The Cork Jazz Festival was founded by Jim Mountjoy in 1978. Mountjoy worked as a marketing manager of the city’s Metropole Hotel at the time. He faced the necessity of filling his property for the weekend and designed to organize a jazz festival. The inaugural festival coincided with the newly introduced October bank holiday (the last Monday of October).
The first edition of the Cork Jazz Festival attracted thousands of jazz fans. The attendance has been growing steadily and now the festival is visited by more than 40,000 people ever year. Music fans from all over Ireland as well as from other countries come to Cork to hear noted jazz musicians. To date, over one million jazz lovers have visited the city’s jazz festival. Since 1980, Guinness has been the major sponsor of the event.
Over the years, the Cork Jazz Festival has featured world renowned jazz musicians such as George Shearing, Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Torme, Buddy Rich, Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Billy Eckstine, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Cleo Laine, Lionel Hampton, Dave Brubeck, Gerry Mulligan, Chick Corea, Sonny Rollins, Stéphane Grappelli, Esbjorn Svensson Trio (EST), Al Di Meola, Gregory Porter, John McLaughlin, Billy Cobham, Damon Albarn and others. Non-jazz artists also can get invited to the festival.
Unlike many other jazz festivals that are held in summer, the Cork Jazz Festival is scheduled for autumn. This means that there is a slightly higher chance of hearing noted jazz musicians because there are no other jazz festivals scheduled at the same time and because very few musicians schedule their tours for autumn, preferring to tour in summer.
Festival concerts take place in more than fifty venues across the city of Cork including pubs, galleries, theaters, libraries, etc. Along with the concerts, the festival’s program features exhibitions, a jazz bus, charity events, a record & CD fair, a jazz parade, a jazz food fair, a jazz gospel service, jazz poetry evenings, open jam sessions and more. Most of the events are free.