History of the Atlanta Jazz Festival

Regarded as one of the country’s largest and longest-running free jazz festivals, the Atlanta Jazz Festival is an annual musical showcase that celebrates jazz music with events across Atlanta, culminating with a two-day festival every Memorial Day weekend.

By Atlanta Jazz Festival

Tim “Smithsoneon” Smith of Freelance Performing during the 2019 Atlanta Jazz Festival (2019-05-25) by Drew DinwiddieAtlanta Jazz Festival

Originally named “The Atlanta Free Jazz Festival,” the festival was first established in 1978 by Atlanta’s first African American mayor, Maynard Jackson, to celebrate America’s only original art form and the City’s growing reputation as an international center of the arts.

Lizz Wright Performing During the 2019 Atlanta Jazz Festival (2019-05) by Drew DinwiddieAtlanta Jazz Festival

Since then, Atlanta Jazz Festival has hosted luminaries of the Jazz music tradition including, Lionel Hampton (1980), Dizzy Gillespie (1988 and 1990), Wynton Marsalis (1989), Nina Simone (2000), Ray Charles (2002), Miles Davis (1983), Herbie Hancock (2000) and many more.

Rhonda Ross Kendrick Performing at the 2019 Atlanta Jazz Festival (2019-05-25) by Drew DinwiddieAtlanta Jazz Festival

Rhonda Ross Kendrick performing on the Meadow Stage during the 2019 Atlanta Jazz Festival.

Kenny Banks, Sr. Performing at the 2019 Atlanta Jazz Festival (2019-05-25) by Drew DinwiddieAtlanta Jazz Festival

Pianist Kenny Banks, Sr. performing on the Meadow Stage with singer Lizz Wright during the 2019 Atlanta Jazz Festival.

OKCello Performing During the 2019 Atlanta Jazz Festival (2019-05-26) by Drew DinwiddieAtlanta Jazz Festival

Artist OkCello performing on the Oak Hill Stage during the 2019 Atlanta Jazz Festival.

2019 Atlanta Jazz Festival (2019-05) by Terence RushinAtlanta Jazz Festival

Although traditionally hosted in Piedmont Park, throughout the years, various parks across the City have hosted the jazz festival, including Grant Park, Chastian Park, and Centennial Park.

Rhonda Thomas Performing During the 2019 Atlanta Jazz Festival (2019-05) by Terence RushinAtlanta Jazz Festival

In the mid-2000s, the festival expanded into a month-long celebration of Jazz with 31 Days of Jazz. Running from May 1st to 31st, 31 Days of Jazz unites the City through Jazz by partnering with venues to present unique jazz experiences every day during the month. 

MARTA Monday at Midtown Station (2018-05-21) by Matthew AlexandreAtlanta Jazz Festival

MARTA Mondays at Midtown Station

Presented in partnership with the MARTA transit system, MARTA Mondays are a free weekly live jazz concert series that relaxes commuters with the sweet sound of jazz on Monday afternoons in May.

MARTA Monday at Midtown Station (2018-05-21) by Matthew AlexandreAtlanta Jazz Festival

MARTA Mondays at Midtown station

Presented in partnership with the MARTA transit system, MARTA Mondays are a free weekly live jazz concert series that relaxes commuters with the sweet sound of jazz on Monday afternoons in May.

MARTA Monday at Avondale Estates (2018-05-14) by Matthew AlexandreAtlanta Jazz Festival

MARTA Mondays at Avondale Estates

Presented in partnership with the MARTA transit system, MARTA Mondays are a free weekly live jazz concert series that relaxes commuters with the sweet sound of jazz on Monday afternoons in May.

2019 Live from Woodruff Park (2019-05-01) by Devin M. YoungAtlanta Jazz Festival

Live From Woodruff Park

On Wednesdays in May, “Live from Woodruff Park” brings free, weekly jazz concerts to Downtown Atlanta’s central greenspace.

Beverly Watkins Performing at the 2019 Live from Woodruff Park Series (2019-05-08) by Devin M. YoungAtlanta Jazz Festival

Guitarist Beverly Watkins Performing during the second week of the 2019 "Live from Woodruff Park" Series in Downtown Atlanta

2019 Live from Woodruff Park (2019-05-08) by Devin M. YoungAtlanta Jazz Festival

Neighborhood Jazz Series at John A. White Park (2019-05) by Terence RushinAtlanta Jazz Festival

In addition to a series of weekly events, 31 Days of Jazz also presents the Neighborhood Jazz Series, which brings exclusive jazz concerts to select neighborhoods throughout the City of Atlanta. The concert series further expands the joy provided by the Atlanta Jazz Festival.

Neighborhood Jazz Series at West Manor Park (2019-05) by Terence RushinAtlanta Jazz Festival

Couple dancing during Myrna Clayton's 2019 Neighborhood Jazz Series performance at West Manor Park.

Neighborhood Jazz Series at Grant Park (2019-05) by Terence RushinAtlanta Jazz Festival

Friends enjoying Jacob Denton's 2019 Neighborhood Jazz Series performance at Grant Park.

Tony Hightower Performing During the 2019 Neighborhood Jazz Series at West Manor Park (2019-05) by Terence RushinAtlanta Jazz Festival

Singer Tony Hightower performing during the 2019 Neighborhood Jazz Series at West Manor Park.

Brenda Nicole Moorer Performing During the 2019 Neighborhood Jazz Series at John A. White Park (2019-05) by Terence RushinAtlanta Jazz Festival

Singer Brenda Nicole Moorer performing during the 2019 Neighborhood Jazz Series at John A. White Park.

The Jacob Deaton Trio Performing During the 2019 Neighborhood Jazz Series at Grant Park (2019-05) by Terence RushinAtlanta Jazz Festival

Members of the Jacob Denton Trio performing during the 2019 Neighborhood Jazz Series at Grant Park.

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