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Some 2020 Jazz Festivals Are Carrying On

Despite the pandemic, a handful of organizers in America and Europe are sticking with their plans

Dianne Reeves (photo by Jerris Madison)
Dianne Reeves (photo by Jerris Madison)

At least five jazz festivals—two in the U.S. and three in Europe—have decided to brave the worldwide coronavirus pandemic and go forward with their events this summer.

The Detroit Jazz Festival announced this week that its Labor Day weekend festival, now 40 years old, is still on the books, albeit “with modifications.” “We will maintain a keen focus on the health and safety of our global community,” the festival announced June 8 on its Facebook page. “All decisions impacting the Detroit Jazz Festival will be guided by local, state and federal authorities. A full plan on the revised format and safety protocols while maintaining our free status will be announced soon.”

The scheduled September 4-7 program includes Dee Dee Bridgewater (this year’s artist in residence), Herbie Hancock, Matthew Whitaker, Kenny Barron, Pharoah Sanders, Kurt Elling, Anat Cohen, and Abdullah Ibrahim, among many others.

Over the same weekend, on September 5 and 6, the smaller Lowcountry Jazz Festival will proceed as scheduled at the Gaillard Center in Charleston, South Carolina, a Gaillard representative confirms. The billing includes Dianne Reeves, Najee, the Urban Jazz Coalition, Incognito, Peter White, and Brian Simpson & Steve Oliver.

Abroad, Spain’s Jazzaldia—also known as the San Sebastian Jazz Festival—moves forward as planned with its July 22-26 programming. The final schedule is still a work in progress, but bookings thus far include important Spanish and Basque musicians such as Sílvia Pérez Cruz, Jorge Pardo, Chano Domínguez, and Antonio Serrano.


The Oslo Jazz Festival has announced its decision to proceed as scheduled for the week of August 12-15. However, the festival will be heavily truncated, operating out of one venue. Its final schedule has yet to be announced.

Finally, Austria’s International Jazzfestival Saalfelden has announced that it will carry on its 2020 edition in a reduced format that it is calling a “jazz weekender.” Its schedule has yet to be finalized; however, the festival plans to host 30 concerts over four days, August 20-23.