Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Detroit Jazz Festival

The Detroit Jazz Festival is a free music festival held every year during Labor Day Weekend at Hart Plaza and Campus Martius Park in Downtown Detroit. The event was formed in 1980 by Robert McCabe and the Detroit Renaissance group, in an effort to bring more visitors to the city. From 1980 to 1991, the festival grew through a partnership with the international jazz festival in Montreux, Switzerland and was known as the Montreux-Detroit Jazz Festival. The partnership allowed the festivals to share performers and commissioned poster art. 

From 1991-2005, the festival partnered with Detroits Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts, though the Montreux connection was kept in the name for several years. In 2005, when Ford Motor Company removed its sponsorship, the name was changed to The Detroit International Jazz Festival. Mack Avenue Records Chairwoman Gretchen Valade emerged as a major sponsor of the festival and in 2006 founded the Detroit International Jazz Festival Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization which took over management and production. The foundation also established a significant endowment to support festival operations, and also puts on concerts and events throughout the year aside from the main festival. 

Since 2012, the event has been called the Detroit Jazz Festival. in 2011, jazz musician Chris Collins was appointed as artistic director and has since taken on the role of president of the Detroit Jazz Festival Foundation. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the 2020 iteration of the festival was held virtually, streaming for listeners online and over the radio. Despite being a free annual event, the Detroit Jazz Festival has featured renowned performers and acts from all over the world, and continues to attract visitors in droves. 



2003 Detroit International Jazz Festival poster

2001 Detroit International Jazz Festival poster

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