THE WORLD’S FIRST JAZZ FESTIVAL. It was in Nice, and not America, that the world’s first ever jazz festival was born. The event took place for the first time in February 1948, at the end of the Carnival, at the opera house! Another venue, the municipal casino on Place Masséna (now no longer there), lent its Belle Époque decor to this spectacular first festival, and several of the concerts were broadcast live on French radio. The jazz greats were there, starting with Louis Armstrong, the uncontested star of the first edition, alongside other big names, such as Claude Lutter, Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt. On the closing night at the Hôtel Negresco, the party went on until dawn, ending with a feverish jam after song recitals by Suzy Delair and Yves Montand. This first festival was a historic moment, and from that time forth, jazz had a strong following in France. Thanks to his tremendous talent and presence, Louis Armstrong revealed the beauty of jazz to the uninitiated. Thus, in 1948, Nice got wedded to jazz, although the union was followed by a 23-year separation, before a moving reunion.
THE REUNION AT THE THÉÂTRE DE VERDURE. The experience was not repeated until 1971, this time at the Théâtre de Verdure and the Jardin Albert 1er. Artists flocked to the capital of the French Riviera for the big comeback: Ella Fitzgerald, Pharoah Sanders, T-Bone Walker, Stéphane Grappelli, the Herbie Hancock Quintet, the Oscar Peterson Trio, Roy Elridge, John Lewis, Al Grey, Percy Heath, Connie Key, Dizzy Gillespie, Daniel Humair, Sonny Stitt, Cannonball Adderley, Charlie Mingus and the Max Roach Trio.
THE GRANDE PARADE DU JAZZ AT THE ARÈNES DE CIMIEZ. A complete jazz revival did not come until 1974, with the Grande Parade du Jazz, in the rustic setting of the Arèmes de Cimiez gardens. This brought a breath of fresh air to the festival, which saw tremendous growth under the leadership of Nice City Council and producer George Wein. Every summer, dozens of bands and over 200 musicians took to the various stages among the olive groves and Roman ruins for one big open-air party. Jazz’s biggest names performed there, including Stéphane Grappelli, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry and Carlos Santana.
THE GRANDE PARADE BECOMES THE NICE JAZZ FESTIVAL. Without losing the Grande Parade’s festive feel, the Nice Jazz Festival showed a desire to break radically with tradition by opening up to a diversity of musical styles. This choice was met with the public’s overwhelming approval.
LIVE FROM THE JARDIN ALBERT 1er. The then Mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, made the twin decision to take over the running of the festival and bring it to the city centre. Forty years on, the festival returned to the Jardin Albert 1er and the Théâtre de Verdure, while Jazz Off took performances to neighbourhoods all over the city.
THE REVIVAL YEAR. This expanded audience were there to see, among others, C2C, Earth, Wind and Fire, Ben Harper, Maceo Parker, Chick Corea and George Benson.
A PRESTIGIOUS FESTIVAL IN A GREEN SETTING. The Promenade du Paillon opened in October 2013, and the Nice Jazz Festival was able to take full advantage of this enchanting setting. The Nice Jazz Festival and its fringe event, Jazz OFF, saw audiences of more than 45,000 people that year, for this open-air extravaganza eagerly awaited by all Rivierans. The Massena and Théâtre de Verdure stages once again welcomed artists of considerable stature, such as Richard Galliano, Keziah Jones, Ibrahim Maalouf and Joshua Redman, as well as living legends like the Gipsy Kings, Deep Purple and Dr John.
THE NICE JAZZ FESTIVAL MAKES ITS MARK ON JAZZ HISTORY. The Nice Jazz Festival continued to receive the cream of the French and international music scene, with record attendance of more than 60,000 people at the main and fringe events combined. The patron of the 2015 festival was Jamie Cullum, an emblematic figure of the new generation of jazz artists, who shared the line-up with legends like Charles Lloyd, Kenny Barron, Cerrone, The Roots and Kool and the Gang. Fans of current music and great vocalists were not hard done by either, with Lauryn Hill, Ibeyi, Yael Naim and Benjamin Clementine.
FESTIVAL CANCELLED. Following the terrorist attack on the Promenade des Anglais on the evening of 14 July 2016, the Prefecture of Alpes-Maritimes and Nice City Council took the decision to cancel the Nice Jazz Festival, which was due to commence on 16 July.
THE NICE JAZZ FESTIVAL IS BACK. The emotion was palpable throughout the five evenings. The edition's patron, Herbie Hancock, opened the festival with a speech advocating peace and hope. All the artists shared with the audience a moment of strong emotion dedicated to the victims of 14 July 2016.
The programme included Ibrahim Maalouf, -M-, IAM, De La Soul, Deluxe, Youn Sun Nah, Abdullah Ibrahim & Terence Blanchard, Kamasi Washington, Mary J. Blige and many others, who attracted nearly 43,000 spectators. A new visitor record for the city.
70 YEARS OF THE NICE JAZZ FESTIVAL, The biggest names came together at the Nice Jazz Festival. From Gregory Porter, patron of this year's festival and one of the most charismatic singers in today's jazz, to Randy Weston via Massive Attack, Rhoda Scott, Jack Johnson, Joshua Redman, Billy Hart, Seun Kuti, Orelsan, Baptiste Trotignon, Mélanie De Biasio, Gary Clark Jr, Avishai Cohen, Parov Stelar, Trio Rosenberg, LP… Although the opening night was cancelled due to bad weather and the safety of the site, over 40,100 people came to the five evenings of this special edition. Marking the festival's 70th anniversary, the Villa Masséna hosted an exhibition tracing 70 years of Nice's love for jazz, and Editions Gilletta published a book, "Nice Jazz, histoire d'un festival", by Daniel Chauvet, Gilbert D'Alto and Frederica Randrianome Karsenty.