? Come see what makes the Jacksonville Jazz Festival one of the most popular events of the year beginning May 26.