Defining moments: Polarjazz not bringing in many namesake musicians, but locals will provide plenty of cool vibes


Jazz (\jaz\) phrasal verb.: To make something more lively or cheerful.

Who says this year’s Polarjazz festival doesn’t live up to its name?

Well, the festival’s director – sort of.  Lasse Hansen admits there aren’t any visiting bands likely to play “pure” jazz – and the headliners are rock and pop artists – but groups focusing on the namesake genre won’t be totally absent.

“There’s just one and that’s ourselves playing at Kroa,” he said, referring to SvaJazz, a quintet formed last year that also refers to itself at times as the Svalbard Jazzensemble.

There’s actually one other local jazz group, the Longyearbyen Storband, which will play a big band concert at 5 p.m. Sunday at Svalbard Church. In addition, the opening Vorspiel (which literally translates to “prelude” or “foreplay”) on Wednesday features a variety of local musicians, including the two band above, likely to play a high ratio of jazz songs. And plenty more will likely be heard at unofficial late-night jam sessions at Karlsberger Pub.

In addition, a pair of visiting Scandinavian jazz musicians will be playing together Thursday night (ironically, typically the least-attended night of the festival). Bassist Per Mathisen and guitarist Ulf Wakenius – the latter of whom has won international acclaim performing with Herbie Hancock, Pat Matheny and Oscar Peterson – are expected to perform a concert blending jazz with funk and other genres.

One of main headliners is Sondre Lerche, a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who has won multiple Norwegian Grammys since his 2001 debut album “Faces Down,” which Rolling Stone named as one of the best 50 albums of the year when it was released in the United States in 2002. While described as a pop/indie rock performer, his third album – “Duper Sessions,” released in 2006 – reached fifth on Billboard’s top contemporary jazz albums chart. He has continued to expand his styles and repertoire in recent years.

Lerche is scheduled to perform Thursday night at Kulturhuset and a concert for youths Friday night at the Longyearbyen Youth Club. He is also scheduled to perform the first-ever Polarjazz concert in Ny-Ålesund.

The other main headliner is Susanne Sundfør, a multi-genre pop singer/songwriter (among the prefixes associated with her are “art,” “baroque,” “dream,” and “electro.”). As with Lerche, she has also performed in the jazz arena, including provided vocals for Nils Petter Molvær’s 2012 album “Baboon Moon.”

Schedule (full artist details avaialble at the festival’s website):

• 8 p.m.: Vorspiel featuring various local musicians. Kulturhuset.

• 8 p.m.: Per Mathisen and Ulf Wakenius; Sondre Lerche. Kulturhuset.

• 7 p.m.: Sondre Lerche. Longyearbyen Youth Club (youths only). Free.
• 8 p.m.: Ingebjørg Bratland; D’Sound. Kulturhuset.

• 1 p.m.: SvaJazz. Kroa.
• 5 p.m.: Matilda. Gruvelageret
• 8 p.m.: Sofia Jannok; Susanne Sundfør. Kulturhuset.
• Midnight (est.): Dos Mosquitos. Huset. Free bus from Kulturhuset at 11:30 p.m.

• 5 p.m.: Longyearbyen Storband. Svalbard Church.
• 8 p.m.: Hekla Stålstrenga. Kulturhuset.
Also: Jam sessions (not on the official schedule) are planned after each night’s main concerts (about 11 p.m.) at Karlsberger Pub.