Brussels Jazz Marathon
26,27, 28th of May 2017
Brussels three days on fire as the capital of JAZZ!
Discover fantastic live music at the 20thBrussels Jazz Marathon. Rendez-vous in Brussels on 22, 23 and 24 May.
The Brussels Jazz Marathon brings the most exclusive of genres to the masses, thanks to a weekend-long programme of concerts indoor and out. Rendez-vous at Grand Place, the Sablon Square, the St-Catherine Square, F. Cock Square and the Luxembourg square as well as in various indoor clubs and bars in the beautiful Brussels city centre. Jazz, blues, funk, world: you name it! Just follow your ears as you stroll around the city.
Add FREE entrance for everyone, a special Mini Marathon for kids, up- and downtown shuttles and a swinging, friendly atmosphere all over the city... Don’t miss this wonderful weekend!
A jazz event with a mission
With six stages against an historic background, more than eighty indoor concerts and some 250,000 music lovers who come here just for this, the Brussels Jazz Marathon is the most important jazz event in the capital and even in Belgium. The aim of the organisers is both simple and daring: let everyone from 7 to 77 enjoy jazz and related styles and let them do it for nothing.
It all began in 1988 under the name Jazz Rally as a crazy idea of a few enthusiasts, but it has since grown into a unique happening during which Brussels is flooded with music lovers. The real jazz cats set off in search of the groups, many formed especially for the occasion, and want to follow closely the latest developments. The less specialised music lovers or coincidental city-trippers go with the flow and allow themselves to be surprised. With a circuit that covers the centre of Brussels and a number of the adjacent municipalities, there are more than enough possibilities for both groups.
In total, there are nearly a hundred concerts with some 400 musicians, including both established masters and new, up-and-coming talent. It is also a unique opportunity to (re)discover a number of very unusual places in the capital, for music is made not only in well-known halls and jazz clubs, but also in small theatres (including a puppet theatre), restaurants, bars, art galleries and hotels, all of which open their doors to the jazz cats throughout that weekend. The BIP (the House of the Brussels-Capital Region) is transformed for the occasion into a genuine House of Jazz. Of course there are the obligatory jam sessions. Sometimes announced officially in advance, but often last minute decisions by artists themselves or initiatives of a number of aficionados who live and breath jazz for those three days.
With the BJM, the organisers ultimately aim to profile Brussels as music city and capital of jazz culture. That a complete stage has occupied the Luxembourg Square - the beating heart of the European administration - since 2014 is no coincidence. There are also exchange projects with other European countries. Connected to this is the XL-Jazz Competition for Young Talent; since 2004, the three winners perform during a finale on the main stage of the Fernand Cocq square.
Made in Belgium
The focus is intentionally on the Belgian jazz scene. Jacobien Tamsma, the programmer, about this choice. “Why pay double or more for foreign names when there is enough talent here in Belgium? In this way, we help to profile Brussels as jazz city and prove that the capital is more than a merry-go-round of civil servants. If we take into account the area and the inhabitants, we can safely say that no other country anywhere in the world has so much jazz talent. Don’t forget that the sax was invented in Belgium.”
That makes choosing who will play here during the Brussels Jazz Marathon an enormous task. “We cannot simply take into account our own preferences; so many other facets are involved. The main aim is, of course, to attract as large an audience as possible with a quality programme. For that you need the proper framework. You don’t let an intimate set play on a large open-air stage. Nor do you close the evening with an acoustic group. Because we also want to reach young people, we have our competition for new groups. And since we attract a very international audience, we also book a number of big names and foreign acts.”
The Belgian Association of jazz musicians, Les Lundis D’Hortense, are given a carte blanche to put together a Sunday concert for the stage on the Grand Place. Since the choice is made by musicians, you know that you will always get the crème de la crème of Belgian jazz. Generally, brand new projects are presented here and/or these concerts are linked to the presentation of a new CD.
Whoever thinks that kids don’t have an ear for jazz should take a look at the Mini Marathon For Kids, where, with the help of a carefully adjusted programme, the very youngest are introduced into the world of swing and jazz in a fun way. With free milk bar!
That jazz was originally dance music has been clearly shown for a number of years under the title Swingin’ Brussels, a festive happening in La Tentation, with dance initiations, concerts and DJs. A great chance to learn the acrobatic lindy hop or to give those Charleston steps a work out.
Elsene Municipality organises SOLIDAR-XL, a Sunday programme in a special side-event. This is a mini-festival within the overall BJM. This is the only event which charges an admission fee. All receipts go to charity.
In addition there are countless carnival-like happenings, but also workshops and initiations.
Believe it or not, all concerts can be visited free of charge. The special shuttles or jazz buses, which take you from one side of the city to the other, are also free.
It’s simply not possible to visit everything. You have to make a selection, because the party begins early in the evening on Friday and doesn’t end until deep in the night on Sunday. For those who find it difficult to make a choice, there is the now famous fold-out pamphlet (free) with a map showing in various colours a number of thematic routes. A handy aid to choose a route in the direction of modern jazz, traditional jazz, blues, funk or Latin. And should you totally lose your way, you can always go to one of the many info-points.