Assistance of over 124,000, more than one hundred performances scheduled, and an excellent artistic level, highlighted by the media.

 Zaz in La Plaza de la Trinidad (Photo: Lolo Vasco).
Zaz in La Plaza de la Trinidad (Photo: Lolo Vasco).

The 50th Heineken Jazz Festival, the Anniversary edition of the San Sebastian Jazz Festival

The 50th Heineken Jazz Festival, the Anniversary edition of the San Sebastian Jazz Festival, was a resounding success from the artistic point of view and the audience. Between July 22 and 26, more than 124,000 attended the 109 scheduled performances in 17 different stages, of which 80% were free. Despite a couple days of rain, you could find a huge crowd in the Festival, selling out of the Plaza de la Trinidad and giving a great atmosphere to the Kursaal and the Green Stage at the Zurriola Beach.

All the artists gave much more than what was expected from them. Special mention for Jamie Cullum and his trilogy of concerts: as a DJ on the Green Stage, playing solo and voice in the Kursaal Auditorium and leading a Big Band in Plaza de la Trinidad packed up to the slopes of Mount Urgull, everyone enjoyed the artistic genius and ability to communicate by the British artist.

All the singers that performed in the Plaza de la Trinidad were captivating, each in her own style. Sílvia Pérez Cruz with her exquisite Mediterranean sensibility, Zaz and her jazz manouche and the perennial appeal of the French chanson, Dee Dee Bridgewater with her mastery of the stage and her fantastic voice, Melody Gardot was sophistication with great band, Andrea Motis with her charming youth and her talent not only as a singer but also as a trumpet and sax player.

The program of the charming Plaza de la Trinidad, where it all started fifty years ago, the cradle of the fiftieth edition, was completed with two great jazz concerts: the quintet led by Andrzej Olejniczak and Iñaki Salvador, being one of the starters for San Sebastian European Capital of Culture 2016, and the New Standard Trio, three Musketeers in jazz today that are still to give many joys together and separately.

The Kursaal Auditorium as usual welcomed several concerts of the highest degree, besides Jamie Cullum solo. Benny Golson, the sax player who had the privilege to start rehearsing with John Coltrane when both were kids, was happy with the Donostiako Jazzaldia award and gave a concert that was a lesson in sobriety and action at the same time. The Bad Plus, known for seeking new ways of expression, together with Joshua Redman one of the most outstanding saxophonists of the past two decades, with a result that could only be, and was, a great concert. John Zorn returned to San Sebastian two years after his historic Masada Marathon, and he did it squashing the sonic wall that he built with bassist Bill Laswell and drummer Dave Lombardo.

The proposal for the Victoria Eugenia Theatre was very interesting, this year bringing the PUNKT festival held in the Norwegian city of Kristiansand to San Sebastian. Therefore the three performances were called PUNKT Donostian. The essence of PUNKT created by Jan Bang and Erik Honoré, is to play a concert with more or less usual instruments and then perform a remix on the same stage done by other artists. In this experiment, co-produced by the Heineken Jazz Festival and San Sebastian European Capital of Culture 2016, participated, along with Bang and Honoré, artists such as Eivind Aarset, Arve Henriksen, Nils Petter Molvaer, Sly & Robbie, Josetxo Silguero, Sidsel Endresen, Suso Saiz or Mungolian Jet Set leaving a great impression among fans.

The Victoria Eugenia also welcomed with a packed theatre the effective approach between Bach and jazz performed by the pianist Iñaki Salvador and Alexis Delgado.

The Green Stage fulfilled the purpose for which it was designed: to be a perpetual party. It started well: Jamie Cullum with a proposal never seen in public, as a DJ. Earth, Wind & Fire Experience was a success as well as the beloved reggae played by one of its creators, Jimmy Cliff. The remaining days of the Green offered good jazz (Gregory Porter), soul of the best kind (Lee Fields & The Expressions), and good examples of indie and power-pop by Neuman, Lonelady, KAKKMADDAFAKKA and the local Bullet Proof Lovers, who succeeded and will continue to develop an unstoppable international career.

Other very attractive proposals were the San Telmo Nights, all very different from each other. Zanmari Baré and the exotic enchantment of the songs of the island of Reunion. Julia Biel, singer and pianist, beware those who have not discovered her yet, its already late. The San Sebastian bass player Gonzalo Tejada, a true value for Basque jazz, in his unique tribute to Norma Jeane Baker, Marilyn Monroe. Trumpet player Arve Henriksen and the three female voices of Trio Mediaeval, a trip thru time and places of European music.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Festival could not forget to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Spanish jazz magazine Cuadernos de Jazz, essential in spreading jazz music thanks to efforts of its editors. To play tribute to the magazine we had a fantastic jam session at the Victoria Eugenia Theatre in which Azar Lawrence and Charles McPherson took part in with their quartets, reinforced for the occasion by Andrzej Olejniczak, Maciej Fortuna and Mikel Andueza.

The Kursaal (Frigo, Heineken, Coca-Cola stages) were a grand party during the five days of the Festival, with a permanent crowd who enjoyed the many proposals, some of international level, such as The Cookers, Ray Gelato & Claire Martin and Carla Cook, and others featuring more than twenty local groups who had the opportunity to show what they can do.

The fiftieth anniversary was also celebrated with an exhibition at the San Telmo Museum, titled Round Midnight. 50 Jazzaldia, and #JAZZALDIA50 the documentary, which had been issued by Spanish and Basque televisions.

It’s funny what happens with the San Sebastian Jazz Festival: Just when it turned 50, it was younger than ever and with enough strength to keep writing glorious pages in the history of contemporary jazz for a long time more. Polish jazz will certainly be present in the 51 edition of the Festival, because the European Capital of Culture 2016 will be shared by San Sebastian and the Polish city of Wroclaw. So, as the Poles say: “Sto lat! (May it live a hundred years!) “.

Some information

  • More than 100 performances scheduled.
  • Massive public attendance, more than 124,000 people.
  • 17 different stages.

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Poster 50 Jazzaldia 2015 (author: Alfredo León).

Poster 50 Jazzaldia 2015 (author: Alfredo León).


Txikijazz, the festival for children and families, reached its third edition with great success. A bet of the Festival to reach new generations endorsed by the enthusiasm of the children and parents. Along with several recreational and fun activities, the smaller ones first heard the sounds of jazz made for them by musicians such as Ray Gelato, Carla Cook, Andrea Motis and Joan Chamorro. A huge step forward in terms of public attendance (7,100), quantity and variety of scheduled activities and quality of the artists involved.

Documentaire et livre

Documentaire Jazzaldia 50

Livre Jazzaldia 50