Festival Preview: Bodø Jazz Open

Written by | Festivals, News

For Norwegian standards, Bodø is a quite large city. Situated approximately 1,200 km north of Oslo, 100 km above the Arctic Circle, and at the northern end of the Norwegian railway network, it stands as the second-largest city in North Norway with around 50,000 inhabitants.

Its 19th place on the list of Norwegian cities indicates the sparse population of the country. This year, the coastal port of Bodø gains special significance on the European map as the city kicks off its program as one of the European Capitals of Culture 2024.

Founded in the fall of 2010 by Jan Gunnar Hoff, Tore Johansen, and Erik Johansen, Bodø Jazz Open (BJO) holds a special place as it marks a solid 90-year anniversary for rhythmic music and jazz in Bodø, considering the existence of the Bodø Jazz Band in 1921. The festival boasts an extensive network of musicians like Jan Gunnar Hoff, Tore Johansen, and the Nymo brothers, Atle and Frode. Stylistically, the festival is open and incorporates pop and prog-rock.

Steve Hackett & Djabe

This year’s program not only impresses with the radiance of international stars but also features numerous concerts involving regional and national musicians. The density, diversity, and high quality of the Norwegian music scene are particularly impressive given the sparsely populated nature of this country at the northern edge of Europe.

Jan Gunnar Hoff, the pianist and co-founder of the festival from Northern Norway, takes a prominent position in this year’s program as an “artist in residence.” His collaborations with musicians like Arild Andersen, Karin Krog, Nils Petter Molvaer, Maria João, or Mike Stern attest to his caliber. The festival kicks off with his duo performance alongside internationally renowned Silje Nergaard. Due to high demand, the concert will be performed twice.

The Scandinavian-Dutch trio Hoff, Somsen, Lindholm plays original compositions inspired by artists like Keith Jarrett, Enrico Pieranunzi, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Esbjörn Svensson, Space, Wolfgang Haffner, Russell Ferrante, and Vince Mendoza. A highlight is the Quartet Jan Gunnar Hoff & Per Mathisen featuring Gary Husband & Nguyên Lê. This band made its debut at the Garana Outdoor Jazz Festival in Romania in July 2023 and received enthusiastic reviews.

Scandinavian-Dutch trio Hoff, Somsen, Lindholm

Another highlight is the current quintet of Norwegian saxophonist Marius Neset, featuring Magnus Hjorth and Anton Eger, who have been playing with Neset since the mid-2000s and have released solo albums. The solo album of Englishman Elliot Galvin was named the “Album of the Month” by The Guardian, and his compatriot Conor Chaplin has played with personalities like Billy Cobham, Bobo Stenson, and Jacob Collier.

The appearance of a musician from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett, with the Hungarian jazz and funk band Djabé, indicates that the European Capital of Culture Bodø is pulling out all the stops this year to attract a broad audience. It’s rare for a jazz festival to be so in focus of European interest. On Saturday, February 3, the official program of the Capital of Culture will be inaugurated by Queen Sonja.

This year Jazz In Europe contributor Gerd Harthus will be attending the festival so stay tuned for his full review in the coming weeks. More information on the Bodo Jazz Open can be found on the festivals website.

Last modified: January 25, 2024