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International Jazz Day: How you can celebrate in Europe

International Jazz Day: How you can celebrate in Europe
International Jazz Day: How you can celebrate in Europe Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By David Mouriquand
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What is International Jazz Day, and which modern European jazz artists should be on your radar?

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Happy International Jazz Day, you cool cats.

Spearheaded by the UNESCO, today highlights the musical genre and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe.

It is chaired and led by UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay and legendary jazz pianist and composer Herbie Hancock, who serves as a UNESCO Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue and Chairman of the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz.

International Jazz Day “brings together communities, schools, artists, historians, academics, and jazz enthusiasts all over the world to celebrate and learn about jazz and its roots, future and impact; raise awareness of the need for intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding; and reinforce international cooperation and communication.”

Quite the programme, and each year on 30 April, this international art form is recognized for “promoting peace, dialogue among cultures, diversity, and respect for human rights and human dignity; eradicating discrimination; fostering gender equality; and promoting freedom of expression.”

International Jazz Day 2024
International Jazz Day 2024UNESCO - Jazzday.com

This year’s edition is celebrated in more than 190 countries over four days, with the Global Host city being Tangier, in Morocco.

“The designation of Tangier marks the first time a city on the African continent will host International Jazz Day, the world’s largest and most significant celebration of jazz,” said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO.

Multiple events, education programs and showcases can be found here

There’s also an All-Star Global Concert from the new Palace of Arts and Culture of Tangier that will be broadcast today via YouTube, Facebook, the United Nations and UNESCO.

Quite aside from providing the music world with some classic albums from legendary artists – as well as some terrific nicknames like Satchmo, Cannonball, Yardbird, and Hootie – the European jazz scene is alive and well. Vibrant even, with various upcoming festivals showcasing the very best the multidisciplinary genre has to offer. 

Check out the 2024 Montreaux and Love Supreme line-ups, which are embarrassingly good.

From Antonio Faraò (Italy), Manu Katché (France), Susana Santos Silva (Portugal), Paloma Berganza (Spain), Magnus Lindgren (Sweden), Reinier Baas (The Netherlands), Tomasz Dabrowski (Poland), Christian Lillinger (Germany) and many more, the current jazz scene across Europe has never felt healthier. And when you take into account the soul crossover, with more mainstream artists like Michael Kiwanuka, Lianne La Havas and Mahalia, to name but those three, jazz’s rich credentials are plain to see (and hear).

In the spirit of all things jazzy, here are four modern European jazz artists that we’re big fans of, and that should be on your radar.

Shabaka

This British jazz musician and composer made his name on the scene with Sons of Kemet, The Comet Is Coming, and Shabaka and the Ancestors. He plays a variety of wind instruments and is known for his prowess on the saxophone and the clarinet. While he has over the years distanced himself from the jazz label, highlighting his drum & bass influences, for instance, he remains one of the genre’s most fascinating talents. His debut solo album, released this month, is one of our favourites of the year already. ‘Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowledge Its Grace’ is a triumph, a meditative and new-age gem that is a perfect introduction to the artist. Featuring collaborations from André 3000 and Floating Points, the album exudes a calm and melodic warmth that slowly unveils some stunning and deceptively complex compositions.

Ève Risser

French composer and pianist Ève Risser was a member of the Orchestre National de Jazz and leads her own large ensemble, the White (and Red) Desert Orchestra. Her discography is impressive, both with the ONJ and on other projects, and the hypnotic scores she contributes to makes her one of France’s most entrancing jazz artists. If we have one recommendation, it’s her En Corps project, alongside bassist Benjamin Duboc and drummer Edward Perraud, with the albums ‘En Corps’ (2012) and ‘En Corps – Generation' (2017). And if you’re taken in by the magic she creates when tickling the ivories, seek out 2022’s release by Red Desert Orchestra, ‘Eurythmia’. You won’t regret it.

Trish Clowes

London-based saxophonist and composer Trish Clowes (pronounced ‘clues’) has released quite a few albums over the years, all inventive and striking for her improvisational work. Two works are favourites: her 2022 album 'A View With A Room', born from the pandemic lockdown, which finds swinging hope in loss; and the recently released album with pianist Ross Stanley, ‘Journey To Where’, an album recorded at London’s Wigmore Hall that is chockablock with paired back yet infectiously joyful and emotional compositions, including her take on Duke Ellington’s 'Prelude to a Kiss', which is stunning. She’s currently touring. Don’t miss out.

Ester Andújar

This Spanish jazz singer, composer and teacher began singing professionally in 1996 and went on to receive the Valencian Jazz Awards 'Promusics' Best vocalist in 2001 and 2002. Over the years, she has collaborated with various artists like Ximo Tébar and Amadeo Adell, and her 2005 album ‘Celebrating Cole Porter’ is a gorgeous piece of work. A good entry point for Andújar is her 2009 album 'Páginas Preciosas', a swoon-worthy collection of songs that is well worth a listen.

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