Why Saalfelden?

Monday, 21.08.2023

Why Saalfelden?

The 43rd edition of the Jazzfestival Saalfelden has everything to offer!

There are mountains elsewhere, lakes and beautiful alpine pastures. Nice people, good food and fantastic weather? Why not spend the weekend in August in the city rather than in the countryside - when it is precisely the metropolises that are considered hotspots for culture? "Because the others are all here: in Saalfelden," says a long-time visitor. "The worldwide fan community of improvised music, the spearheads of contemporary jazz' they're all here, in Saalfelden." Where a few enthusiastic music lovers started a festival more than 40 years ago, the Jazzfestival Saalfelden has become the home of the most important international jazz festival in SalzburgerLand. And in addition to all the music, it also thrives on the backdrop, the nature that catches your eye at every turn, the intimacy of the small towns and the openness to the world of the international community of musicians.


A lot has changed in the structure of the festival in the last few years - besides the mainstages, there are more free stages, new venues and an old factory hall that makes everyone feel urban. The audience has changed, grown, become younger without losing the older fans. Around 20,000 concert attendances - record numbers again. The visitors have been there openly and curiously and were unstoppable when the alarm clock rang far too early to experience one of the much sought-after alpine concerts, although the all-evening session did not end until 04.00 a.m. at night.


The Jazzfestival Saalfelden is a complete package: whether it's the blissful campers in front of a beautiful backdrop at the Ritzensee, the diverse sounds of concerts and spontaneous musical encounters that made the place at the foot of the Steinernes Meer vibrate, or even the personal encounters with planned or spontaneous companions during the festival, with whom the diverse discoveries were shared. And there was much to discover:
Already the kick-off on Thursday demonstrated the immense range of the programme. For example, the Stadtpark in Saalfelden was transformed right at the beginning by the Austrian band Orges & The Ockus-Rockus Band, with saxophonist Andrej Prozorov and keyboarder Benny Omerzell among others as active support, into a musical melting pot called "Balkanbilly" of rock, reggae, blues, swing, gipsy, country and the Albanian "muzika popullore". Later, the musicians of the Stockholm trio Ullén/Bergman/Lund explored sound spaces from gentle tone painting to collective noise in the context of the Shortcuts concerts, and the Cologne trio Malstrom seemed to pay homage to the industrial appeal of the now firmly established venue Otto-Gruberhalle.


The beginning of Friday was marked by Mojo Incorporation building a musical bridge to the Sixties and Seventies - accompanied by a culinary breakfast buffet - followed by first-time formations such as the duo Myra Melford on piano and Hamid Drake on percussion as well as permanent bands such as the Tesserae Trio around the German drummer Tilo Weber, the Austrian pianist Elias Stemeseder and the Swedish bassist Petter Eldh, who is well known in Saalfelden from last year. They were accompanied in the second set by music critic Henning Bolte, who synchronously translated his listening experiences into visual works of art on paper several times during the festival.
The stage of the Mainstage in the Congress Centre belonged to the award-winning Austrian musician Lukas König for the official opening concert. Provided with the festival's commission, he invited Belgium-based bassist Farida Amadou as well as Americans Pat Thomas on keys and electronics and Luke Stewart on bass and once again proved his musical versatility.


The City Tracks in the Stadtpark were mostly in Austrian hands during the festival, for example with the trio Dives, Uche Yara and her formation, Bibiza or Moreland, while the Shortcuts brought different grooves, beats and sounds to the Nexus with musical constellations such as Ruth Goller & Training and Cosmic Brothers, Dōjō & Eivind Aarset or Stellar Stutter. As artist in residence, Japanese artist Michiyo Yagi elicited unusual sounds from her rare koto in a wide variety of projects. "It was one of the greatest honours of my life to have been artist in residence here in Saalfelden," said the artist shortly before her last concert at the festival. As another artist in residence, Andreas Schaerer was once again able to prove that his vocal acrobatics are extraordinary and, with his trio Schaerer/Kalima/Lefebvre, also presented the premiere of his CD, which will be released in September.


Four days, 13 venues, around 60 concerts and countless flash mobs, with clarinettist Pepe Auer, came to an end with the Spritual Unity Session under the direction of Austrian bassist and composer Lukas Kranzelbinder and had the tireless flocking to the Nexus even after the final concert by the Dave Douglas New Quintet. It's no wonder that night turned into day here, as everyone was ready to say goodbye and yet no one wanted to leave. 


See you soon - next year, when from 22 to 25 August 2024 the 44th Jazzfestival Saalfelden will send connoisseurs from near and far on new musical journeys of discovery.


Facts and figures Jazzfestival Saalfelden 2023:
- Over 20,000 concert attendances
- 60 concerts (more than half of them free of charge)
- 13 venues
- 98% occupancy rate on the Mainstage. Record result!
- The Shortcuts and Hikes were completely sold out.
- Budget: 830,000 euros 
- Around 180 journalists and organisers
- 150 staff members
- 176 artists from 14 countries and 5 continents