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Top Summer Jazz Festivals in France

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History of Jazz in France
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Nice Jazz Festival, 2011

© Pierre Behar, Nice Jazz Festival

The love affair of France and jazz is a long one, dating back to World War I. Black musicians came as soldiers to fight in France and brought their new music to a Europe where dance music was still pretty staid. At first it was thought too American and too different but the popularity of the music spread. The 1920s saw musicians like Sidney Bechet then Archie Shepp settling permanently in France. In 1934 the Quinetette du Hot Club de France, one of the greatest and most influential jazz groups was formed, with Django Reinhardt as the principal guitarist adding another layer with his gypsy swing. Very soon France was jazz crazy.

The first jazz festival in France was in Nice in 1948 with Louis Armstrong as the headline act. Today you’ll find jazz festivals all over France, from small villages to large cities. It's a roll call of the great and the good and during the summer months, the top jazz players make their way around France. So don’t worry if you miss the likes of Wayne Shorter or Wynston Marsalis in June or early July; chances are you can catch them in another corner of France where the music and the weather combine to make France's jazz festivals the best in the world.

Here is a small selection of top summer jazz festivals in France.

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