Indy Jazz Festival

The idea of how best to introduce jazz to Indianapolis, as a means of encouraging tourism, was first thought of in 1998. An enterprising group of people decided to stage the city’s first Jazz Festival in June of 1999. Some of the top jazz musicians including B. B. King, Bruce Hornsby, Chris Isaak, and Freddie Hubbard showcased their talent at this inaugural event. An estimated 55,000 music lovers from around the country poured into the city for this three-day extravaganza — the Indy Jazz Festival was a fantastic success.

The understanding and appreciation of jazz quickly became an integral part of education in public schools and throughout the community. Over 90 artists performed at the Festival in 2000 including Al Green, Kool and the Gang, and the Count Basie Orchestra. The Indy Jazz Fest, now a world-class premier celebration of music, presented concerts at the Indiana Roof Ballroom, the Madame Walker Theater Center, the Pan Am Plaza, and the Bank One Jazz and Roots Fair. In addition, more top entertainers such as Dave Brubeck, Ray Charles, Booker T. and the MG’s, and Jonny Lang took the stage and drew in the crowds. Despite the loss of sales through a first-night rain cancellation, the second year of this event recorded an estimated attendance of 90,000 fans.

The Jazz Festival was held for two more years, but by the 5th year, the debt incurred in its production had become excessive, and the original board of directors decided to withdraw their backing of the event. The American Pianists’ Association (APA), organized to promote and encourage American classical and jazz pianists between 18 and 30, recognized the appeal and economic advantages of the Jazz Fest. They assumed the leadership of the event, and in September of 2003, produced a smaller version in A Taste of Indy. By 2004 and 2005, the APA, along with over 500 volunteers from the community and other sponsors, managed to restore the former glittering success of the Indy Jazz Festival.

Through the years, many famous jazz artists got their start here including Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Slide Compton. Music lovers from every state and at least seven foreign countries have been entertained by such great artists as Aretha Franklin, Emmylou Harris, and The Temptations. The 2006 lineup of stars included Bonnie Raitt, Impanema, Cathy Morris, the Herbie Hancock Quartet, Dr. John, and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Today, the Jazz Festival, a major tourist attraction and an Indianapolis tradition, is held in June each year through Father’s Day weekend at 601 W. New York Street in Military Park, a part of White River State Park. From the time the gates open at 5:00 p.m. on Friday to the last performance that begins at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, an estimated 65,000 people are treated to some of the best in local, national, and regional jazz, R&B, funk, blues, zydeco, and gospel music.

Sponsored by Kroger Food Stores and produced by the APA, this year’s event will be held on June 16, 17, and 18. Music lovers will gather once again to see more of their favorite jazz artists and other musicians, while the winner of the 2007 Cole Porter Jazz Fellowship (the largest of the U.S. prizes for jazz pianists) will also perform. The opening Friday will feature “Women in Jazz,” a group of leading female artists in the world of jazz. The Jazz Village of music schools, instrument makers, music stores, musicians, and organizations returns this year, as well.

Tickets: Advance – $25, $35.00 — at gate. Advance 3-day passes – $55.00. Children under 14 free, when accompanied by an adult ticket holder.

(Notes: Handicap accessible, assistive listening devices available at the Disability Tent at the entrance. Parking garages downtown, at Circle Center Mall, and White River State Park (all within walking distance). Shuttle golf carts to Military Park and volunteer assistance also available. Bring folding chairs and/or blankets — seating on open grassy areas open to all attendees. 20 or more food and beverage vendors onsite.)

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