San Sebastián

The Temple Of Jazz

07/31/2019 · By Carmen R. Cuesta
Jamie Cullum thrilled the 53,000 people who attended his show. ©Lolo Vasco_54

The 54th edition of the Jazzaldia Festival offered 100 performances in 15 different stages. Like every year, San Sebastián became the world’s epicenter of jazz for a few days. Artists such as Joan Báez, Jamie Cullum, Neneh Cherry and the great John Zorn—who this year received the Donostiako Jazzaldia Award—stepped on the Zurriola beach in a festival that keeps on growing.

Since its inception, Jazzaldia has bet on jazz in all its forms, from classic jazz to personal and bold interpretations. The festival’s heterodox acts have performed in different stages: from the great Zurriola beach and the Kursaal Auditorium to Plaza de la Trinidad and the Victoria Eugenia Theater, among others. During the five days of the San Sebastián-Donosti Festival, the city breathed jazz from the morning until the evening.

Only in San Sebastián can Neneh Cherry’s sober staging coexist, under a torrential rain on Friday, with Jamie Cullum’s explosive performance before 53,000 people. Neneh Cherry played her album Broken Politics wearing a simple waterproof poncho—as did the audience—she didn’t get rid of until the third song. A stark contrast with the opening of the festival’s 54th edition on Wednesday, a real treat with Joan Baez’s international farewell and Jamie Cullum’s concert, with a total of 97,000 attendees.

Cullum finished his performance with I've Got You Under My Skin, giving way to one of the most intense days of the festival, Thursday, which saw Maria Schneider perform with Ensemble Denada—the best examples of Norwegian jazz— at Plaza de la Victoria, while indie acts Dorian and Zahara played on the Zurriola beach.

After a rainy Friday in which several concerts had to be cancelled, the festival went on without further setbacks. The personal style of Canadian singer Diana Krall, a regular at Jazzaldia, put an end to a day with a marked classical character in the city’s medieval square. Before that, John Zorn, awarded with this year’s Donostiako Jazzaldia Award, launched his macro show Bagatelles Marathon.

American saxophonist and composer John Zorn received the 2019 Donostiako Jazzaldia Award for his artistic career

Silvia Pérez Cruz closed Jazzaldia 2019 alongside double blass player Javier Colina and Brazilian singer Toquinho, putting a touch of bossa nova to the festival. Zorn received his award after finishing his very personal Marathon II. "This is one of the best jazz festivals in the world," he said, before letting himself be photographed by the accredited press in a pretty much unprecedented moment.

Everything can happen at the San Sebastian Jazz Festival, at Jazzaldia. Among the new initiatives this year was the presence of twelve Japanese artists, including pianist Chihiro Yamanaka and pop-blues artist Rei, bringing Japanese jazz to the festival’s audience. This and other successful novelties help establish even more this half-century-old festival as a world reference, and not only for the quality and variety of the programme, but also for that something special it provides to the city.

There is already a date for Jazzaldia’s next edition. Jazz lovers are called to San Sebastián from 22-26 July 2020.