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UK Jazz Festival List - UK Jazz Festival Guide

Best of the UK Jazz Festival Circuit

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Rock and Pop Festival fans did not invent the freewheeling music festival, outdoors, in tents and makeshift concert halls. The Jazz Festival has been around a lot longer. In the UK, the Jazz Festival circuit draws on a tradition of hot and cool jazz, jam sessions and performances of international jazz artists. This UK Jazz Festival List will help you find some of the best.

Isle of Wight Jazz Festival

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They call the Isle of Wight England's "Deep South", so what more fitting place to host one of the UK's best Jazz Festivals.

Centered around the coastal resort of Ventor, The Isle of Wight Jazz Festival includes events staged in theatres, hotels and nightclubs, as well as open air parks around the Isle of Wight. The lineup of this April festival is announced almost a year in advance and tickets sell out quickly. Check the website the summer before you hope to attend.

It's special because... An all stars jam session is a new feature for the Sunday night festival close. Top jazz musicians as well as surprise guests from other music worlds create totally new sounds.

Official website

Nantwich Jazz, Blues and Music Festival

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A spring jazz and blues festival in the pretty Cheshire resort town of Nantwich. The festival attracts top British acts. There are lots of regulars, like the UK's top jive and swing band, the Jive Aces, as well as new acts every year. There are about 20 venues, including the Civic Hall and the Crown Hotel, with festival wristband wearers gaining free admission to lots of informal music in restaurants and pubs around town.

It's special because... Between sessions, the South Cheshire market town of Nantwich, with its traditional Indoor and Outdoor Market, is fun to explore.

Official website

Cheltenham Jazz Festival

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An annual feast of live music ranging from avant garde jazz to performances by well established jazz legends and stars. Venues include the neoclassical Town Hall, Cheltenham Race Course, churches, clubs and pubs. Performers are always top rank. In 2007, French-American jazz singer Madeleine Peyroux and American sax player Charles Lloyd were among the headliners. In 2009, the Dave Douglas Quintet performed and violinist Nigel Kennedy wandered through the audience to the stage playing a bodyless Violectra.

It's special because... All of Cheltenham, a beautiful 18th and 19th century spa town, gets drawn in and there are usually spontaneous surprises. In 2009 flash mobs jived and salsa'd in the town center.Watch a video

Official website

Glasgow International Jazz Festival

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Since it was named the European City of Culture, in 1990, Scotland's "second city" has become cooler and cooler. The popular annual jazz festival features mostly home grown talent salted with a handful of top echelon international artists. In 2009 Chick Corea gave a solo concert, Neil Sedaka and Kyle Eastwood - Clint's boy - appeared. Expect everything from free improv, blues, cool and hot jazz, reggae, hiphop, fusion, progressive, R&B, and soul to Dixieland, New Orleans style and Swing.

It's special because... Glasgow's hip music vibe adds a special atmosphere to this festival.

Official website

Royal Windsor Jazz & Beer Festival

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An excellent line-up of jazz bands beside the river in Windsor. In 2009, for example, the festival scheduled the James Taylor Quartet (the Hammond Organ jazz instrumentalist, not the singer songwriter), The Chicago Blues Brothers and London-based Brazilian Bossa Nova singer Jandira Silva. Make sure to visit the official website. It takes forever to load but the wait is worth it as all the bands have submitted generous music clips.

It's special because...What sets this festival apart is that it is also a typical British beer festival, featuring a variety of beers, real ales and other summery British drinks, like Pimms, wine, cocktails and soft drinks.

Official website

Kirkcudbright Jazz Festival

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A local festival that celebrates traditional jazz - Dixieland, Swing and New Orleans. Among the highlights are a jazz church service and a Brolly Parade, which seems to involve a lot of old dears decorating umbrellas and marching through the center of town. Bands from UK, Sweden and Canada usually play. Located Dumfries and Galloway, a quiet underpopulated part of Scotland, Kirkcudbright (pronounced cur COO bree) is considered and artists town because of the special quality of its light.

It's special because...In June, this beautiful area is still light at midnight and great to explore.

Official website

BRASS: Durham International Festival

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More than a Jazz Festival, this is a celebration of brass. Brass musicians of all persuasions converge on Durham for this annual event from around the world. Solo artists, concert bands and traditional British colliery bands gather for three weeks of events. Brass players from the UK and Ireland perform alongside artists from Austria, Iceland, Nigeria, Canada and the USA who regularly attend.

It's special because... For aficionados it is a feast of every style of brass music, from traditional bands to Klezmer and East European folk music, from blues and jazz artists to Afro beat and rap music. You never knew brass bands could have so much variety.

Official website

Tenby Blues Festival

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This three day festival features real down and dirty blues blues performers - mostly men, mostly British, with an occasional visiting artist from the USA. The 13th century walled town, with its towers and arches is an unusual place for listening to this quintessentially American soul sound, but it works and it's very popular.

It's special because... There are loads of free gigs during the all-day Saturday and Sunday night pub and club crawl. A Sunday Jazz Quiz tests the genuine aficionados.

Official website

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