The Jazz Juniors stage has for many years been a meeting place for young artists and internationally recognised musicians of different generations. The festival brings together performers, audiences, promoters, and journalists from the world of jazz and improvised music. On the first night of the 47th Jazz Juniors Festival, the performers were the quartet Ziemia – the winners of last year’s JJ Competition, as well as Florian Arbenz Group, consisting of the same jurors who had on the previous day selected the winners of this year’s edition.

The Kraków-based festival attracts and presents the most valuable phenomena in young and contemporary jazz. Its mission is not limited to intriguing concert programmes and to selecting the best performers in the JJ competition. Consistent international promotion of the young participants means that Jazz Juniors opens up a chance for performances at prestigious festivals and leading jazz clubs as well as record releases.

This year’s International Partners Council consists of Abel Petneki (Budapest Music Center, Hungary), Branislav Dejanovic (Nisville Jazz Festival, Serbia), Enrico Moccia (Fara Music Festival, Italy), Marius Giura (Garana Jazz Festival, Romania), Joseph Paice (Pizza Express, UK), Jakub Drożdż (Jazz po polsku, Asia), Martyna van Nieuwland (Music Meeting Festival, The Netherlands), Vilém Spilka (Jazz Fest Brno, Czechia), and Michał Hajduk (NOSPR, Poland). The partners met the JJ Competition finalists on Friday at noon.

‘We are very happy to have been able to organise another session of Jazz Juniors Network this year,’ says Jazz Juniors director Tomasz Handzlik. ‘These meetings between Jazz Juniors Competition participants and members of the International Partners Council are a key element of our work. As the experience of recent years has shown, it is at these sessions that young artists have the chance to establish direct contact with agents, directors, representatives of European festivals, concert venues, and record labels. In this way, the artists also learn important lessons for the future. After all, not every young musician will know how to persuade the head of a London jazz club, or of a European festival attended by audiences of several thousand every year, to invite his or her budding band to perform on their stages. Talks to such partners open many doors for our young artists, but also frequently help them realise how the international music industry works.’

On Friday night, the Jazz Juniors concert programme started with a performance by JJ 2022 Grand Prix winners – the Katowice-based quartet Ziemia. Their music 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.

The second concert of the evening was that by Florian Arbenz Group. Its 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 Kraków performance, he has invited his long-time collaborators, Brazilian guitar virtuoso Nelson Veras and Cuban-born Vistel brothers: trumpeter Jorge and sax player Maikel. On the previous day, together with the jury’s chairman Adam Pierończyk, the same musicians selected the winners of JJ 2023 Competition. On Friday evening, they shared the stage with the winners of the previous JJ edition.

The paths of our jurors, members of Florian Arbenz Group, 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. It is works from that latter cycle that they now presented in Kraków. Their well-established stage partnership and openness to exploring all kinds of sound, combined with each musician’s varied technique and cultural background, made for an unforgettable concert experience.