Tag Archives: Polarjazz

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Stage of majority: 21st annual Polarjazz festival features all non-jazz lineup (but plenty of musicans who’ve played it)

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It’s hardly unusual for a jazz festival to be notably lacking its namesake genre in order to draw enough of a crowd to be commercially viable. Yet the world’s northernmost jazz festival usually features at least one or two bands devoted to some form of jazz –but ended up busting out for its “lucky 21” anniversary.

Polarjazz at 20: Here’s everything insane about our editor’s first infamous article about the festival nine years ago

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(Editor’s note: I discovered Svalbard a decade ago while spending several years traveling the world writing about jazz in unusual and unexpected places. Obviously a festival in a tiny isolated town on an island near the North Pole in the middle of winter qualifies. I spent about two weeks here and, even before leaving, was talking to people and making plans about coming here to start this newspaper. In the meantime, as part of the 20th annual festival’s coverage this is the long article I wrote for the website All About Jazz about the 2008 festival which, among other things, criticizes the talent level of local kids. Nine years later, my thoughts about that and all the other inaccurate, inane and insane things I wrote are annotated in yellow highlight text – click on it to read my comments and add your own.)

A well-composed score: Polarjazz relies on sellout format (and lots of extra locals) for 20th annual festival

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There’s no blowout bash planned for Polarjazz’s 20th birthday, but festival director Lasse Stener Hansen says one isn’t needed for attendees to be blown away.