ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The City of Rochester is ready to fill its streets with the rhythm of jazz once again, celebrating the return of Rochester’s International Jazz Festival to downtown with a jam-packed list of headlining artists and more free shows than ever before.

The festival is back after a two-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It began Friday and runs through Sunday.

“It has been a long two years since our community has had a jazz festival,” Bello said. “Music inspires us, it moves us, all together. It is time to celebrate. Our community has come a long way, lets celebrate together through the power of music.”

Plans for the festival’s return began prior to November last year when organizers met to discuss the best course of action following its cancellation last year. Suggestions of a July festival on RIT’s campus were made early in 2021, but the proposal fell through after the event was unable to secure funding.

“Postponing our Jazz Festival for two years in a row has left a void for all of us,” said Producer and Executive Director Marc Iacona last year. “We can look forward once again to hearing vibrant music from around the world in June in downtown Rochester.”

The 19th edition of the International Jazz Festival will take place across nine days at 20 different venues in downtown Rochester this summer, starting on June 17.

Officials estimate more than 325 shows, including a record-breaking 130 free shows, will feature this year.

Headlines for the 2022 Rochester Jazz Festival include: Chris Botti, Devon Allman Project and special guests Dirty Dozen Brass Band & Samantha Fish “Allman Family Revival,” Tommy Emmanuel, Spyro Gyra, Robin Thicke, Sheila E., Booker T Presents: A Soul Stax Revue, New Power Generation, G Love & Special Sauce, The Bacon Brothers, and Wynonna Judd.

All headlining shows will be free to the public and presented on outdoor venues at Midtown Stage at Parcel 5 and Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Park. Organizers say no tickets are necessary for headlining artists.

“The festival’s return to our downtown will be a defiant moment for our city,” Dan Burns, Senior Vice President for M&T Bank said. “This festival is massive. Our community needs this event. Let’s come together to celebrate music, each other and uplift our community. I cannot wait to see Jazz Street pulsating again.”

Marc Iacona, a producer for the festival, touched on the economic impact saying, “(It’s) what’s happening with hotels, restaurants, what’s happening with other entrepreneurs within the footprint that are hiring more people. Almost like during a holiday season, and they truly do ramp up– a significant increase in terms of people who are coming downtown as well as spending downtown and discovering our city again.”

The full list of artists for this year’s festival can be found on the Rochester Jazz Festival website.

Producer’s picks:

Along with their press conference today, the RIJF unveiled their “producer’s picks.” Nugent and Iacona both contributed to this list of artists they’re checking out. But they will say, it’s not who you know, but who you don’t know.

  • Emmaline
  • Samara Joy
  • Tivon Pennicott Quartet
  • Ravi Coltrane
  • Big Lazy
  • Itamar Borochov
  • Ranky Tanky
  • Adam Melchor
  • Champian Fulton Trio
  • Giveton Gelin
  • Immanuel Wilkins Quartet
  • Dan Wilson Quartet
  • Sarah McKenzie
  • Helen Sung Trio
  • Robin McKelle
  • Connie Han
  • Lioness
  • Sunna Gunnlaugs Trio

Dan’s picks:

Digital content reporter Dan Gross has been covering the festival for over half a decade, from independent to freelance work, to coverage for News 8. He’s also known as “Music Man Dan,” so take that for what it’s worth.

He’s highlighted some shows he’s excited to check out. There’s some overlap with the producers, and of course, local music will be taken in… But that’s for the next list.

  • Lioness
  • Helen Sung Trio
  • Lioness
  • Lew Tabackin Trio
  • Bill Frisell Trio
  • Tommy Emmanuel
  • Jeremy Pelt Quartet
  • Scott Mulvahill
  • Judah Sealy
  • Moho Collective
  • Kurt Elling’s “SuperBlue” with Charlie Hunter

According to organizers, new for this year is the expansion of Jazz Street. The festival’s merchandise tent and hospitality suite will move to Parcel 5, allowing for more access to event-goers on Jazz Street.

“Quality of life, the experience for our community and outside our community. The economic impact from our festival is huge. On Parcel 5, we will now have 27 free shows. This is going to be a center area. This event is a high-end buffet of music you can listen to,” said CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival Producer and Artistic Director Marc Iacona.

Two years have passed since the festival was last held in Rochester. Officials expect to welcome more than 200,000 music fans from around the world to downtown.

“This is a major economic development in our city,” Mayor Evans said. “There are people that come from around the world who descend to Rochester. Parcel 5? Nightly, outdoor shows for seven days in a row? That is a big deal, it has never been done before. Jazz Street, Parcel 5, MLK Park… this is so exciting, I am looking forward to this.”

Jazz lovers in Rochester can get a taste of what is to come from this year’s festival with a March 15 concert with RIJF regular, Catherine Russell.

Tickets are now on sale and can be found here, and will also be available at the door. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.

Russell is known as one of the leading modern interpreters of early jazz, from the 1920s into the 1940s, and is a fan favorite at the RIJF, filling Harro East and Kilbourn Hall over the years.

Tuesday’s announcement took place at the Theatre of Innovation Square on 131 North Chestnut Street.

Watch The Full Announcement Here:

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.