The festival was arranged for the first time in 1972 at Håndverkeren in Bergen (now closed). It moved to Studentsenteret in 1978 (now demolished and rebuilt), and eventually to USF Verftet in 1994. In 2012 Nattjazz was held in different localities in Vågsbunnen because of the reconstructions of USF Verftet.
During the course of the festival most concerts are held indoors but now and then there are outdoors concerts too. The festival has also from time to time collaborations with e.g. Festspillene i Bergen in Grieghallen. Inside the USF Verftet there have been concerts from four stages and the public bought admission to the house, not to individual concerts. The four scenes that was in use varied in capacity from about 70 to 700 people. Some rooms was set up with seating, others primarily with people standing. In addition, it was adapted areas where the public could relax and watch what happened at the various stages using internal channels. There was normally several artists at every stage in the course of an evening. This scheme was followed in 2012, although stages were in different localities. Future plans are to reestablish the USF Verftet as the main location for events at the festival.
Nattjazzprisen or Hansaprisen – verdt å vente på (Hansa Prize – well worth the wait) was established in 2005 by the jazz festival Nattjazz in Bergen, Norway in collaboration with Hansa Borg Bryggerier. The prize worth NKR 50 000 is awarded annually under the Nattjazz i Bergen and should be given to an artist the jury believes has international qualities and the potential for international success.
The following musicians have been awarded the Hansaprisen: