Jazz City (formally, Jazz City International Jazz Festival 1980-90, du Maurier Ltd Jazz City, as of 1991). It was established by the Edmonton Jazz Society in 1980 under the direction of Marc Vasey in response to an initiative from Alberta Culture on the occasion of the province's 75th anniversary. The Edmonton Jazz Society, founded in 1973, had previously sponsored individual jazz concerts. Administration of the festival was taken over in 1984 by the newly-created, non-profit Jazz City Festival Society.
In its first season, 17-24 Aug 1980, 20 concerts were presented at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium and the Shoctor Theatre. The latter (part of the Citadel complex) remained the main festival stage until 1984, supplanted in 1985 by the Citadel's MacLab Theatre,1986-90 by the Chateau Lacombe Ballroom, and in 1991 by the Westin Hotel Ballroom. The Centennial Library Theatre has also been the site of workshops and concerts. Other halls have been employed as required, and the festival has presented music in local clubs (eg, the Sidetrack Café) and at free, outdoor concerts in Sir Winston Churchill Park. In 1985 the Yardbird Suite (re-established on a year-round basis by the Edmonton Jazz Society in September 1984 using the name of a succession of musician-run clubs in the city during the late 1950s and early 1960s) became a major festival venue.
The festival moved in 1986 from mid-August to late June and early July and expanded to 10 days. In 1990 it offered some 140 concerts and club presentations (more than 90 free) by some 375 musicians from nine countries. Attendance was estimated at 126,000. Under Vasey's direction, the festival initially offered an independent and decidedly contemporary view of jazz. With the advent of Westcan Jazz in 1987 (See Jazz Festivals), Vasey began to co-operate with other western Canadian festivals and Jazz City's programming took a broader and more eclectic turn. Although eventually eclipsed in various respects by events in Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto, Jazz City was the first of the Canadian festivals of the 1980s to achieve international standing.