The Jacksonville Jazz Festival Returns May 23-26: Don’t Miss a Single Beat

By Kerry Speckman

Without question, the Jacksonville Jazz Festival is one of the most highly anticipated events of the year. And the 2024 version, held May 23-26, will be no exception boasting performances from Brian Culbertson, the Brian McKnight 4, the Stanley Clarke Band, Joss Stone and Robin Thicke (yes, he of the 2013 earworm “Blurred Lines” but more on that in a minute).

For four decades, the event has brought some of the most renowned names in jazz — and other genres — to the River City for one main reason, according to Alex Alston, chief of sports and entertainment division for the City of Jacksonville: uniting our city while attracting visitors to enjoy music and build community.

“Music is a universal language that connects people of all ages, cultures and economic backgrounds, and the City of Jacksonville is proud to produce this iconic event to showcase amazing artists alongside our growing metropolitan city,” Alston said.

Over the years, the festival, which has grown to one of the largest free jazz festivals in the country, has hosted legends of jazz including Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Guy, Branford Marsalis, Mavis Staples and Harry Connick Jr., along with artists on the rise.

One of the reasons the festival has been so successful, Alston said, is tradition (and attracting world-class talent), but he also praised the mayoral administrations over the past 40 years for their support of the event that and the fact that it “provides something for everyone, making it a sustainable event that all can enjoy,” Alston added. “The Jazz Festival has such a long history and tradition that it continues to draw repeat guests and add new attendees. The long-held tradition of Jacksonville music lovers brings whole families returning to the event year after year. The Jazz Festival continues to showcase our city in all of the best ways, from the streets of Downtown to the riverfront views.”

This year’s event kicks off Thursday with the Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition Thursday at the Florida Theatre (tickets required) followed by three days of free live music in Jacksonville’s Sports & Entertainment District, including jazz jams and jazz clinics. In addition to the music, which will be performed on two stages, the 2024 Jacksonville Jazz Festival features the Jazz Marketplace, a unique shopping experience with jazz, food and drinks.

“The 2024 Jacksonville Jazz Festival unveils a fresh experience at Daily’s Place Amphitheater, presented by Jacksonville Aviation Authority (JAA), and returns to one of our early venues with performances at our beloved Metropolitan Park Stage, presented by Publix Super Markets,” Alston said. “The new location will offer patrons two unique festival experiences, one of which will feel familiar and nostalgic, while the other will feel fresh and offer a different kind of festival vibe from the amphitheater setting.  The Jazz Festival will fill our city with talented artists and vibrant jazz.”

Well, technically, they won’t all be jazz, but Alston believes adding non-jazz artists like

Grammy-nominated, Billboard Award-winning singer-songwriter, Robin Thicke, enriches the experience for music lovers of all kinds.

“In building our list of performers we value a range of music styles offering something for everyone in our live audience. R&B offers a combination of jazz, blues, and gospel, leveraging rhythm and tempo to deliver great sounds and enjoyable music. We are excited to bring Thicke and all other musical talent to our festival audience,” Alston said. “We always try to be diligent in how we program the event, keeping some core jazz elements, but also offering some different elements to appeal to a wide range of citizens and out of town guests.”

For more information on the 2024 Jacksonville Jazz Festival, visit jacksonvillejazzfest.com.

About Kerry Speckman