JazzFest Berlin is managed and produced by Berliner Festspiele, an arts center that organizes a variety of arts and culture festivals, programs and other events. Its projects include the Berlin International Literature Festival, Musikfest Berlin, MaerzMusik, Theatertreffen and other festivals. Founded back in 1964 in West Berlin, JazzFest Belin is one of the oldest jazz festivals in Europe which have earned international recognition. From 1964 to 1980, it was held under the name Berliner Jazztage (Berlin Jazz Days).
World-renowned musicians, music critics and record producers served as festival director for JazzFest Berlin. They include German music journalist, author and producer Joachim-Ernst Berendt, Swiss jazz pianist and composer George Gruntz, German trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff, Swiss trombonist Nils Landgren, American musician, journalist and record producer John Corbett, German music journalist and producer Peter Schulze, German jazz journalist and music critic Bert Noglic. As of 2016, the festival director is British music journalist Richard Williams.
In the first decades of JazzFest Berlin’s existence the festival focused on American jazz and famous American jazz musicians. Over the years, its program has expanded to include artists from all over the world, both renowned musicians and up-and-coming artists who show great promise and just need to find their audience. Since the festival’s inception, its focus has shifted from traditional jazz to contemporary European jazz. However, it program is so diverse that it has something to offer to every jazz lover.
The main venue of the Berlin Jazz festival is Berliner Festspiele’s own concert hall, the Haus der Berliner Festspiele. It has a capacity of 1,000 seats. Concerts also take place in other venues across the city including the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of the World Cultures), the Academy of Arts of Berlin, and jazz clubs such as A-Trane and Quasimodo.