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News 28 Oct 15

Belgrade Jazz Festival Eyes the Future

This year’s festival focuses on evolving trends within this quintessentially American music genre.

David Galic
This year's festival will be headlined by the Hiromi Trio from Japan. Photo: Flickr/ Bruno Bollaert

While last year’s festival highlighted jazz styles through past decades, this year’s instalment, taking place from October 28 to November 1, will shift its focus to the future of the genre.

The annual festival, now entering its 31 year, has long been a favourite with Serbian jazz fans and organisers say increased funding has enabled it to attract a much wider selection of bigger, international names.

Dragan Ambrozic, the festival’s programme director, said the performances will allow people to see what lies ahead for jazz and highlight some of the best artists and sounds of the 21 century, instead of looking back to the past.

“We tried to expand our horizons this year,” Ambrozic told Belgrade daily Blic on October 9, adding that the geography of jazz in this century has gone through a significant change.

While jazz will always be an inherently American art form, the rest of the world is embracing the style more than ever. With that in mind, organisers of the Belgrade Jazz Festival made a concerted effort to book performers from all over the globe.

Of course, there will be new American artists present in the line-up, but there will also be musicians from Turkey, Puerto Rico, Scandinavia and even Japan.

Thanks to the largest donation from the City of Belgrade that the festival has ever seen, organisers were able to be more ambitious with bookings and traverse the entire international scene to bring some of its brightest stars to Belgrade.

The city has given the festival a budget of just over €140,000 for this year's event.

Organisers say that the increased investment has proven to be worthwhile as not only could they bring big, relevant stars to the festival, but tickets are moving faster than ever.

More than 1,300 tickets had already been sold as of a couple weeks ago. On top of that, 165 people have purchased package tickets that allow them to see every single concert in the programme.

“Jazz is a part of the culture, tradition and history of this city,” Goran Vesic, Belgrade City Manager and Festival Council President said at a press conference on October 9, adding that the city will allot even more money to the festival next year.

Beyond the music itself, another interesting addition to the city's jazz landscape is a 300-square-metre gallery in Knez Mihailova Street in downtown Belgrade that will soon be home to the capital’s first jazz museum. Vesic said that there will be money set aside in the city's budget next year to work on the museum, which should open its doors to the public by early 2017 at the latest.

This year's festival will be headlined by the Hiromi Trio from Japan, who will be playing on Halloween (October 31) at Dom Sindikata. Hiromi Uehara is the 36-year-old leader of the trio. As a child piano prodigy, she attended the US Berklee College of Music on a scholarship as a teenager and was already signed to a label before graduating. The other two members of the trio are bassist Mitch Cohn and drummer Dave DiCenso.

If you've been keeping up with jazz publications over the last couple of years, then you will know that alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa released an album in 2014 that was unanimously praised by jazz critics as the best record of the year. This American saxophonist of Indian descent will also play on October 31 as a headline act in Belgrade.

Two more performers of note include Puerto Rico-born saxophonist Miguel Zenon and American sax player James Brandon Luis, an exceptional young talent who is debuting a brand new musical project for the first time in Europe when he visits Belgrade.

Tickets for festival concerts range between three and ten euros depending on performers and can be purchased at just about any city box office.

For more information on the programme and where you can purchase tickets, visit the festival's official website:  www.belgrade-jazzfest.org

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