Tag Archives: Polarjazz

POLARJAZZ CANCELLED: Rapid spread of mutated COVID-19 virus on mainland and no-travel advisory by governor force organizers to scrap festival a week before scheduled start


An attempt to stage Longyearbyen’s first music festival since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out nearly a year ago was cancelled Wednesday, as organizers of Polarjazz said the rapid spread of a mutated virus on the mainland and a no-travel advisory by The Governor of Svalbard meant there was no workable solution for the four-day event scheduled to start next Thursday.

POLARJAZZ IN A PANDEMIC: Smaller lineup, bands and crowds – but it’s Svalbard’s first major music festival of the COVID-19 era thanks to a wonder of creative thinking and improvisation


Photo of 2020 Vorspiel show courtesy of Polarjazz

Given it’s a marvel there’s a Polarjazz at all given the continuing COVID-19 circumstances, there’s some rather marvelous offerings what’s a limited schedule for the world’s northernmost jazz festival next month.

‘EXTREME’ JAZZ FEST HITS NEW HIGHS, LOWS: Polarjazz, a day shorter due to financial woes, offering first-ever discount student passes and ultra-premium Ny-Ålesund trip/concert


There’s a lot to be said for experiencing a jazz gig simply in a small club verses the same musicians in a no-expenses-barred stage show in a major venue. While this year’s Polarjazz festival – shortened by a day and several concerts in order to survive after recent struggles – isn’t quite that scaled back, its longtime director is feeling a lot smoother about the vibe while making final preparations.

‘Not as bad as we feared’: At-the-door sales save Polarjazz from ‘panic’ scenario – but continuing next year still uncertain


Since improvisation is the heart of jazz, it’s fitting that locals expressed their feelings about Polarjazz spontaneously with a rush of at-the-door ticket sales to stave off what organizers feared would be a disastrous year.

But the affection isn’t enough to alter the brains of the festival who say significant changes are necessary if it is to return next year.

LIVEBLOGGING POLARJAZZ 2019 (DAY 5): Svalbard’s version of ‘Footprints’ takes on a totally new blue hue in Mine 3


4:58 p.m.: I’m wrong about a lot of things. At the moment that includes the advice that folks coming up here should get a great twilight view before heading into Mine 3 for the finale of Polarjazz. It’s pitch black out, so any tourists feeling cheated out of photos should make their displeasure loud and clear to…well, I’d rather not have it be me. Maybe yell at you dog – I’m sure it’s done something to deserve it.

Hopefully I’m not wrong about my hopes this will be the most intriguing concert of the festival, due to the rustic location and the performance of a Svalbard-specific suite composed just for Polarjazz. Titled “SPOR” (“footprints”), it featured Norwegian actress Juni Dahr reciting verse, acclaimed Norwegian musicians Tore Brunborg and Per Oddvar Johansen on a variety of instruments, and the Store Norske Men’s Choir as accompaniment.

LIVEBLOGGING POLARJAZZ 2019 (DAY FOUR): From kids and koffee at noon to crashing during a circus past midnight


Noon: Marathon day at Polarjazz, with stuff happening in various parts of town now, at 1 p.m., 5 p.m., 8 p.m., 10 p.m. and midnight Sunday into the wee hours. Just the thing when you’re reaching that state of being fried that comes after three days of getting a few hours a sleep a night at most covering music and other things in real life. But since next year’s festival may not be long enough to induce burnout, I’m making sure I get the full experience (OK, be warned now I may cut out early on the midnight show because I almost always do).

12:11 p.m.: Even the kids’ concert starts fashionably late – and like the grown-ups there seems to be something of a sparse crowd here compared to previous festivals. As with so much else, the loss of families lately due to mining layoffs is having a huge community impact – and reverses one of the main goals the government’s supposedly had for Svalbard for a few decades.

LIVEBLOGGING POLARJAZZ 2019 (DAY THREE): Boyz and Gurls embrace lounge lizards, teen spirit and catz with horseskins


5:12 p.m.: It’s the second of two free early-evening Polarjazz concerts by local musicians at Svalbard Hotell and, just to make one thing clear after the “it’s not jazz” ramblings I’ve voiced this week and over the years, longtime coal miner and resident J.G. Hansen is doing a solo acoustic folk set and he’s kicking ass. So I have no problems venturing outside the genre, especially when what’s being played captures the best elements of what jazz has to offer.

LIVEBLOGGING POLARJAZZ 2019 (DAY TWO): A rare mostly-jazz night w/ a local’s slinky red dress, a returning visitor stripped down and an icon all steamed up


5:30 p.m. Thursday (Jan. 31): Tonight’s rant opens at the close – although nobody’s about to die since it’s just the end of the first set for the first gig. Real life meant arriving a bit late to the free concert by SvaJazz at Svalbard Hotell, the first of two early evening shows by local musicians today and Friday. While passes for local festivals can be pricy for those on a budget (1,650 kroner for this year’s Polarjazz), there’s almost always an effort to include free events letting anyone get a taste of the action. For this gig, it’s a truly priceless opportunity to hear one of the very few pure straighthead jazz performances heard in Svalbard during the year.

LIVEBLOGGING POLARJAZZ 2019 (OPENING NIGHT): A bonanza of locals gets things started with a buffet of music at the ‘Vorspiel’ at Kulturhuset


8 p.m. Wednesday (Jan. 30): I was first attracted to Svalbard 11 years ago by Polarjazz and, if this is to be the final year of the world’s northernmost jazz festival in its current form, that I’m hoping to capture as much of it here as possible during the next five days with these liveblogs. I’ll be offering my impressions from this and other festivals over the years, how what’s happening reflects what happened in Svalbard during that time, and of course my thoughts about the music as a longtime jazz journalist.

Are you sitting down? Polarjazz hoping first-ever seat sections, more variety and a Very Special mine concert lure listeners


For those with a “see it before it’s gone” mentality, this may be the final year of Polarjazz as we know it.

The world’s northernmost jazz festival has been a moneymaker each of its 21 years – until last year – by featuring evenings of overlapping music and mingling, and a mix of familiar and boundary-stretching performers. But facing the drastic economic and societal changes that have disrupted so many other longtime aspects of life here the past few years, festival organizers are making some notable changes this year before a likely major overhaul – and possible downsizing – next year.