Jazz Cerkno festival will again, due to the “new reality”, take place at a different time from the traditional mid-May term. This year, we will set up a jazz camp in the middle of the summer, from 15 to 17 July. The venue will be the same as last year (the parking lot at the previous facilities of ETA factory, which is only a ten-minute walk from the centre of town), as it garnered praise from visitors and jazz enthusiasts. Although this year’s program, like last year’s 25th edition of the festival, was designed and put together in new circumstances that are not pleasant to such activities, this year’s Jazz Cerkno concept remains the same as at the previous festivals, meaning that the number of performing bands, their quality and diversity does not differ from previous years.

At the festival, we will admire the performances of ten international and Slovenian ensembles presenting a highly diverse range of jazz music. From those who flirt with traditional and classical music through experimental approaches that encompass both electronics and minimalism, to free improvisation and creative reimagining the jazz past. We surely had to adapt to the new conditions, but the program remains defiantly marked by Cerkno, meaning that we will hear mostly international bands with, for the most part, premiere performances, as the majority of foreign as well as Slovenian bands will hold their first Slovenian concert in Cerkno.

Musicians from seven countries – the USA, Sweden, Greece, Italy, Austria, Poland, Serbia – and Slovenia will perform on the stage of our festival. All domestic jazz musicians will present themselves with international ensembles that will have their premiere Slovenian performance in Cerkno or will present new albums for the first time in Slovenia. We will also start the festival with one such Slovenian-international ensemble: the Fresh Dust Trio & Felix Henkelhausen quartet, in which musicians from Slovenia (drummer Jaka Berger and guitarist Samo Šalamon), Serbia (pianist Marina Džukljev) and Germany (double bassist Felix Henkelhausen) put together their skills. This will be the first ever performance of this line-up. (Italian double bassist Antonio Borghini was initially announced as a guest of the trio.) The original trio, which explores the possibilities of improvisation on “ordinary” and prepared instruments, published their debut Hilarious Experts in 2019 by the esteemed English label FMR, which was named record of the year by the Slovenian Centralala portal, and the American magazine Downtown Music Gallery concluded the album review using the word “Extraordinary!”

The continuation of the introductory Thursday will also be marked by the collaboration of Slovenian and international musicians. We will hear More Low Than Low Quintet, a Slovenian-Italian band with an unusual ensemble of instruments: three double bass players (Matjaž Bajc, Žiga Golob, Giovanni Maier) and two bass clarinettists (Mimo Cogliandro, Marco Colonna) will set out to “explore the mutual communication of low voices”. Like the introductory ensemble, this quintet will perform for the first time ever. The hot finale of the first day will be provided by the Serbian band Naked with a stunning mix of traditional music (from the Balkans through the Mediterranean to Africa), swing, bebop, funk and more.

Friday’s program will again be marked by the Slovenian-Italian jazz friendship, as we will hear the project Zlatko Kaučič: Pogum pogumnih, in which our jazz veteran gathered members of Kombo ensembles, and some Italian guests. At their premiere performance, they will play Kaučič’s suite Pogum pogumnih (The Bravery of the Brave), dedicated to today’s heroes and activists, “extraordinary people like Greta Thunberg, anti-racism activists united in the Black Lives Matter movement, the whistler Ivan Gale”. We can expect musically complex, harmoniously provocative and at the same time energetic and reflexive music.

The program of the second festival day will be followed by two more performances, this time by international bands. First, the Austrian duo ALSO will perform, in which drummer Katharina Ernst and guitarist and electronic musician Martin Siewert combine many genres, from post-techno, art-rock and electronics to minimalism and sound exploration. The latter will also be present at the closing concert of the famous American trumpet player Jaimie Branch, who will perform her premiere Slovenian concert with her FLY or DIE quartet, which includes well-known musicians Lester St Louis (cello), Jason Ajemian (double bass) and Chad Taylor (drums, mbira). Branch’s music is multi-layered and sometimes abstract, but at the same time very tight; it is also overtly politically engaged, and contains references to both alternative rock and electronics.

The final Saturday is traditionally the most eventful, as most of the accompanying program takes place on this day. A good part of this will take place at Stari plac, where we will listen to the final concert of the music workshop for children “Kamen ob kamen, s kamnom na kamen” (“Stone upon stone, with stone onto the stone”) at 10.30 am (mentors Prof. Boštjan Gombač and Prof. Petra Vidmar). Two more events will follow at Stari plac. At 11.00 am there will be a concert by the CerknoPhonia Trio (which is a kind of follow-up of the multimedia installation “Soundscape of Cerkno” by Boštjan Perovšek and OM Production, which will be on display at the Cerkno Museum throughout the festival), and an hour later Nova Muska round table entitled “A quarter of a century of the Jazz Cerkno festival”. In the afternoon there will be another additional concert; the festival program will take place at the Franja Partisan Hospital for the first time, where a concert by the Swedish-Slovenian tandem Martin Küchen / Samo Kutin will take place at 5.30 pm. Küchen, the leader of the Swedish Angles 8, which will close the festival, and Kutin (Širom, Najoua, etc.) will play for the first time in Slovenia their last year’s album Stutter and Strike. The accompanying program will be rounded off by Friday’s concert of the music residence Young Researchers IV. – Brina Kren (Cerkno Music School, 5.30 pm) and “Jazzy-ga!”, a traditional music and portrait photography workshop by Žiga Koritnik.

Saturday’s program on the main stage will bring no less than four concerts; the first one will be by the Slovenian-Polish duo Czajka & Puchacz, comprised of Kaja Draksler (prepared piano, percussion) and Szymon Gąsiorek (drums, percussion, electronics). The music of this tandem is created at the intersection of experiment and improvisation, additionally the musicians enrich this playful and unpredictable mixture with samples from Polish and Slovenian fairy tales. The performance of the Tania Giannouli Trio from Greece will follow. Pianist Tania Giannouli, trumpet player Andreas Polyzogopoulos and oud player Kyriakos Tapakis imaginatively combines the traditions of East and West, modern classical and jazz music, traditional and modern. This will be the premiere Slovenian performance and the same goes for the Italian quintet Tell No Lies, which plays a lush and multi-layered music, in which they intricately intertwine fiery improvisations and suggestive melodies with references to American “Great Black Music”, South African jazz and European free music. Similar mixture, with additional references to the music of the Balkans, Africa and Sweden, will be offered at the final concert by the Swedish mini big band Angles 8, which brings together some of the best Swedish jazzers (besides the leader Martin Küchen, we must mention at least trumpet players Goran Kajfes and Magnus Broo, and trombone player Mats Äleklint). “It is exhilarating, shiver-inducing music, but with a contemplative and spiritual thread passing through it,” as Antonio Poscic put it in web magazine The Free Jazz Collective.

You are invited to the 26th edition of the Jazz Cerkno festival, which will take place between 15 and 17 July, in the parking lot at the old ETA factory and other locations. As always, Hotel Cerkno offers favourable jazz packages to our visitors, and the tickets are available in presale on mojekarte.si. The organizers additionally stress that the number of tickets is limited, so hurry up with the purchase. The festival 3-day ticket is on sale only in advance until 14 July. The seating order will apply at the venue.

26. Jazz Cerkno in its summer edition from 15 to 17 July. Red-hot and well-spiced jazz in Cerkno!