Malta Jazz Festival

The Malta Jazz Festival is one of the most important summer European jazz festivals, whereby it combines wide audience appeal with quality and artistic integrity, hosting the most important jazz icons over the past 27 years. Running over 6 days in Valletta’s historical setting, it has also raised the profile of jazz locally through the ‘Jazz on the Fringe’ events.

The festival presents the myriad of styles which constitute the contemporary jazz world, without surrendering to the complacency of a line–up featuring pop or non-jazz acts, which unfortunately seems to be the norm in several major jazz festivals nowadays. This vision is reflected in the eclectic line-up of the festival. It is a festival of contrasts and coherence, featuring the cutting-edge and the avant-garde, the mainstream, and also historical jazz icons without deviating from the ‘jazz’ element. By combining contrasting styles on the same night, the festival has a strong ‘educational’ element. A typical night at the Malta Jazz Festival features double-bills with a mainstream group and a cutting-edge act. The layman attending the mainstream concert will also discover the other cutting-edge and avant-garde bands.

The Malta Jazz Festival has played an important role in nurturing interest in this art-form in the Maltese islands, and since its creation many local artists have emerged on the local scene, pursuing an international professional career. Another important aim of the festival is to nurture collaborations and partnerships with other festivals, music colleges, and jazz communities in Europe. Over the past years the festival has produced, commissioned, and financed artistic collaborations between local and foreign musicians in an ongoing mission to stimulate the local scene and create networks and exchanges with other European jazz scenes. Every year the festival features at least two concerts featuring such collaborations. In 2015, the Malta Jazz Festival created The Fringe Youth Jazz Ensemble, a yearly collaboration/exchange scheme between the Festival and international music establishments.

The local dimension is an important aspect of the Malta Jazz Festival. Apart from the ‘creations’ commissioned by the Jazz Festival featuring collaborations between local and foreign musicians, The Malta Jazz Festival also features ‘Jazz on the Fringe’, a series of peripheral activities in the weeks preceding the main event, created with the support of the Valletta 2018 Foundations (the foundation administering the Valletta 2018 ECOC title) and the Malta International Airport. The whole city of Valletta resonates to the sounds of jazz during the festival week, as opposed to previous years when the festival was mainly limited to the harbor area. The three main events of the Jazz on the Fringe are various concerts/ jam sessions in Valletta and other localities, the Malta Jazz Contest (next edition will be in 2018), and the Malta Summer Jazz Camp.

Jazz is the product of years of cross-pollination between different cultures. And this is aptly reflected in the elastic line-up and vision of the Malta Jazz Festival. Over the years the festival has provided a panoramic view of the multitude of genre crossing styles which constitute the jazz world today – latin jazz, swing, be-pop, electro jazz, hard bop, vocal jazz, avant-grande/free jazz, afro-jazz, ethio-jazz etc. Jazz was often considered a quintessential American music, however in the past 50 years or so, jazz has become increasingly internationalized, and for example, one cannot ignore the European jazz scene today. The European scene is well represented in the Malta Jazz Festival programme and the Jazz on the Fringe activities.

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