For the 47th time, Jazz Juniors festival in Cracow will again become a meeting place for artists, audiences, music promoters, and journalists writing on jazz and improvised music. The element of competition has been part of the festival’s formula from the very start. Still, has it ever been mainly about artistic rivalry? Though it is accompanied by emotions similar to those known from sports events, this has never become the focal point of the successive festival editions. With the passage of years, Jazz Juniors is emerging more and more distinctly as a project bringing together what is most valuable in young and modern jazz and improvised music. The festival’s mission is not merely to construct an intriguing concert programme and to select the best contestants (whatever the word ‘best’ might mean). This year as before, Jazz Juniors will again become a space and point of convergence for various trends and ways of thinking about music. Artists from Poland and other countries of the world will not only present their own original works but will also draw inspiration from the others. Youth will meet experience, the drive for change and search for new directions – will confront the traditions of jazz and improvised music. Future is thus being forged without forgetting about the past.
The final auditions of this year’s Jazz Juniors competition are held on 12th October. Participants will be assessed by an international jury headed by Adam Pierończyk, and comprising Florian Arbenz, Nelson Veras, Maikel and Jorge Vistels. On the other three festival days, Jazz Juniors will feature artists selected for their unique qualities by Adam Pierończyk, the festival’s artistic director in recent years, who (also in his earlier projects) has frequently proved his exceptional sense and intuition in choosing what is really worth presenting to the audience but has not been the first and obvious choice for other festival programmers.
13th October 2023
The festival opens with a concert by Ziemia Quartet, Jazz Juniors 2022 Grand Prix winners. This Katowice-based ensemble cannot be unequivocally assigned to any specific genre and should rather be viewed as the sum total of four excellent musicians’ individual tastes and sensitivities. The union of melodious themes with wild spacetime-bending drive, of discipline with imagination, explodes here with an extravaganza of surprising turns of action that bring unprecedented freshness to the Polish scene.
On the same evening, we will present Florian Arbenz Group, whose leader, Swiss drummer Florian Arbenz, earned recognition with his performances in VEIN trio and collaborations with Greg Osby and Dave Liebman, among others. For the Cracow performance, he has invited his long-time collaborators, the Brazilian guitar virtuoso Nelson Veras and the Cuban-born Vistel brothers (trumpeter Jorge and sax player Maikel). Their paths have already crossed several times, for instance when they recorded the album Convergence and Arbenz’s cycle of Conversations, releases dedicated to his own music. Their well-established stage partnership and openness to exploring all kinds of sound, combined with each musician’s varied background, are a near-certain guarantee that the effect will be out of the ordinary.
14th October 2023
The second night of the 47th Jazz Juniors starts with a solo recital by pianist Franciszek Raczkowski, one of the 2019 Jazz Juniors winners (as member of Franciszek Pospieszalski Trio). His debut as leader (Franciszek Raczkowski Trio’s album Apprentice) was hailed by Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski himself as music with great prospects for the future. Raczkowski seems to fulfil this promise as he charms the audience with classically-conceived, richly detailed forms and his lyrical impressionism.
His performance will be followed by that of Matthieu Bordenave Trio. Led by a French saxophonist recording for the prestigious ECM label, the trio brings together, in a masterful fashion, the languages of post-jazz avant-garde and 20th-century classical music. The artists’ restrained and at the same time tenacious sound mosaics contain echoes of both Paul Bley and Olivier Messiaen. This, combined with deep rapport and faultless communication between the Trio’s members, gives the ensemble’s music its unique identity.
15th October 2023
The night’s first concert will be given by Robert Wypasek Quartet, led by one of Poland’s most promising saxophonists who has already attracted the attention of both audiences and juries at all competitions and events (including Jazz Juniors) for several years and as member of various ensembles. His sound, technique, and invention as a performer have already become the young instrumentalist’s trademarks but are constantly improved, including since recently – during studies at the prestigious Musik-Akademie Basel.
The festival ends with a performance by Lage Lund Quartet, whose Norwegian-born leader developed his skills at two of the most prestigious US music schools, Boston’s Berklee College of Music and (as history’s first guitarist) – New York’s Juilliard School of Music. It was on the American stages that his characteristic style was forged and musical partnerships – established. The international line-up you will hear at Jazz Juniors, which is currently preparing its first album, has everything that makes a great spectacle. The four outstanding artists feel perfectly at home playing live together. They are competent improvisers with an incredible sense of style and unbridled imagination. Under the leadership of the charismatic Norwegian guitarist, their concert promises to provide an unforgettable finale to this year’s Jazz Juniors festival.