Tag Archives: Polarjazz

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


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


(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


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.

Full of scat: Visitors inspire locals to be extra expressive – on stage and off – during this year’s Polarjazz fest


Which is worse: being a local who’s totally owned by an intruder during an on-stage jam or being an intruder who’s drowned out by the locals?

Both…neither…actually, it’s not really an answerable question given the nature of the world’s northernmost jazz festival.

The notable lack of jazz at a festival supposedly featuring the genre is hardly unique here, but over the years Polarjazz has become as much a social gathering as a musical one. Longyearbyen residents found themselves extra expressive at this year’s five-day festival that ended Sunday, although at times that wasn’t necessarily a good thing.

Random weirdness for the week of Feb. 17, 2015

Le Monde polarjazz

We can’t understand a word of it (beyond “Svalbard,” “Longyearbyen” and a few names, of course), but Le Monde nevertheless has one of the best online articles we’ve ever seen of Polarjazz (even if they got the name slightly wrong) by an uncredited artist who presents the festival as a graphic novel with song and interview audio clips.