Jazz Concerts & Festivals in Australia

In the immediate post-war period, from the 1940s up to the end of the 1950s, Australia followed international trends and used the concert platform to present jazz to the public. It also became a means of featuring overseas jazz groups and artists and frequent and popular jazz visitors included Kenny Ball, Acker Bilk, the Dutch Swing College Band, Louis Armstrong, et al.

But as public interest in jazz waned Australian promoters, eventually, borrowed the idea of the annual jazz festival popular in the US and Europe. The 1948 Nice Jazz Festival in France was the first regular international festival, followed by The Newport Jazz Festival held each summer in Newport, Rhode Island, USA and established in 1954 by the jazz impresario George Wein. Other now long-established festivals followed include the Prague International Jazz Festival, Czech Republic (1964); JazzFest Berlin (also known as the Berlin Jazz Festival) founded in 1964 in West Berlin, Germany; The Montreux Jazz Festival on the shores of Lake Geneva, Switzerland (1967); The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (1970) and the North Sea Jazz Festival (1976).

Jazz festivals in Australia are usually programmed as single one-day events or three/four-day functions coinciding with one of our celebrated public holiday long-weekends. Initially, these jazz festivals were loosely based on the Australian Jazz Convention format but most now use the familiar international model, hiring and presenting the best available Australian and overseas jazz groups and performers in a jazz concert situation. Generally organised by specialist jazz entrepreneurs Australian jazz festivals are also run and funded by jazz clubs, municipal councils, state governments, wineries, holiday resorts and the like, often in conjunction with a major corporate sponsor.

Existing pioneer Australian Jazz Festivals include Manly NSW (founded in 1977), Mildura, Victoria (1979), Merimbula NSW (1980), Thredbo NSW (1987), Newcastle NSW (1987), Bellingen NSW (1989), Wangaratta, Victoria (1989), Dubbo NSW (1990) and Wagg Wagga (1994). Currently there are approximately fifty annual jazz festivals held in Australia.

© Bill Haesler OAM