He is one of Europe’s most outstanding trumpet players and a visionary bridging different genres and styles, working across the dividing lines. As of 2024, Nils Petter Molvaer will be responsible for the Jazz Juniors Festival’s artistic programme. The Norwegian musician will also serve as artist-in-residence at the Festival in Cracow and will chair the Jazz Juniors Competition jury.

Over the many decades of its existence, the Jazz Juniors Festival has undergone many transformations. What is fresh, current, and invigorating has, however, always been the centre of focus. The successive chapters of Jazz Juniors’ recent history have been co-defined by its artistic directors, who have all thought and worked outside the box. This function has been carried out by, among others, two excellent Polish jazz musicians, Paweł Kaczmarczyk and Adam Pierończyk, whose novel ideas enriched the Festival formula and resulted in unique artistic projects.

2024 sees the start of another chapter in this fascinating story. As of the 48th Jazz Juniors edition and for the next five years, the position of the Festival’s artistic director in charge of Jazz Juniors programming will be held by Nils Petter Molvaer – one of Europe’s most outstanding trumpet players, renowned for his major contributions not only in the field of jazz. Molvaer is a visionary who bridges different genres and styles by working across the dividing lines. Apart from programming the coming editions of the Festival, the Norwegian musician will also serve as its artist-in-residence, presenting original projects specially created for each Festival edition. The Norwegian trumpeter will also chair the Jazz Juniors Competition jury, whose experience will be confronted, as in the previous years, with the unbridled youthful passion of the participants. The jurors’ effort will help the contestants cultivate and develop their artistic potential, under the kind supervision, and with the support, of the new Jazz Juniors artistic director.

Nils Petter Molvaer’s takeover as Jazz Juniors artistic director should not be viewed as a radical new opening. The biography, career, and achievements of this Norwegian artist naturally predestine him for the role of a worthy continuator of his excellent predecessors’ work.

Born on the island of Sula, Molvaer was introduced to jazz already in his earliest childhood by his musician father. The local club scene kindled his enthusiasm for playing the instrument. However, rather than accepting the local horizon as his own, he left his homeland at age nineteen in search of new types of sound. He began by taking up studies. With time he became one of the most influential musicians in the Scandinavian jazz scene, though he never took a purist stance with regard to generic distinctions.

Performing in the Masqualero quintet was an important stage in his career. The quintet, named after a piece by Wayne Shorter, took off in the early 1980s and consisted of: Arild Andersen, Jon Christensen, Tore Brunborg, Jon Balke, and, naturally, Nils Petter Molvaer. It was as a member of Masqualero that Molvaer recorded his first album for the Munich-based ECM label, which was tantamount to entering the international music scene. Molvear soon gained a reputation as an excellent sideman much sought-after for his splendid technique, flexible imagination, great intuition and sensitivity. He performed with numerous artists in Norway and elsewhere. In the 1980s and 90s, he played, among others, in the bands of Jon Eberson, Marylin Mazur, Rita Marcotulli, Dennis González, and Lars Danielsson. The diversity of the music he performed with these and other bandleaders gives an impression of his versatile talent.

The real breakthrough, however, came slightly later, with his first fully original album Khmer, released in 1997, which may well be considered as a turning point in Molvaer’s career. Hailed by reviewers as ‘surely the most unusual album ever released by ECM’, it represents a daring combination of jazz improvisation and club culture, blending powerful breakbeat drive with sampling and the colours of the musician’s own instrument. With this release, the Norwegian trumpeter proved that by drawing on current musical trends and vogues one may create a visionary work which is at the same time rooted in a specific period and much ahead of its time. In the creative decades that followed, Molvaer never turned back from the path he had taken on his debut album. With charming agility and genuine bravado, his successive albums have combined Nordic precisions and chill with the hot sounds of ethnic music, at the same time boldly exploring ever new areas of electronic sound. As if by the way, Molvaer has repeatedly proved that the combination of live instruments with production work opens up virtually unlimited possibilities. While remaining original and recognizable, the artist has never ceased exploring new ground, thus becoming a major source of inspiration for successive generations of artists. His impact on the improvised music scene is discernible to this day in recordings by even the youngest jazz musicians.

The 48th Jazz Juniors Festival, artistically directed, for the first time in history, by a musician from outside Poland, will take place between 30 September and 3 October 2024. For the second time in a row, the Festival will be part of a wider context – that of Kraków Jazz Week, starting on 26 September, whose first days are dedicated to the Seifert Competition, celebrating its tenth anniversary this year.