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When jazz takes over
Cities have a tendency to casually insert their name before the word ‘festival’ to enjoy a branding boost. Yet at many major music festivals, the connection between city and music is unseen, unfelt and marginalised to the outskirts. Several jewels may be displayed at central locations, some happy banners may proclaim a few famous artists, but the festival is largely unnoticed by the general public.
Copenhagen and its jazz festival are nothing like this norm.
Now in its 34th year of delivering ten days of stunningly spectacular music and memories as one of the pre-eminent jazz festivals in the world, the Copenhagen Jazz Festival becomes jazz and jazz becomes the city.
From July 6 to July 15, more than 1,000 concerts will take place at over 100 venues, from sun-soaked cobblestoned streets to hallowed music halls. Several thousand jazz musicians will groove into the city, many staying a few extra days to listen to music and see old friends. Last year, over a quarter of a million people visited the city during the festival, joining locals in celebrating Copenhagen as the jazziest spot on the planet.
The festival does a fine job of offering a diverse array of choices for music lovers. The two major themes are the ‘Concert Hall Series’ and ‘21st Century Jazz’ in which a majority of the headliners play to packed houses at some of the city’s finest venues. But it would be a mistake to assume that this is all the jazz festival has to offer. Free concerts abound, outdoors and indoors. There is ‘Jazz for Kids’; ‘...something else’; jazz at churches and ‘Jazz by the Sea’. It is a democratic festival where any club, café, public space, concert hall – pretty much any spot that can squeeze in a piano – can be a part of the festival.
The Copenhagen Jazz Festival is like a free public utility, not a profit driven enterprise. It is funded by the state and private sponsors, and it provides a booster shot of jazz that enlivens the scene all year long.
The creative mind behind the jazz festival, musical director Kenneth Hansen, has worked hard to keep the spirit of jazz – balancing new trends with the 34 -year-old festival’s original ideals. His programme is unique and wide-reaching, and he believes that jazz is good for you. “You can get inspired by the essence of jazz,” said Hansen. “Jazz is a lifestyle. Looking for new things, evolving, improvising, being open, going in new directions and also taking chances. It’s okay to fail – this is a big thing about jazz. Everyone and everything is so concerned about money, and I think jazz says to go for it, it’s okay to fail, you may find something along the way.”
In addition to the main themes, here (see right) are a few choice festival selections.
You are cordially invited to the official opening of the Copenhagen Jazz Festival: Vijay Iyer and his trio. A vibrant young pianist and composer will perform inside a glorious atrium at a world-class art museum. Price: nothing. In the past this opening affair has been played open-air with fine musicians, but never with an artist of Iyer’s stature. “Some would find Vijay Iyer a challenging artist to listen to, but we wanted to make a statement, give it as a gift: here is one of the most progressive artists in modern jazz for free,” said Hansen.
To ensure your child has musical taste and to provide them with some entertainment, visit the Jazz for Kids theme. These free, fun, mostly outdoor concerts have become a staple for families. This public service takes place every festival day at the Østre Anlæg next to Statens Museum for Kunst, and at other venues. Check the schedule for the complete listings.
The Songs of Joni Mitchell, Monday July 9, 18:00
Teitur, Tuesday July 10, 18:00
Naja Rosa, Wednesday July 11, 18:00
Hymns from Nineven, Thursday July 12, 18:00
Mikael Simpson, Friday July 13, 18:00
The finest venue of the festival also boasts the most unique programme ‘...something else’. This is a recent theme created by the jazz festival that focuses on music that would not traditionally be considered jazz, yet shares a commitment to improvisation and musicianship. In the past these concerts have generally been performed indoors, but for the first time the new meets the old and this series is performed at Det Kongelige Danske Haveselskabs Have, a historic and glorious garden in the heart of Frederiksberg. It is a perfect place to enjoy a picnic, sunshine and some innovative sounds.
Count on the reopened Jazzhus Montmartre to provide excellent and intimate concerts during the festival. This legendary club has a nostalgic feel with modern taste. Artists such as the great pianist Mulgrew Miller fill the stage during the festival, and each night a lively jam session kicks off at about midnight. Fine dining and wining is available at this special Copenhagen locale.
Various venues across Cph; starts Friday July 6, ends Sunday July 15; www.jazz.dk