I cannot be neutral about the Malta Jazz Festival. It’s embedded in my personal history, the annual soundtrack to a life’s passage on a small island. In July 1990, when I lived in the UK, I scrambled to find a flight when I read about the line up for the first Malta Jazz Festival – Chick Corea, Michel Petrucciani, Alvin Jones…. I got into a similar state of mobilisation a couple of years ago when the Festival was pulled back from the brink of extinction and I was asked to quickly develop a social media strategy to get the old and new faithful back to Ta’ Liesse.
There was one edition I missed – 19 years ago, I was in San Francisco for a conference, and couldn’t make it to see Al di Meola play at the Malta Jazz Festival. On the 19th July, I get a second chance to watch the great man (taster above) – except this time I will have my nine year-old son in tow, for his first festival. It almost feels like a rite of passage.
If you’ve never been to the Festival, or strayed away, there’s no time like July 19, 20 and 21, to experience a unique event in Malta’s cultural calendar. Details of the programme are in this link. And for a trip down memory lane for those who’ve been to a good few Malta Jazz Festivals, this compilation of photos of the past years from Darrin Zammit Lupi is a feast for the eyes.
Here are 10 personal anecdotes on why the Jazz Festival is special:
1. Location. It’s by the water. Literally. Right by the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture.
2. Postcard. Musicians think they’re playing in one. At least, that’s what Chick Corea said, all those many moons ago. Flood-lit bastions, a world heritage site and passing ships in the Grand Harbour.
3. Elite. You get to watch the greats, and the ‘soon to be great.’ Diana Krall, Esperanza Spalding and many others played here before they became truly mainstream jazz greats.
4. Mobile. You can choose to sit or just stand and stretch your legs, snack, drink beer and wine, with a worldclass soundtrack just in front of you.
5. Social. This is not one of those stuffy festivals where people rattle their jewelry. It’s a chance to meet old friends.
6. Glocal. It’s very informal, very chilled, very Mediterranean.
7. Value. Probably the best value jazz festival in this part of the world.
8. Inclusive. There’s nothing like jazz to cut through generation gaps.
9. Legacy. It’s survived and thrived when other festivals failed. Here’s the evidence.
10. Eclectic. There’s always something for all tastes. Music for the head, the soul and the feet.