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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 21, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 21
Arts & Entertainment
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Summer jazz festivals in the French Riviera post big names

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN Contributing Writer

Do you really need an excuse to visit the French Riviera? Probably not. This particular region of the famed European country lies an hour and 15 minutes from Paris by plane. In fact, getting there from Seattle is a cinch - Air France (www.airfrance.us) flies non-stop to Paris several days a week with easy connections to Nice in the Cote d'Azur - a fancy name for the French Riviera - from either Charles de Gaulle or Orly airports in less than 90 minutes. For jazz and world music aficionados, there's no better place to appreciate great sounds and fabulous vistas than here. The French people love jazz almost as much as they do wine, and this year are spoiled with upcoming appearances by some of the genre's top artists, as well as international stars from all fields of music. If you're planning a trip to this region in the coming weeks or are pondering a jazz-cation for summer 2010, here are the festivals to hit.

Nuits du Sud
Vence, July 8-August 7
www.nuitsdusud.com

In 2009, the Nuits du Sud (translation: nights in the south) drew 500,000 visitors to the adorable, rustic city of Vence - 40 minutes from the Nice airport.

The artist roster for the 14th installment of Nuits du Sud is eclectic, starting with Suzanne Vega and Youssou N'Dour on July 8, Toots & the Maytals and Sibusa Shirazu Orchestra on July 22, Calle 13 and Johnny Clegg on July 24, Baaba Maal and Luz Casal on August 5, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic and Asere on August 6, and Grupo Fantasma and Raul Paz on August 7.

Open-air performances for all of the above and more (listed on the festival website) are staged at the Place du Grand Jardin-Vence, a plaza located in heart of the city with great restaurants encircling the venue. For accommodations, feel like a star at the posh Le Mas de Pierre (www.lemasdepierre.com) in the town of Saint Paul de Vence, where celebrities like Vincent Cassel and Mika have stayed. It's about a 10- to 15-minute drive to the festival area.

Jazz a Juan
Antibes-Juan les Pins, July 14-25
www.jazzajuan.com

Celebrating its 50-year anniversary in 2010 is Jazz a Juan, a seaside music festival in the combined resort towns of Antibes-Juan les Pins, about 15 minutes from the Nice airport, attracting thousands per night.

This year's golden lineup, all representing the jazz field, includes appearances by George Benson and David Sanborn on July 15, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Melody Gardot on July 17, Joshua Redman Double Trio and Roy Hargrove Quintet on July 20, Diana Krall and Kyle Eastwood on July 22, a four-artist bill with Marcus Miller, Lalah Hathaway, Raul Midon and Manu Katche, plus the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo, on July 24, and Liz McComb and Soiree Gospel on July 25.

Pinede Gould is an outdoor stage that hosts each concert, allowing for gorgeous sunsets to savor along with fresh regional delicacies, like homemade tapenades and cheeses. There are lots of hotels in the area to choose from, from high end to reasonably priced. I suggest the Garden Beach Hotel in Juan les Pins (www.juanlespinshotel.com) with miraculous views of the sea and nearby Cannes, and it's a stone's throw from the actual stage.

Sporting Summer Festival
Monte Carlo, July 9-August 21
www.sportingsummerfestival.com

Though expensive, the Principality of Monte Carlo is inarguably stunning. The hour-long scenic drive from Nice, in high altitude on a very curvy mountain road, is pristine. Bus and train service is available, too.

The 2010 Sporting Summer Festival kicks off with back-to-back performances by multiple-Grammy winner Stevie Wonder on July 9 and 10, then features performances by British favorite Mika on July 14, R&B diva Erykah Badu on July 15, pop standout Norah Jones on July 18, French star (and wife of Johnny Depp) Vanessa Paradis on July 25, electronic-dance whiz Jamiroquai on July 26, and jazz maverick Jamie Cullum on August 20. Additionally, Gay icon Elton John is signed on for a four-night/five-show run on August 2-6.

All shows take place at the 1,000-capacity Salles des Etoilles, an indoor facility resembling a banquet room more than a concert venue, though it does provide an intimate space to see major performers with the possibility of having dinner within feet of Elton John's piano. There are no budget lodgings in Monte Carlo, the center point of the miniscule nation of Monaco, so I recommend staying at the Hotel Hermitage (www.hotelhermitagemontecarlo.com), a five-minute hop and skip to the performance hall.

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