Malta Jazz Festival

Malta Jazz Festival
Photo: maltajazzfestival.org
The Malta Jazz Festival is a three-day music festival held every July in the city of Valletta, the capital of Malta. The event is organized by the Malta Council for Culture and Arts and supported by the Malta Tourism Authority and other organizations and institutions.

The inaugural Malta Jazz Festival took place in 1990. It has been held every year since, with the main venue being the Church of Our Lady of Liesse, an 18th-century church located near the shores of the Port of Valletta. The festival was founded by Charles “City” Gatt, a pioneer of Maltese jazz who served as the festival director for 15 years.

In 2006, the Malta Jazz Festival hit a rough patch. The event was placed in the hands of N’n’G, a private promotion company, and Gatt had no choice but to resign from his post. The new organizers attempted to transform it into a rock and jazz festival in order to attract a wider audience. Subsequent line-ups were almost entirely shorn of contemporary jazz content and mainly featured tribute bands and progressive rock acts. Instead of gaining new audiences, the festival began losing the old.

Luckily, in 2009 the festival returned to its roots under the stewardship of Sandro Zerafa, a famous Maltese jazz guitarist. It offered a line-up of world-class jazz artists. Over the years, the Malta Jazz Festival has welcomed some of the best jazz musicians and bands from all over the world, including John Patitucci, Wayne Shorter, Al Di Meola, Chick Corea, Diana Krall, Betty Carter, Natalie Cole, Bill Stewart, Snarky Puppy, Avishai Cohen, and others.

Alongside concerts, the program of the Malta Jazz Festival features free workshops and masterclasses conducted by some of the most important educators in the international jazz scene. This program is called the Malta Summer Jazz Camp. For example, teachers at the 2016 camp included Marcello Pellitteri (drums, USA), Roberto Occhipinti (double bass, Canada), Vincent Jacqz (improvisation, France), Stjepko Gut (trumpet/improvisation, Serbia), and Rico Cirinna (saxophone, Italy).

One of the festival’s most interesting and exciting projects is the Fringe Youth Jazz Ensemble. A group of young jazz musicians from Malta and France gets a chance to practice under the supervision of an experienced musician and educator and then performs during the opening concert.

Malta Jazz Festival

Photo: maltajazzfestival.org



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