Founded in 1986 by the Saskatoon Jazz Society, the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival produces the largest cultural event in Saskatchewan and is the only festival that presents itself in multiple communities. Once a three-day event, it now covers ten days in late June and early July in the cities of Saskatoon, Regina, North Battleford, Prince Albert and Moose Jaw. The festival's heart lies in Saskatoon, where it originated, with just over 90% of its performances taking place on the city's streets, in parks, the Bessborough Hotel's gardens, the historic Broadway Theatre, and a variety of clubs and venues throughout downtown. Many performances are free to the public and promote the talents of local musicians. Touring acts from all over Canada and the world make up approximately 40% of the festival's performances. In 2004, Regina played host to fourteen concerts featuring twenty local and touring groups; and North Battleford, Prince Albert, and Moose Jaw each hosted one show.
With a mandate to promote jazz music in its diverse forms, to provide a forum for artists and music educators, and to support the development of musicians, the festival offers an eclectic program. Jazz is the core for concert programming and makes up over half of the performances each year. Related genres include styles with roots in jazz or improvisational influences: blues, gospel, funk, R & B, soul, and world music are all regulars in the eclectic lineup. The festival delivers jazz education to high school musicians and vocalists, bringing in educators from all over Canada to provide instruction and workshops. It also reaches out into the community by offering concerts in special care homes in Saskatoon, thus taking the festival to those who would otherwise be unable to participate. Individual and corporate communities embrace the festival in the roles of patron and financial supporters.