Jazz Festival Zurich

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The Jazz Festival Zurich was a year from 1951 to 1992 in Zurich held-find music festival . Founded as the Swiss Amateur Jazz Festival Zurich, it was continued as the International Amateur Jazz Festival Zurich from 1961 , and then as the International Jazz Festival Zurich from 1971 .


The festival was held in the Urban cinema between 1951 and 1970 and in the neighboring Corso Theater from 1971 to 1973. The initiator was the advertising specialist André Berner, son of the Swiss jazz pioneer Ernest Berner . The event, which took place for the first time between September 10th and 15th, 1951, was curiously enough as a preliminary program to the cinema screenings; this made it easier to finance the event and was retained in this form until 1969, although the music quickly became the main attraction and the film screenings lost importance at the same time. Due to the low admission prices, the festival offered the audience the then unique opportunity to hear musicians from all over Switzerland.

A competition of amateur groups and musicians was integrated into the festival, both for the " old style " and for the "modern style" (which initially meant swing ; apart from a performance by Franco Ambrosetti , modern jazz bands only appeared since 1954 ) was carried out. Five members of the jury, who judged the musicians and bands on the basis of only two pieces, were there from 1951 to 1970 (Francis Burger, Walo Linder, Jan Slawe, Harry Pfister and Arthur Goepfert).

In 1954, drawing lots were required for the first time in order to select the participating bands. From 1957 regional preliminary rounds were held in Basel, Lucerne and Winterthur. The New Orleans Wild Cats from Neuchâtel ensured musical continuity during the first decade of the festival . A high point in the early 1960s were the performances of the Orchester Henri Chaix . Professional musicians were only allowed to perform “out of competition” (ie outside of competition) at the festival; By 1969, a quarter of the bands were already out of the professional camp, and they took over the festival from 1971.

From 1960 to 1972 an album was released every year that documented the highlights of the festival, initially on Ex Libris , then in 1969 on the Heco label; with the changed conception of the festival, MPS was won. Ten years after it was founded, the festival, which initially saw itself as a showcase for Swiss jazz, also opened up to international bands. Since 1968 groups from blues rock and pop jazz have also played there . There were also spontaneous mergers: In 1971, Alexis Korner jammed with the musicians of Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath . In 1971 Weather Report and Osibisa also played at the festival , and in 1972 Chick Corea . George Gruntz , who had performed repeatedly since the first festival, organized a workshop band from 1971 that performed under the title Festival All Stars - the nucleus of what later became his Concert Jazz Band .

In 1973 the festival took place for the last time under the direction of André Berner, who was supported by Bruno Spoerri in recent years . In 1974 the festival was canceled, and from 1975 it was organized under collective management. In the last years of the festival there was also a thematic focus; the jazz scene of the USSR was presented in 1989 (the 4-CD box, which documented the festival focus, received the highest rating of 5 stars in the Down Beat ).

Discography (selection)


  • Bruno Spoerri (Ed.): Jazz in Switzerland. History and stories . Chronos-Verlag, Zurich 2005, ISBN 3-0340-0739-6
  • Ueli Staub : Jazz City Zurich: From Louis Armstrong to Zurich Jazz Orchestra. Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Zurich 2003, ISBN 978-3-03823-012-0