World Tour: The Best Cities for Jazz Lovers

Back in the 17th and 18th century, the French ruled New Orleans. Now and always, the French placed high importance on their cuisine, but they couldn’t find all the ingredients for a dish called bouillabaisse. It’s no secret that thousands of slaves were brought in from various African countries, but tying into this particular culinary tale, each ethnicity chipped in their own influence to create a new makeshift bouillabaisse, the dish now known famously as gumbo.

In similar fashion, jazz was born.

American, European and African music came together to form well, noise. To accurately describe the music of Jazz is complicated. But if you listen closely (really closely), you don’t just listen, you feel it; the pull of each note, the intuition of tune, and the surrender of swing in the moment. And we don’t exactly mean turning it up on your Spotify account. Jazz was born in a time where there wasn’t yet televisions or phones, making it an experience you had to see live to understand. As such, you’ll get a kick out of the five best cities for jazz around the world.

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#1 New Orleans, Lousiana, USA

Where better to begin your world tour than at the very birthplace of American jazz (and gumbo)? New Orleans celebrates jazz in every form, including blues, gospel, brass band and ragtime music. It’s thanks to New Orleans that we’ve had some of the greatest musicians of all time, like Louis Amstrong and Sidney Bechet. There’s jazz to be found from barber shops during the day, to jazz clubs at night, as well as the seven-day-long annual Jazz Fest that first took place in 1970.

#2 New York City, USA

You can’t bring up New York City without paying homage to its role in music today, and that’s no different with jazz. This is, after all, the city of Broadway musicals. Jazz in NYC taps heavily into blues, and is also famous for its big jazz bands that developed swing; a type of orchestra jazz that was more upbeat and people could dance to. These days, jazz is reaching a younger audience with festivals in New York like the Winter Jazzfest and Inside the Whale, but for the best of the best, Jazz at Lincoln Centre can never be tamed.

#3 Havana, Cuba

Jazz is not one thing if not versatile. In Cuba, Afro-Cuban jazz is a mix of latin salsa, timba, and rumba which can be heard on the streets and in the bars. Music is integrated into the daily lives of locals in Cuba. You’re sure to hear trumpets or the strumming of a Spanish guitar as you stroll through the cobblestone streets. It’s true what they say; Cuba has soul.

#4 Paris, France 

The city of Paris began its love affair with the genre during the First World War, after an introduction by African-American soldiers. When the war ended, many musicians decided to settle down in Paris, which is when jazz reached its peak and saw prominent jazz clubs and cabarets pop up. French jazz is diverse with its sound, which can range from modern and avant-garde, to timeless bossanova.

Bonus: Tokyo, Japan

Surprise, surprise, people in Japan seem to really love jazz music… and no one is quite sure why, except for the possible explanation that Japan was introduced to jazz in the 1920s by Americans from the then-US. -occupied Philippines. Tokyo has its own amazing home-grown talent and a style of jazz that strips it down. Jazz clubs aren’t many, but the handful of venues are impeccable enough to land Tokyo on our list.

Sights and sounds. 

Photo credit: Main

Diandra Soliano

Our resident Wander Woman with a passion for languages, big cities and bronzer. When she's not listening to The Smiths a little too loudly at the office (after hours!), she can be found singing along to the soundtrack of Les Miserables with her two cats for an audience.

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