2014 Ljubljana Jazz Festival 2014 Ljubljana, Slovenia July 2-5, 2014
Ljubljanacapital of the Republic of Slovenia, member of EU, neighbored by Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Italyhosts the oldest jazz festival in Europe, which held its 55th edition this year. The event is usually organized by Cankarjev HouseCankarjev Dom, in Sloveniana prestigious, state-run cultural centre in midtown Ljubljana, residing in one half of an impressive twin tower building, the other part being the National Bank of Slovenia.
Ljubljana is situated near the Alps in the west and the Adriatic part of the Mediterranean Sea in the south. It is on one hour from Trieste, two hours from Venice, two hours from Zagreb and three hours from Vienna. A city with a high appreciation of the arts, its roughly 300,000 inhabitants have access to eleven theatres, fifteen museums, four professional orchestras and a rich musical history. The first philharmonic in Europe was established there in 1701, with Haydn, Beethoven, Paganini and Brahms as regular guests; and in 1881 Gustav Mahler started his professional career there as a conductor.
The House of Cankar is a state institution, created in the 1980s to foster collaboration between all art disciplines. Ivan Cankar (1876-1918) is held to be the most important writer to shape Slovenian identity: "Cankarjev Dom believes that cultural, artistic and scientific creativity meets the basic condition for attaining spiritual freedom and the richer spiritual lives of people and social development."
Slovenes have undergone different ruling powers and absorbed many influences. They had and have a high esteem for their indigenous language, which has some peculiarities not easily accessible, even for speakers of other Slavonic languages. That esteem resulted in a remarkable curiosity. Despite being a predominantly Roman Catholic country, Lutheran Reformation Day is an official holiday on October 31st of each year because Slovene standard language and Slovene literature were both established by Lutheran protestants: Primož Trubar, who wrote the first books in Slovene; Adam Bohorič, who wrote the first Slovenian grammar book; and Jurij Dalmatin, who translated the whole bible into Slovene.
The concerts of the festival were running in four venues: at three in Cankarjev House (Štih Hall, Linhart Hall and the Klub), along with the big semi-open air venue, Križanke. The jazz festival is part of the city's bigger and longer-running summer music festival. As with the last two years, the festival was again co-curated by Cankarjev's Bogdan Benigar and Pedro Costa, from Lisbon, associated with the well-known Clean Feed record label. That brings a special quality to the festival, its programming and its productions which can only be found in a few other festivals in Europe, like 12 Points and Jazzdor Berlin (some reflections on this can be found on the festival website).
Fifteen groups were performing at the four-day festival: three from Norway, including Jaga Jazzist
and Cortex; and four from Slovenia, Jani Moder's Brainblender, Tarek Yamani Trio (with a leader from Lebanon), Marko Črnček 4, and Zlatko Kaučič/Agusti Fernández. It also means there were only sequential concerts, with no parallel streams, so it was possible to attend every show. This year's festival had two main coordinates: Norway as regional focus; and an instrumental focus on the piano. Twelve pianists were performing at the festival, from solo to groups with more than five musicians. This year's edition had only one piano-less group in Cortex- -a great exception. The pianists present at the festival, both well known and less known, were veteran Joachim Kuhn
The festival started with the opening of an exhibition by longtime festival photographer Nada Žgank at Cankarjev House's gallery. The exposition gave an impressive overview of the great variety of musicians and groups who had performed at the festival in recent years.