Fillmore Jazz Festival

Fillmore Jazz Festival

Date Observed: The weekend nearest July 4
Location: San Francisco, California

The Fillmore Jazz Festival is a free outdoor event held on the Saturday and Sunday closest to Independence Day, July 4. This annual celebration of jazz music and culture on San Francisco's historic Fillmore Street draws an average of 90,000 visitors each year.

Historical Background

San Francisco's ethnically diverse Fillmore neighborhood has a long and colorful history. Known as "the Fillmore," the neighborhood has been the scene of important moments in jazz and rock music history. After San Francisco was devastated by a major fire and earthquake in 1906, rebuilding efforts transformed Fillmore Street into an entertainment district. Many theaters were built for public performances, and young artists, such as Al Jolson, began their careers there in the 1920s and 1930s.

Jazz reigned on Fillmore Street throughout the World War II years. Dozens of jazz nightclubs opened on Fillmore Street. These clubs featured performances by well-known artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday (see also Charlie Parker Jazz Festival and Satchmo SummerFest). During the 1960s the neighborhood became a haven for artists representing all forms of entertainment, including writers, actors, and musicians of all types.

The Fillmore has developed into one of the most culturally diverse neighborhoods in the U.S., becoming home to communities of Filipino, Mexican, African-American, Japanese, Russian, and Jewish residents. The neighborhood, which has always included a mix of homes and businesses, was revitalized by an infusion of new development in the 1980s. In 1999 the Fillmore Jazz Preservation District was dedicated in recognition of the street's history as a cultural landmark. The neighborhood now hosts a wide variety of gourmet restaurants, boutiques, and specialty shops, including Marcus Books, the nation's largest African-American bookstore. Today, Fillmore Street continues its long tradition of celebrating art and culture by hosting numerous festivals and street fairs throughout the year.

Creation of the Festival

The Fillmore Merchants Association helped to launch the first Fillmore Jazz Festival in 1985. The festival was intended to celebrate the roots of jazz and the importance of the Fillmore Street nightclubs during the early days of jazz music. In its first year, the festival was held on three blocks of Fillmore Street and showcased all forms of jazz from fusion to Latin, as well as jazz standards.

African Americans and Jazz

Jazz began as a distinctly African-American musical genre, developing from two older styles of African-American music - blues and ragtime. The roots of the jazz sound can be traced even farther back to African rhythms, drums, calland-response singing, foot stomping, and hand clapping. These musical elements became part of the essential foundation of jazz music. They were layered with more complex sounds to create the modern variations of jazz heard today.

The first African-American jazz bands were formed in New Orleans, Louisiana, in the early 1900s. As jazz grew in popularity throughout the country, AfricanAmerican musicians traveled to different cities to perform. By the 1920s, jazz clubs were opening in many larger cities such as Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. Once jazz spread geographically, rather than remaining concentrated mostly in one city, different forms of jazz music began to emerge. AfricanAmerican musicians created new styles of jazz as the genre evolved. Louis Armstrong pioneered the jazz solo in the 1920s, and in the 1930s, musicians like Duke Ellington and Count Basie popularized the big band swing jazz sound. By the mid-1940s, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Thelonius Monk were focusing on smaller bands and an innovative performance style that became known as bebop. The 1960s saw the emergence of fusion, free jazz, and cool jazz that was played by such artists as Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman. More recently, jazz musicians like Wynton Marsalis are reviving the more traditional styles heard in the early days of jazz.


The Fillmore Jazz Festival is widely considered to be the largest free jazz festival on the West Coast. Now organized by Hartmann Studios, an event production company, the festival has grown to include more than 13 city blocks and three stages of continuous music. Performers representing the entire spectrum of jazz music are showcased during the twoday event. In addition to nonstop music, the festival also includes eight city blocks of arts, crafts, and other merchandise for sale. Hundreds of vendors sell clothing, jewelry, art, home furnishings, and food.

Contacts and Web Sites

Hartmann Studios 100 W. Ohio Ave. Richmond, CA 94804 800-731-0003 or 510-970-3217

Fillmore Merchants Association

Further Reading

"A Fair to Remember: Throngs Shop, Eat, Bounce Along to Jazz at the Fifteenth Annual Festival Despite Cold." San Francisco Examiner, July 2, 2000. Goines, Leonard. "Jazz." In The African-American Experience: Selections from the Five- Volume Macmillan Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History , edited by Jack Salzman. New York: Macmillan, 1998. "Music: Major African American Musical Forms." New York Public Library African American Desk Reference . New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1999.
African-American Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations, 1st ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2007

Fillmore Jazz Festival

Weekend closest to Independence Day
Sponsored by the Fillmore Merchants Association in San Francisco, Calif., the Fillmore Jazz Festival is the largest free jazz festival in the western United States. The festival comprises two full days and nights of musical entertainment on three stages and occupies Fillmore Street from Jackson to Eddy Streets. An annual event held on the weekend closest to Independence Day, each year it attracts approximately 90,000 visitors from the Bay Area, the state, and throughout North America.
The first Fillmore Jazz Festival was held in 1985 to celebrate the musical heritage of the ethnically diverse Fillmore neighborhood, where such jazz luminaries as Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Billie Holliday performed during the 1940s. In addition to offering performances of standards from the 20th-century golden age of jazz, the lineup features local and national acts offering funk, fusion, salsa, Afro-rhythms, and R&B. The festival showcases the ethnic diversity of the neighborhood through a variety of gourmet food vendors and artists in addition to the entertainment schedule.
Fillmore Jazz Festival
Fillmore Merchants Association
2130 Fillmore St. #155
San Francisco, CA 94115
Steven Restivo Event Services, LLC
Fillmore Jazz Festival
P.O. Box 151017
San Rafael, CA 94915
800-310-6563; fax: 415-456-6436
AAH-2007, p. 156
PatHols-2006, p. 166
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
When Paula West and Kim Nalley work the crowds into a frenzy for this year's Fillmore Jazz Festival, they'll be honoring a tradition that dates back decades.
The 20th Annual Fillmore Jazz Festival (www.fillmore or 800/731-0003) takes place July 3-4; admission is free.