FESTIVAL HISTORY

History of the Jacksonville Jazz Festival

History of the Jacksonville Jazz Festival

1980
Oct 24

Mayport and All That Jazz Festival

The Jacksonville Jazz Festival begins as the Mayport and All That Jazz Festival. Seeking to reintroduce the world to the Bold New City of the South and invigorate the struggling fishing community of Mayport, Mayor Jake Godbold founds the Mayport and All That Jazz Festival. Festival producers are floored when their expected attendance of a few hundred tops nearly 25,000 spectators who turn out to see Dizzy Gillespie headline.

1982
Oct 23

Moves to Metropolitan Park

After the overwhelming attendance and an even higher expected turnout in year two, festival organizers move the festival to the newly opened Metropolitan Park. Local churches and organizations raise money by selling food and drinks. Thanks to low costs, the festival remains free to the public.

1983
Oct 22

The Great American Jazz Piano Competition Added

The piano competition, which traditionally kicks off the Jacksonville Jazz Festival, dates back to 1983, when it was called the Great American Jazz Piano Competition. It has been held at the Florida Theatre since 1984, except for a few years when the entire jazz festival took a hiatus. The event is now called the Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition.

1985
Oct 26

WJCT Takes Over Festival Production

With their studio headquarters bordering Metropolitan Park, local public broadcasting station WJCT takes over production of the festival using it as their primary annual fundraiser for several years.

1986
Oct 25

Miles Davis Headlines

Miles Davis headlines, charging more than three times the rate of headliners just years prior. WJCT taped many of the performances for a one-hour television special that was distributed nationally by PBS, and later seen internationally.

1995
Oct 21

$5 Admission Implemented

To offset rising costs, a modest cover charge of $5 is put in place to cover shortfalls.

2000
Oct 27

WJCT withdraws title sponsorship

Despite rising attendance and admission revenue, costs outpaced sponsorship dollars and WJCT withdraws its sponsorship citing significant losses. This resulted in no festival in 2001 and 2002.

2003
Oct 25

The Jacksonville Jazz Festival returns!

Thirsty to bring the music back, the city resurrects the festival with no admission charge and 60,000 show up to enjoy live music in the sunshine at Metropolitan Park. Tony Bennett headlined and is paid $100,000 plus $10,000 in expenses. Revenues fall short of costs and city takes a loss to the tune of half a million dollars.

2006
Oct 21

Admission returns

Saxophonist Kenny G and legendary pianist Herbie Hancock headlined the 2006 Jacksonville Jazz Festival. General admission tickets to the Metropolitan Park shows were $10 per day, and reserved seating tickets for shows at the Ritz Theatre and Museum were $25 each. Tickets to the piano competition finals cost $16 each.

2009
May 21

Takin it to the streets

The festival is re-imagined as a street festival and moved from Metropolitan Park to the downtown core. In addition to performances from leading jazz musicians, features such as educational experiences, art vendors and talks are added to enhance the overall festival experience. Other than the piano competition and the wine tasting, free admission was brought back to the festival.

2013
May 25

Off Jazz Concert Added

The Florida Theatre is added as a paid venue during the festival. In 2013 the first annual “Off Jazz” concert was held featuring R&B singers Brian McKnight and Avant who performed on the Friday evening. Tickets were $42 each. R&B singers Musiq Soulchild and Sebastian Mikael followed in 2014 with a performance by Grammy-winning artist Fantasia headlining the concert in 2015, tickets were $38.50. The “Off Jazz” concert was removed from the festival’s activities in 2016.

2015
May 24

Festival Moves to Bay Street and Shipyards

The festival moves from the downtown core to Bay Street spanning from The Shipyards to the Jacksonville Landing.

2016
May 27

Back to the Downtown Core

The Jacksonville Jazz Festival moves back to the urban core to much fanfare and enjoys record attendance in the modern era. With performers such as Kem, Snarky Puppy, Dr. John, and many more, the festival draws over 131,000 attendees to the streets of downtown Jacksonville over four days.