Each July the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz oozes jazz, thanks to its famous internationally renowned Jazz Festival.
The big concerts in Mendizorroza Sports Centre and in the Teatro Principal theatre, the official venues for the festival, take place alongside “Jam Sessions” that are given in the city’s bars.
And in any street or square it is also possible to come across bands playing in pure New Orleans style.
All of this makes this festival an unmissable event for jazz fans. Interesting fact: This is the only one in Spain which is incorporated in the International Jazz Festivals Organization, the club that organises the very best jazz events in Europe and the USA.
The Vitoria-Gasteiz Jazz Festival was started 1977 by a group called Jazzteiz and today it still remains faithful to their philosophy of exceptional concerts to large audiences.
After a first season held at the Landázuri Sports Centre, the second year of the event was already being held in the Mendizorroza Sports Centre. During the first four years it was a two day festival, and in the first three years performances were given by the winners of the amateur contest at the San Sebastian Jazz Festival.
In 1981 it began to attract big stars such as Oscar Peterson, Muddy Waters and Carrie Smith, however, it was still only a three day event. Little by little it started growing, drawing in top names: Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, etc. An extra day was added during the seventh year, and another on the tenth, and in this way, bit by bit, it became what it is today.
Since 1995 the Vitoria-Gasteiz Jazz Festival has been a full week event: seven consecutive days of jazz music in the capital of Álava.
In 1990, during its fourteenth year, what we now call “Jazz of the XXI Century” was created: another smaller stage on which the concerts are given in the afternoon. It has had various venues: the Jesus Guridi School of Music Auditorium, Palacio Europa conference centre, the Culture Centre of Álava but since 1996 it has always been held in the same place: the Teatro Principal.
This is the part of the Festival where promising newcomers perform: for example, Noa, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Russell Malone and, sadly, the late Esbjörn Svensson.
In 1985, a workshop was created in which the teacher was Joe Pass; In 1989, another with Triple Treat; there was also a master class given by Wynton Marsalis. As from 2003 this began to happen every year in a row. These workshops have had classes given by Pat Metheny of the Juilliard School of New York, and by Fred Hersch.
In 1988, the European Jazz Festival Organization (EJFO) was created, admitting one festival per country, and choosing the Vitoria-Gasteiz Jazz Festival to represent Spain. Later, in 2002, the EJFO became the International Jazz Festivals Organization (IJFO), following the entry of Montreal and Vancouver.
So Vitoria-Gasteiz, “the city in love with Jazz”, oozes jazz music during the month of July. In fact, the British newspaper “The Guardian” has ranked this singular event as one of the top ten in Europe, where renowned jazz artists and promising newcomers come together, and that can be considered one of the most important musical events in Spain.
In the Mendizorrotza Sports Centre, Teatro Principal theatre, the NH Canciller Ayala Hotel and the streets of Vitoria-Gasteiz.