Iowa City Jazz Festival

Taking place annually over the first weekend of July, the Iowa City Jazz Festival celebrates its 17th July 3rd-5th, 2009. Held on the famed (and shaded!) “Pentacrest” of the University of Iowa, this festival has grown in stature and musical offerings to be one of the best of the free outdoor festivals in the nation, and is now a major component of the Iowa City Summer of the Arts program.

Headliners this year represent one of the strongest line-ups in festival history, including David Sanchez, Trombone Shorty, Lionel Loueke, Chris Potter’s Underground, the Bill Frisell Quartet, and the Dave Holland Quintet. Interspersed among the national headliners will be the best of local and regional jazz, as well as youth and college band stages promoting the future of jazz in Iowa and beyond.


Jams at the nearby Sheraton Hotel and area music bars ensure many hours of jazz for those who just can not get enough. Concessions across from the Pentacrest will keep the crowds fueled throughout the weekend, and feature such nonstandard Iowa fare as gourmet delights from the cuisines of India, Africa, Greece and Asia, along with “state fair” staples like corn dogs and ice cream.

Since its humble beginnings in 1991 as an intimate local gathering of jazz aficionados, the Iowa City Jazz Festival has transformed into a nationally recognized event with an average annual audience of more than 50,000. Over the years, the festival has featured some of the biggest names in jazz, including John Scofield, Paquito D’Rivera, Joe Lovano, Kenny Garrett, Roy Haynes, Dave Douglas, Bill Frisell, Joey de Francesco, Charlie Hunter, Greg Osby, Cubanismo, Pat Martino, Paul Motian, Don Byron, Andrew Hill, Carla Bley, Steve Swallow, Yellowjackets, Soulive, Patricia Barber, Sexmob, and Stefon Harris.

A key ingredient in the ongoing success of the festival is its accessibility. Admission has always been FREE. The sponsors underwrite all costs of producing the event, allowing it to transcend socioeconomic barriers and provide free access to families and individuals regardless of income.

Named among the “Top 10 Festivals in the Nation” by Downbeat magazine, the Iowa City Jazz Festivalalways features strong mainstream performers as well as genre-stretching innovators. Check your map—Iowa City is located in eastern Iowa right on Interstate 80, about half way between Minneapolis and St. Louis, Omaha and Chicago. Lodging is inexpensive and the music is free. And it boasts one of the best collection of national talents you’ll find at any free festival this summer. There’s no better way to celebrate the holiday.

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