Cincinnati’s First International Jazz Festival Starts Today

The two-day concert at Smale Riverfront Park features some of the world’s most acclaimed musicians.

If you’re ready to close out the summer by enjoying some of the world’s finest musicians while you eat and drink to your heart’s content, head on down to Smale Park Friday and Saturday for the first annual Cincinnati International Jazz Fest. Tickets are on sale now for Friday’s 6-10 p.m. showing and Saturday’s 1-10 p.m. showing.

After being announced in 2020 and then being postponed due to the pandemic, the festival has finally arrived. Eleven musicians, including award-winning multi-instrumentalist Brian Culbertson, Keiko Matsui, and Avery*Sunshine, will be playing for guests who attend. “We’re bringing a little international flavor. It’s a real eclectic mix,” says Kim Benoit, president of Rainbow Promotions. “There’s something for everyone. Come out and enjoy a fantastic day of great music.”

The festival idea was conceived by local jazz legend Robbie Todd, who manages some of the artists that Benoit frequently uses in their other festivals, and he’d been asking Benoit to try doing a jazz fest in Cincinnati for almost the last decade.

“Here in California, there’s a jazz or R&B festival every weekend,” Benoit says. “We wanted to test the waters and bring this festival to a market that would appreciate the music and the art form, and [Todd] wanted to bring something to his hometown, something great to the people who live in Cincinnati.”

Culbertson, who has notched more than forty Billboard No. 1’s in his career, is one of the most celebrated jazz musicians of our time. “I’m excited to be back in Cincinnati, home of King Records, Bootsy Collins, Skyline Chili, and so much more,” Culbertson says. “Gonna be a blast!”

Food trucks and retailers will also be at the Smale plaza for guests to dig in and shop between sets. Beer, wine and cocktails will be sold for guests to bring back to their seats. VIP tickets will get a table up at the front of the stage, with free dinner and drinks included.

1st Annual Cincinnati Jazz Festival, Sept. 2 & 3, Smale Riverfront Park, 166 W. Mehring Way, downtown

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