That’s almost impossible to answer. What are your criteria? Annual jazz festivals don’t cover it, of course. To win the title of World’s Jazziest City, there has to be something going on practically every day: jam sessions open to the public, smoky jazz cafés filled with live music, concerts, clubs – and a conservatory helps. It helps to have jazz musicians who come from that city who, in turn, attract international jazz musicians and music lovers. Not only does it create a fertile seed bed, but – if it’s good and funky – it creates general recognition of the local scene. You can find this in a lot of cities – Rome, Istanbul, London, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Bremen, Vienna and Belgrade. But there are also those cities that are just that little bit jazzier than the others. Even if that’s down to personal taste.
Let’s do a count-down. From 8 to 1, this week’s jazziest cities in the world: Numbers 8, 7 and 6.
Tokyo is extremely jazz-minded. Following the US, it offers the largest jazz market in the world. In fact, jazz is on the rise all over Asia. There are numerous festivals. There is a Blue Note Club. In fact, they are just copying what is going on in the US. However, numerous Dutch jazz musicians have been popular there for years. Wouter Hamel, Hans and Candy Dulfer, Trijntje Oosterhuis and others have achieved a kind of pop status there. The East may be running a few years behind the West, but it doesn’t really matter. The market is booming.
Then there is the Tokyo Jazz Festival on 5, 6 and 7 September.
And here is a list of Tokyo hot spots.
Scandinavia is a major player in the jazz market. Norwegians love a mix of folklore, minimalistic folk music, with a variety of festivals in places such as Trondheim, Oslo, Stavanger, Molde and Bergen. But the Danes also know a thing or two. The Copenhagen Jazz Festival, from 4-13 July, includes such international names as the American guitar legend John Scofield, Spanish flamenco diva Concha Buika and one of the world’s most respected jazz bass players, Christian McBride. It is one of Europe’s largest jazz festivals including more than a hundred stages and thousands of concerts in clubs, cafés, concert halls, outdoor stages, and the charming harbour. There is also a Jazz Kids programme. And there is a great deal of cross-pollination between Scandinavian and other musicians.
Here is a list of the best jazz bars in Copenhagen.
6. Ghent (flying in through Brussels)
The jazz scene in Ghent is renowned for its improvisational talent and the influx of many young people. There is a popular jazz café culture, and free improvisation at the De Bijloke podium programma (Dutch only). The Ghent Jazz Festival, from 10-19 July, is a fixture among Belgian and Dutch jazz lovers as well as for people abroad. Over two long weekends, you can enjoy young talent and well-established Flemish artists, although the great emphasis is on American and international musicians. This year’s lineup includes Agnes Obel, Michael Kiwanuka, Gabriel Rios, BadBadNotGood, Charles Bradley, the Joshua Redman Quartet, Chick Corea & Stanley Clarke, Jose James, Bobby McFerrin, Ibrahim Maalouf and the Netherlands’ own Tineke Postma.
You can find out more about jazz clubs and performances at the website of Uit in Vlaanderen (Dutch only).
Next week in The World’s Jazziest Cities: numbers 5, 4 and 3.