Highlights from Our History


Glasgow Jazz Festival is founded.
One of the greatest jazz singers of all time, Miss Sarah Vaughan plays the festival.
Benny Carter is selected as the festival’s first composer in residence, bringing associations going back as far as Fletcher Henderson, James P Johnson, Fats Waller and Duke Ellington as well as his still vigorous alto saxophone playing and writing and arranging talents that had contributed to the very fabric of jazz.


Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Petersen and Ray Charles join the line up
Baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan takes over as composer in residence.
The festival becomes a major player and recordings from its concerts, such as Mulligan’s Lonesome Boulevard, only add to its international reputation.
Stan Getz added to the event’s prestige when his Theatre Royal tenor saxophone master class appeared on two discs, Yours & Mine and Soul Eyes.
Cab Calloway added more great jazz history and a stonking Minnie the Moocher to the collective memory bank.


Glasgow becomes European City of Culture
Miles Davis headlines the festival at memorable gig in Glasgow’s SEC


The then director of Glasgow Jazz Festival, Jim Smith found himself looking at a Glasgow council car park and seeing something much more than that. The stall-holders’ name boards pegged around what would become the balcony and the cobbles underfoot added to a magical atmosphere of a unique indoor facility, even if the roof would need attention in time.
Smith’s vision was to produce a venue, now regarded as the jazz festival’s spiritual home, that would also go on to serve Glasgow’s Americana and world music festivals brilliantly and host a central plank of the city’s famous Celtic Connections’ programme – the Old Fruitmarket.
Carla Bley, with her blend of American church music, Monkish influences, tango and highly individual orchestral colouration becomes composer in residence.


On July 1, 1993, Jools Holland and his big band become the first attraction to take to the Old Fruitmarket stage.
Between 1993 and 1996, the Old Fruitmarket welcomed such acts as Max Roach, Horace Silver, McCoy Tyner, Ahmad Jamal, Ray Brown, Betty Carter, Joe Henderson, David Murray and the Art Ensemble of Chicago.


Nat Adderley introduced Jimmy Cobb on stage as his drummer – Cobb drummed for Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Art Pepper, Wes Montgomery, Lee Morgan and Sonny Stitt. But as he sat behind the kit that night, he had one particular distinction that was gold dust to the jazz aficionado: he was the sole survivor of the recording sessions that produced Miles Davis’s ground-breaking Kind of Blue album.

1997 – 2001

Glasgow welcomed many legends to the festival including Hammond organ giant Jimmy Smith, the great pianist and composer of Lullaby of Birdland, George Shearing and Latin jazz icon Tito Puente.
The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra entered a new phase in its history with its first major commission for an American soloist in director Tommy Smith’s Beauty and the Beast, which he composed for his fellow saxophonist David Liebman in 2001.
This period also saw two of jazz’s most influential figures who are now no longer with us making unforgettable Glasgow appearances, both of them drummers, although not everyone realised this at the time. Elvin Jones, whose polyrhythmic adventures had helped to shape John Coltrane’s classic 1960s quartet, had been a real friend of the festival, making three appearances in all, and exuded authority on drums. As did, Michael Brecker when he laid down the saxophone whose tone was coveted throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s on his quintet’s Old Fruitmarket gig in 1998 and led an impromptu number from the kit.

2002 – 2006

Glasgow Jazz Festival took the music to the streets, building a stage on the city centres widest, most popular open air space, George Square, while the Old Fruitmarket was being refurbished.
Crows with no previous experience of the festival began to enjoy the music with acts such as Pee Wee Ellis, whose saxophone had tooted the route for James Brown’s mighty soul machine, reggae swingers Jazz Jamaica and Kansas City-style conquerors King Pleasure & the Biscuit Boys, all playing outdoor gigs for free.
In 2003, Live for Five was born. For £5 a head thousands of people could be accommodated in the fenced section of George Square and have the sight and sound of Tony Bennett serenading a Glasgow evening.
George Benson, Isaac Hayes, Dionne Warwick and Van Morrison played the Clyde Auditorium and Michael Brecker’s Quindectet scored big at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Homegrown is founded in 2005 to showcase Scotland’s wealth of talented jazz musicians at the festival.


Huge queues gather outside the then, Carling Academy to see Pat Metheny-Brad Mehldau Quartet.
Randy Weston’s African Rhythms Trio play the Old Fruitmarket to an ecstatic crowd


The festival is headlined by five-time Grammy Award winning blues legend Buddy Guy at the Carling Academy
International performers include ‘Birth of the Cool’ alto sax player Lee Konitz; Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers; saxophonist Bobby Watson with his Live & Learn Sextet; leading avant garde trumpeter Tomasz Stanko; Nils Petter Molvaer seamlessly combining jazz, rock, hip hop, electronica and drum n’ bass; rock and pop remixes with The Bad Plus; and West Coast jazz from Herb Geller.
The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra played a well-received tribute to Steely Dan.


Glasgow Jazz outfit Brass Jaw attract over 25,000 to the opening show outside the Glasgow Science Centre.


The festival celebrates its 25th year with a fantastic line up including Cleo Lane, Brass Jaw, Ramsay Lewis, Leon Russell, Courtney Pine and Michel Legrand


The Grammy Award winning saxophonist Pharoah Sanders headlines the festival
The Ryan Quigley Big Band’s Tribute to The Beatles at the Old Fruitmarket featuring several star guest singers including Jon Fratelli (of The Fratellis)
“Rock’s first superstar drummer” Ginger Baker brings his “Jazz Confusion” to the Old Fruitmarket playing with James Browns’ saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, bassist Alec Dankworth and percussionist Abass Dodoo.


Sax legend, Jan Garbarek and the wonderful Hilliard Ensemble give the very last tour of their magnificent collaboration – OFFICIUM NOVUM
Jazz legend Georgie Fame headlines the festival


Glasgow hosts the 2014 Commonwealth Games
Dennis Rollins and Courtney Pine both deliver memorable performances along the theme of Jamaica’s influence on Jazz.


Legendary soulstress Gladys Knight comes to the festival as does swing music royalty, Frank Sinatra Jr.
Eddi Reader offers a fresh take on Scottish music in, Alba: Songs of Scotland with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra:
Glasgow Jazz Festival welcomes The Family Stone featuring original members Jerry Martini (sax), Cynthia Robinson (trumpet) and Gregg Errico (drums), plus Cynthia’s own daughter Phunne Stone on various instruments and vocals.


The festival celebrated it’s 30th anniversary.
Acts included George Benson, Carol Kidd, Joe Bonamassa and a collaboration between Pee Wee Ellis and Federation of the Disco Pimp.
To mark the 30th anniversary, the festival launched the 30 Under 30 strand to celebrate some of the up-and-coming musicians within the Scottish Jazz scene. Four out of the five finalists, including the winner, of the Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year 2017 were part of the inaugural 30 Under 30 list in 2016.


the Festival


Jazzfest Supporters
We are a living wage employer
© Glasgow International Jazz Festival 2024
Glasgow International Jazz Festival Ltd, 557a Dumbarton Rd, Glasgow G11 6HU. Registered Charity No. SCO 06649
Contact us:
Site by: