Ljubljana Jazz Festival

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Contact info
Jazz Festival Ljubljana
Prešernova 10, SI-1000 Ljubljana
Phone386 (0) 1 241 7147
Fax386 (0) 1 241 7298
Organised byCankarjev dom, Cultural and Congress Centre
 Cankarjev dom, Music Programme
Festival dates1.7.2015 - 4.7.2015
28.6.2016 - 2.7.2016
28.6.2017 - 1.7.2017
27.6.2018 - 30.6.2018
18.6.2019 - 22.6.2019
17.6.2020 - 20.6.2020
Bogdan Benigar, Festival Director
Phone386 (0) 1 241 7157
Edin Zubčević, Programme Co-curator, Head of Jazz Fest Sarajevo
Online accounts:
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Past Events
  • 26 September 2015
    Follow the white rabbit, a lecture by Bogdan Benigar, director of the Ljubljana Jazz Festival, at the European Jazz Conference at Budapest Music Centre in Budapest, Hungary

Established in 1960, the international Ljubljana Jazz Festival is the oldest jazz festival in Europe. It is also the central international jazz event in Slovenia that throughout the decades has presented an impressive array of some of the most eminent jazz and improvising musicians from all over the globe.

The heterogeneous and diffuse nature of contemporary jazz music is reflected not only in the festival's history, but even more so in the adventurous musical direction it currently displays. It features a broad range of musical expressions, from the more exploratory and unidiomatic practices to metal-flavoured improvisations and funk or soul-tinged jazz ventures. The festival programme is complemented by a year-round programme held by the organiser of the festival, the Cankarjev dom, Cultural and Congress Centre, where similar music is presented on a weekly basis at the "Tuesday Clubbing" concert series.

Many open air or interdisciplinary events accompany the main musical part of the festival, including street performances, residency programmes, film screenings, round tables, and exhibitions of posters, jazz photography, and other art works.

The festival predominantly takes place at the various concert halls of Cankarjev dom. The other main location is the open-air venue Križanke, with some events also taking place at Klub Gromka and occasionally on the streets of Ljubljana.

Music programme

The Ljubljana Jazz Festival is quite profiled in terms of what one can expect not to hear – and that is safe reiterations of a traditional jazz expression. So, "new music" may actually be the most apt term to describe a sizeable part of the festival's programme, which is still extensively complemented by more regular jazz forms.

The festival does not focus on staging big names – though they do tend to stop by – but it predominantly (yet not exclusively) focuses on presenting a combination of what is perceived as original, important, and fresh music, often played by young and promising artists. Fresh collaborations and music premières are also appreciated, with the latter regularly coming in the form of the traditional collaboration of RTV Slovenia Big Band with the likes of Anthony Braxton, Terje Rypadal, Paquito D'Rivera, etc.

Since 2009 and the 50th anniversary of the festival, some of its more prominent guests have been Avishai Cohen, Hamilton de Hollanda, Richard Galliano, John Zorn (and a couple of his various projects), Peter Brötzmann (on whom a special focus was held in 2013 with 4 different concerts), Pat Metheny, Maria João, John Scofield, Neneh Cherry (with The Thing), David Murray, Macy Gray, Sly & Robbie and Nils Petter Molvaer, Gregory Porter and Diogo Nogueira.

Yet, equally important but somewhat less resounding have been the performances by Vijay Iyer Trio, Anthony Joseph & The Spasm Band, Angles Octet, Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth, Farmers By Nature, Peter Evans, various appearances by Nate Wooley, Adam Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra, Dans Dans, and Fire! Orchestra.

Some of the listed artists have also appeared at the Lent Festival, with whom Ljubljana Jazz Festival regularly cooperates.

Clean Feed collaboration

Since 2009, Pedro Costa, the head of the Portuguese label Clean Feed, has been collaborating with the festival and in 2011 became its co-curator. In that same year, the first concerts were recorded to be later released by the label. This practice has been going on since then and the albums are released under the name Live in Ljubljana Jazz Series.

A similar international curating partnership was already undertaken before, with Oliver Belopeta, the director of Skopje Jazz Festival, acting as the artistic director of Ljubljana Jazz Festival between 2000–2004.


The prehistory of the festival that formally emerged in the year 1960 as the Yugoslavian Jazz Festival, actually goes back to the first years after World War II. At that time the RTV Slovenia Big Band was formed and had for a time enthusiastically played jazz tunes, but that was soon proclaimed as politically improper and so jazz music only resurfaced in the second half of the 1950s. Yet, the various Yugoslavian pop festivals of that decade had already created an interconnected and active musical scene that allowed for the first jazz festival edition to already have an extensive line-up with musicians from all parts of the federal republic. Correspondingly, the Slovenian pop music festival Slovenska popevka, which was established in 1962, shared the better part of the Slovene musicians who appeared at the jazz festival.

While for the first 6 years the festival took place in Bled, in 1967 it moved to Ljubljana and in 1970 finally found its traditional domicile in the attractive outdoor venue of Križanke. Especially in its first few years, the festival more or less presented Yugoslav musicians and the republic's national radio big band ensembles, but this was soon changed and the programme developed a strongly international outlook.

Musical programme until 1981

For the first two decades, the festival was organised by the Jazz Society Ljubljana and was characterised by its conventional jazz milieu and close ties to the institutionalised RTV Slovenia Big Band, then bastion of Slovene jazz traditionalism. Alongside the various (quality) proponents of a somewhat conservative jazz music like the Albert Mangelsdorff Quintet (1962), Krzysztof Komeda Quintet (1965), Martial Solal Trio (1968), and Memphis Slim (1968), the festival also brought quite a few musicians who dealt with the more daring strands of music, like the Modern Jazz Quartet (1964), the violinist Jean-Luc Ponty (1967), and the Japanese musicians Kimiki Kasai & Akira Tanaka (1969).

The 1970s brought a looser conception of appropriate music and free jazz gained some limited admittance alongside other new expressions like fusion and the so-called ECM jazz. Representative names of that time are Bill Evans Trio (1972), Ram Chandra Mistry (1972), Karin Krog & Arild Andersen (1973), Archie Shepp Quintet (1973), The Jazz Messengers (1974), Stan Getz Quartet (1974), Odetta (1974), Elvin Jones Quartet (1975), Cecil Taylor Quintet (1976), New Terje Rypdal Group (1977), Mombasa (1977), Paul Bley (1979), Airto Moreira Group (1980), and Pharoah Sanders Quartet (1981).

Musical programme after 1982

In 1982 the organisation of the Ljubljana Jazz Festival was taken over from the local Jazz Society and Cankarjev dom became its regular organiser, setting up a new curatorial model. Not without resistance and public polemics, the first enlarged programme council also included younger jazz connoisseurs who were groomed under the wing of Radio Študent. This marked a musical opening towards new jazz, various forms of improvised music, and new trends associated with or inspired by jazz. Also, this was the turning point of the festival's orientation, an orientation that was followed through the appointments of select art directors.

Due to controversies about its artistic direction and subsequent pressures on both Cankarjev dom and the programme committee, the people who were responsible for a more open musical programme of the festival, left in 1984 and established the Druga Godba Festival.

Marking an opening of a new festival creed, one of the most majestic concerts at Ljubljana Jazz Festival was given by Sun Ra Archestra in 1982. Other artists who appeared at the festival in that decade were Steve Lacy & Mal Waldron (1982), Irene Schweizer (1982), Lester Bowie Ensemble (1982), Keith Tippett–Peter Brötzmann Quartet (1984), Vienna Art Orchestra (ca. 1985), Anthony Braxton Quartet (1985), Julius Hemphill Jah Band (1985), Dudu Pukwana & Zila (1986), McCoy Tyner Trio (1986), The Art Ensemble of Chicago (1987), Max Roach (1988), Gilberto Gil (1988), and Henry Threadgill Sextet (1989).

The 1990s brought Steve Coleman's Five Elements (1990), Miles Davis (1991), Don Byron Klezmer Orchestra (US, 1994), Ray Barretto & New World Spirit Orchestra (US, 1994), Bill Frisell Group, Defunkt (1996), Tito Puente & His Latin Jazz Ensemble (1997), Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos (2001), Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet (2002), Femi Anikulapo – Kuti & The Positive Force (2002), Jan Garbarek Group (2003), Ornette Coleman Quartet (2004), Abdullah Ibrahim (2005), Martin Medeski & Wood (2005), Alexander von Schlippenbach & Die Enttäuschung (2006), and Charlie Haden Quartet West (2008).

The Jazz Society

After the festival organisation was given to Cankarjev dom, the Jazz Society Ljubljana again started with organising a Yugoslavian jazz music focused festival, once again held in Bled. Until the mid-1990s it also organised regular jazz concerts in Ljubljana and in 2003 set up the first Festival of Slovenian Jazz. In 2012, they renamed themselves as the Jazz Society.

See also

External links

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