Every year Norway is the site of some of the most prestigious and well visited jazz festivals in Europe. Especially during summer there are many possibilities of hearing top notch jazz musicians from all over the world.
The best known Norwegian jazz festival is probably the Molde International Jazz Festival, which has been arranged every year since 1961 in the idyllic town of Molde, on Norway's western coast. Today the festival is recognised as an important part of Norway's musical life, and the Norwegian state has granted them a secure place on each year's national budget. This enables the festival to operate within controlled economic parameters from year to year, making the planning a lot more predictable, as economic stability is ensured. From the hunble beginnings in 1961 it now has grown into a festival which usually attracts over 35.000 visitors each year.
This year's festival will take place between the 12. and 17. of July and has a line-up which could make every jazz festival in Europe and the US envy them. Along with international headliners Branford Marsalis, Stevie Wonder, Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau, the Norwegian jazz society is strongly represented with internationally acclaimed guitarist Terje Rypdal, singer Sidsel Endresen, the avant-garde jazzers of the bands "Atomic" & "School Days", the brass-heavy "Brazz Brothers" and the lush Tord Gustavsen Trio.
There is always a strong presence of Norwegian artists on Norwegian festivals, but this is not due to nationalistic reasons, rather it is a result of a vibrant and healthy jazz scene that has been steadily growing in Norway since the war. The festivals themselves have always plaid an important part in this development, as they provide arenas where Norwegian musicians can meet, jam and socialise with their American and European colleagues.
Another very important Norwegian jazz festival takes place every year in the old mining of Kongsberg, approximately one hour drive from Oslo. This festival attracts an audience of over 15.000 each year, and has been known for their brisk program policy, fusing traditional jazz artists with the crème-de-la-crème of the avant-garde. This year is no exception, as the festival -which is the 40.th of its kind - features Ornette Coleman, one of the most innovative saxophonists in modern improvisational jazz.
From Poland to Brazil
Other headliners include Polish trumpet player Tomasz Stanko, Brazilian singer Milton Nascimento (for the first time in Norway!), star guitarist John Scofield and legendary saxophonist Joe McPhee. This years Kongsberg festival also features great Norwegian jazz artists, among them acclaimed vocalist Live Maria Roggen, award winning pop-jazz artist Silje Nergaard, up-and-coming jazz band "The Core", vocalist Solveig Slettahjel and many more.
A very special concert will be the meeting between three star saxophone players from three different generations, namely Knut Risnæs, Petter Wettre and Frode Nymo, who all have made important contributions to Norwegian and international jazz history.
Last, but not least, the jazz festival in Norways's capital has to bee mentioned. Oslo Jazz Festival takes place between the 9. and 15. of august and is a Oslo Jazz Festival features among others the world famous trumpet player Clark Terry, Randy Brecker/Bill Evans Quartet, American vocal group Take 6 and vocal virtuoso Bobby McFerrin. Also here, there is a strong Norwegian presence. Among the artists we find Nils Petter Molvær, "Come Shine", Kjetil Bjørnstad with former Bel Canto-vocalist Anneli Drecker, Eivind Opsvik, "The Swing Pack", "The Thing", along with many others.
Oslo Jazz Festival has a slightly shorter history than its two counterparts in Molde and Kongsberg, but has in its 20 years of existence managed to become a broad festival attracting a diverse audience.
Last year, the festival sold over 17.000 tickets, but it is estimated that it reaches an audience of over 50.000, since many of the arrangements are free of charge and take place at central locations in the city.
It is worth noting that there are several other jazz festivals in Norway, but this article focused on the three big coming festivals this summer. However, in Bergen, Norway's second largest city, the "Nattjazz" festival is already starting the 19May. For more information on Nattjazz.