A Jazzlover's Guide to Summer
In the sunny homestretch of summer, I like to stay fine and mellow with jazz. And there's so many great performances to gorge on this season. With the help of a few insiders, we're on top of the music beat like a snare drum.
T+L’s Pick: Piano in Bryant Park, in New York (until Oct. 14)
For fans of the 52 keys, Piano in Bryant Park remains one of the city's best-kept secrets. The summer-long program gathers at the shady upper terrace on weekday afternoons, quietly featuring New York's most storied performers (Junior Mance was Dizzy Gillespie’s bandmate). A vibrantly eclectic crowd mixes devotees with eavesdroppers and eccentrics—next to me, a shoe-less man taps his tube-socked toes. Did I mention the shows are free? If you want to get fancy, reserve an outdoor table at Bryant Park Café, an earshot from the action. Insider Tip: Performers sometimes tinker with timeslots, call ahead.
Satchmo SummerFest, in New Orleans (Aug. 4-Aug.7)
If you can brave the drawling heat of August in New Orleans—which might sound like a holiday to New Yorkers—this four-day musical homage to the father of scat-singing, Louis Armstrong, offers an international showcase for both Dixieland and contemporary jazz. The music spreads out on four stages in the French Quarters, but the celebration flows freely through the streets. Don't Miss: Yoshio Toyoma, "Satchmo of Japan," whose rendition of Jeepers, Creepers was a hit last year.
—Ricky Riccardi, author of the newly published book, "What a Wonderful Life: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years." (Pantheon; $28.95)
Newport Jazz Festival, in Rhode Island (Aug. 5-7)
This New England resort town might be the perfect place—by the sea—for a summer outdoor festival. Founded in 1954, it didn't attract diehards until two years ago when festival owner George Wein tweaked the formula hoping to rediscover the genre. He's after new sounds and artists. NPR also broadcasts the event online here. Don’t Miss: Esperanza Spalding, the Grammy’s (out-of-nowhere) Best New Artist (Tickets from $40)
—Patrick Jarenwattananon, jazz blogger, NPR Music’s A Blog Supreme
Yoshi's Oakland, in California (Aug. 16-17)
There isn't the sheer number of big-name stars anymore to pack nightclub calendars with pure jazz alone. Yoshi's Oakland has mastered the art of booking shows the jazz-minded appreciate (think Steely Dan)—expect diverse lineups. It's not a beer-stained dive—nor an upscale hall—but a mature venue, well-lit, with a stage that's visible from anywhere in the house. Don't Miss: Terence Blanchard, the Grammy-nominated trumpeter and Spike Lee's go-to film composer, appears with his quartet (tickets from $14).
—Marc Myers writes on jazz, rock, and R&B for the Wall Street Journal and posts daily at JazzWax.com.
Darren Tobia is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure.