Saturday Night Jazz at kj's hideaway

2024 Twin Cities Jazz Festival June 21-22: New Director, New Venues, Same Spirit of Jazz

Featured Festivals TCJF Twin Cities
Twin Cities Jazz Festival at Mears Park
Dayna Martinez, Executive Director

In many ways, the Twin Cities Jazz Festival continues in 2024 as it has now for 25 years. Getting officially underway in St Paul’s Mears Park and beyond on Friday, June 21, we’ll hear international headliners, local legends, and future stars; jazz all its permutations will fill the air on outdoor stages, indoor venues, clubs and bars; student musicians will enjoy master classes and performance opportunities; many sets will be live streamed on KBEM radio; there literally will be dancing in the streets and singing from the rafters. And it’s still free.  What’s new? Executive Director Dayna Martinez took the reins from founding director Steve Heckler at the end of the 2023 festival; there are many new venues both near the main stage and as far away as Fridley. New sponsors support the festival along with long-time patrons AARP and KBEM.  And there’s the music, with 2024 headliners that include the return of Joe Lovano (and our past Artistic Director Francisco Mela) to Mears Park, along with Stefon Harris and vocalists Karrin Allyson and Kandace Springs, making their jazz fest debuts.

 “It’s still a free festival, with many of the venues within walking distance of each other,” notes Dayna Martinez.  “I thought this was very important to keep, as we pride the Jazz Fest on being a community-based event, accessible to all.  AARP Minnesota is our presenting sponsor again, and we are grateful for their support of the festival overall and for the live streaming of the festival, which we are doing again on both nights, 6-10PM.  We do have a new beer sponsor:  Dual Citizen Brewing Company.  Dual Citizen has been such a great supporter of the Jazz Fest, and the music community in general — I’m so glad they are joining us as a sponsor this year.  Plus they have some yummy beer!”

 New Venues

If you’ve perused the festival schedule, you have noticed a number of new venues, not only near Mears Park but throughout the Minneapolis-St Paul area. “This is part of my future vision for the Jazz Fest,” notes Dayna. “I would love to expand even more into Minneapolis next year and add venue partners.  It’s the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, after all!” Among the new sites in Minneapolis are Umbra (Canopy Hotel) downtown and the Cedar Cultural Center on the West Bank. “I asked Umbra …to join as a venue partner because they often have jazz music playing in their lobby, with no cover charge.  That is the most important thing if a venue wants to be a venue partner for the Jazz Festival on Friday or Saturday — they must offer the music at no cover charge.  Umbra was happy to join, with Linda Peterson and Jason Peterson DeLaire doing a set on Saturday.”

“I added Cedar Cultural Center as a venue because the Jazz Fest is partnering with the Cedar, Northrop Auditorium, and choreographer Leslie Parker to offer an event that is a culmination and public showing of Leslie’s Black Dance Improvisation Re

Patty Peterson and Jon Weber perform a festival show at Crooners, June 22

treat that she is holding that week.  The performance on Saturday will feature a live band that will include DeCarlo Jackson and Dameun Strange.  I’m excited about new partnerships and bringing different disciplines together.”

Festival goers will also find new venues near Mears Park. “I wanted to include some of the venues closer to Mears Park that already do or are interested in offering music, like Gambit Brewing Co and Erta Ale Ethiopian Restaurant, two new venue partners.”

A past downtown St Paul venue, kj’s hideaway was expected to again host three nights curated by Steve Kenny. When that venue suddenly closed last winter, Dayna “was able to work with Jennifer Grimm at Crooners, and also with Jamecia Bennett, who is booking music at the new Pimento Jamaican Kitchen location on Wabasha in downtown St Paul. Both Crooners and Pimento have Jazz Fest bands playing on Friday and Saturday of the Fest.”


The Diversity of Jazz

Claudia Medina leads the Peruvian Jazz Project on the Main Stage (June 21) and the Women’s Jazz Initiative Retreat at Walker West and performance (June 21, Saint City)

The Twin Cities Jazz Fest has typically presented a diverse palette of jazz, generally resisting the trend of scheduling other (and often more popular) genres that have become the norm at some of the big festivals across the U.S. Diversity will continue to define the music here, and Dayna intends to present as broad a program as possible while maintaining “jazz” as the focus.  “My biggest goal is to create an extremely diverse lineup in every way:  style of jazz, gender representation, racial and ethnic background representation, all ages of musicians, you name it. Luckily we have such a variety of stages and venues to work with, so I am able to find a fit for most bands.  My biggest challenge, and the artist selection committee’s biggest challenge, is to choose which locally-based artists and bands would play the Jazz Fest this year.  There are so many talented musicians here and we had over 100 submissions to the committee — it was extremely difficult to make the decisions about the locally- based artists.”

And the early announcement of the 2024 headliners—Karrin Allyson, Regina Carter, Stefon Harris, and Joe Lovano—made it clear that diverse styles and cultures were to be a prominent theme. “Regarding the headliners, again I’m going for diversity, but other factors include touring availability, budget, and whether we can support them technically on that outdoor stage,” notes Dayna.  “This year, unfortunately, Regina Carter had to cancel, but I was able to work with her agent to bring Kandace Springs, who was also on that agent’s roster, so that worked out pretty well.  I hope to bring Regina to a future Jazz Fest, hopefully next year.”

Building Excitement for 2024 and Beyond

What does our new Executive Director find most exciting about the 2024 festival? “Everything excites me about this first year!  I’m so excited for the crowds to experience this music live and to maybe hear an artist or a type of jazz they haven’t heard before.  I’m excited that we have two youth stages this year–at Saint City (formerly Creator’s Cup) and the TPT stage.  I’m also excited to be working even more with Walker West, and, specifically, Katia Cardenas (Program Director of Walker West Without Walls).  She is holding the Walker West Women in Jazz retreat that week, and that group of musicians will be performing at the Walker West Youth Stage at Saint City on Friday, plus the Walker West Jazzwomen Collective will be performing on the Jazz88 Main Stage on Saturday at 4PM.   I’m also excited about starting to plan for 2025, which, really, I have already begun.”

2024 Headliners (Jazz 88 Main Stage, Mears Park)

Karrin Allyson

Friday, June 21, 6:00 pm, Karrin Allyson.  One of the most respected vocalists of her generation, Karrin Alllyson is truly and honorary Twin Cities native, having spend some of her early career here and returning often two or three times in a given year to perform at such venues at The Dakota and Crooners. A five-time Grammy nominee whose discography ranges from Paris to Rio, from ballads to blues, from upbeat swing to gloomy contemplation, Karrin Allyson keeps forging new directions. Her latest recording, A Kiss for Brasil, was released a few weeks ago on Origin Records.

Stefon Harris

Friday June 21, 8:30 pm, Stefon Harris and Blackout. Vibraphonist, composer and educator Stefon Harris is a  a four-time GRAMMY nominee, recipient of the Martin E. Segal Award from Lincoln Center, a multi-year winner in the Annual DownBeat Critics Poll and JazzTimes Critics Poll, and an eight-time “Best Mallet Player” honoree by the Jazz Journalists Association. An alum of the SF Jazz Collective, Harris leads Blackout, which has recently featured Christian Sands (piano), James Francies (keyboards), Casey Benjamin (sax), Dezron Douglas (bass), and Terreon Gulley (drums). His most recent works have incorporated Artificial Intelligence with live performance.

Kandace Springs

Saturday, June 22, 6:00 pm, Kandace Springs.  Nashville native Kandace Springs is a soul/jazz vocalist/pianist/songwriter and Blue Note artist who has performed with such stars as Norah Jones, Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride, David Sanborn and Prince. She has appeared several times at The Dakota.

Joe Lovano

Saturday, June 22, 8:30 pm, Joe Lovano Quartet.  Hailed by the New York Times as “one of the greatest musicians in jazz history,” Joe Lovano carries nearly five decades of notable performance and recording experience. After attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Lovano made his recording debut with organ master Lonnie Smith and worked with Jack McDuff before joining Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd. He went on to perform with top big bands (12 years with the Mel Lewis Orchestra) and touring artists, lead his own acclaimed ensembles, and hold the first Gary Burton Chair for Jazz Performance at Berklee. His credits include the Paul Motian Trio, Saxophone Summit, and SFJazz Collective in addition to leading numerous ensembles, including Us Five with Esperanza Spalding (Twin Cities Jazz Festival 2010), Scofield-Lovano Quartet (Dakota 2016), and Soundprints with Dave Douglas (Crooners 2022).

Joining Lovano at JazzFest will be pianist Kenny Werner, a prolific performer and renowned educator who last appeared at Jazz Fest with his trio in 2013; bassist John Lockwood, an alum of the bands of Art Farmer, Stan Getz and Pat Metheny; and drummer Francisco Mela, who served Jazz Fest as Artistic Director for several years.

See the Full Schedule Online!

The full schedule for the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, starting with pre-fest performances on June 20, and including the master class schedule, artist bios, sponsor listing, and venue map, is available online at