About Kaunas Jazz
Having been born with the independence of Lithuania, having survived various blockades, financial and other hardships, having been numerously dedicated to the most significant anniversaries of the Lithuanian statehood, having marked its 25th anniversary in 2015 and enjoying membership of the Europe Jazz Network, the International Jazz Festival Kaunas Jazz has firmly established itself and has been continuous strengthening its prominent place in the musical life of Lithuania and Europe and believes that music contributes to social and emotional development and to economic prosperity.
Conceived by Jonas Jučas, Kaunas Jazz was launched in 1991, and its 26 year-long history, beyond any doubt, proves that its start in 1991 was an important event to jazz music lovers and an exceptional happening in the cultural life of Lithuania, which was modest at that time because of objective economic and political reasons. When the Kaunas Jazz team were working on the first festival 26 years ago, they had no idea what festival they might have in 2016. But they had a clear vision of growth together with the Lithuanian state by adding meaning to the most momentous and symbolic events and by highlighting landmark dates of Lithuania and Kaunas. “I am happy to witness all this,” says the founder of Kaunas Jazz, “while the dream of Kaunas Jazz as a member of the Europe Jazz Network, as a concert venue of the most highly valued jazz stars, as a destination of jazz lovers and critics who arrive in Kaunas from all around the world to listen to our concerts, and as a page of modern music literature seemed to be unreal and too bold then.”
Kaunas Jazz used its twenty six years of existence to make certain that the persistent and consistent effort of the Kaunas Jazz team results in the scale and style of Kaunas Jazz that places it among renowned jazz festivals in the world. It is trusted by world jazz music creators, performers, listeners and sponsors; it is a festivity for jazz music lovers, creators and critics in the city of Kaunas, in Lithuania, Europe and the world at large.
The International Jazz Festival Kaunas Jazz takes place in Kaunas in late April and in Vilnius in early May. The Festival team elaborate the traditional projects and supplement them with new forms and additional content. The Festival offers paid and free concerts of performers whose musical biographies are charged with fame and success. During its 26 years, Kaunas Jazz became a leader in ‘importing’ jazz stars as well as an expert presenter of Lithuanian jazz virtuosos, which implies the tradition pursued by Kaunas Jazz to open its stages to both well-known Lithuanian jazz pearls and young talented musicians.
The Festival halls, the Great Hall of Vytautas Magnus University, Žalgiris Arena in Kaunas, Philharmonic Society in Kaunas, restaurant-club Combo, Congress Concert Hall in Vilnius, Lithuanian National Philharmonic Society, Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre, are always full and the events such as Kaunas Jazz opening concerts in the Kaunas Town Hall, the symbolic joyful announcements of the opening of the Kaunas Jazz Festival from the bell tower in the garden of the Kaunas War Museum and the traditional sacred jazz music concerts in Vytautas Magnus Church and in Kaunas Synagogue are always cheered by as many people as their venues can accommodate. This is the proof of the interest of Lithuanian and foreign audiences, the media and performers. Even though Kaunas Jazz is a jazz festival, it embraces stylistic variations and projects where there is a link to academic music, exotic sounds and/or most recent trends of popular youth music.
Looking for new forms is as an aspiration and exceptional feature of Kaunas Jazz. The Festival is proud of its relationship with fine art people and holds photo exhibitions in the lobbies and halls of Festival concerts, and stages jazz projects in art galleries, while Vienybės Square in Kaunas is annually decorated with children’s paintings of the action Kaunas Jazz on the Pavement. The festival also presents Kaunas inhabitants and guests with the Jazz Street in Laisvės Avenue, in the Old Town and in Vienybės Square. That is a blend of concerts, art actions and processions accompanied with Dixieland and other band concerts, of jazz fashion shows and the Jazz Bus, of hot air balloon flights with passengers who are playing music in the baskets, etc. All Jazz Street is open to the public and free of charge therefore people of various likings, ages and financial positions can find things close to their hearts there. All this traditionally creates the environment of a jazz holiday in the city.
Kaunas Jazz is also engaged in educational activities. The first international academic conference Jazz in Lithuanian, European and Global Space: Present and Future was held and a publication admired by musicologists, reporters and audiences was released as an outcome several years ago. The educational activities also cover master classes to young musicians, organised during the Kaunas Jazz Festival. The Kaunas Jazz team see it as a tradition that makes a marked contribution to the musical and cultural future of Lithuania, which is also true of the tradition to produce films which capture Festival moments.
Jazzkaar festival in Tallinn, April Jazz festival in Espoo, Finland, Rigas Ritmi festival in Riga, Lotos Jazz Festival (Bielska Zadymka Jazzowa) in Poland have been Kaunas Jazz partners for many years now.
A particularly charming feature of the Festival and its specificity are unexpected close interactions between the colourful Kaunas Jazz audience and jazz. Sensitive and warm responses and the energy that radiates positive emotions, typical of the audience of the Kaunas Jazz Festival, are things experienced and noted by the greatest world jazz people. The Kaunas Jazz Festival audience, one of the most serious components, takes the role of a proactive participant rather than the role of a reserved spectator. It is the energy radiating from the audience that initiates miracles on the Festival stage when jazz stars forget their prominent status and play music longer and with more passion than in other cities…
The Project of Kaunas Jazz brings spring to Lithuania and an endless flow of new emotions, ideas and experiences as it continuously grows and improves. Kaunas Jazz had only a few concerts on its programme when it started; it now has, beside a busy and lavish programme, other events that are traditional already: summer jazz concerts in a courtyard of the Old City of Kaunas in summer, Kaunas Jazz Autumn in autumn, Kaunas Jazz Concert of the Year in winter, and annually produced films Kaunas Jazz.
The Kaunas Jazz team’s aim to present the best product of world jazz music to Kaunas and Lithuania is an inspiration to their new quest!