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Audience Development: Live in Ljubljana! Clean Feed records and Ljubljana Jazz Festival

Another European organisation making new connections through recordings is one of the longest running European jazz events, Ljubljana Jazz Festival, who has also become a beacon for Slovenian culture in reaching out to new global audiences.  Founded in 1960 in Bled as a festival of Yugoslavian jazz, it quickly became more international and the Festival’s move to Ljubljana signalled its broader ambitions.  Initially housed in the city’s Križanke summer theatre, from 1982 the Festival has been organised by and based in Cankarjev Dom, the city’s cultural centre.  Slovenian jazz remains a key strand of the artistic programme and the Festival’s role in showcasing Slovenian music has been hugely expanded by its collaboration with Clean Feed records.
Pedro Costa, Clean Feed’s founder, is now the co-curator of the Festival with Bogdan Benigar, and together the pair have overseen the production of 10 recordings since 2011, when the collaboration began.  The Live in Ljubljana series in some ways simply continues the tradition of the Festival recording its concerts but in other ways signifies a wider cultural ambition, as Benigar explains: “It was after our 50th anniversary that I discussed with Pedro the idea of establishing an international collaboration. We already recorded most of the concerts in the Festival, but our idea was to give Slovenian jazz artists a real start to their careers and international recognition with the Ljubljana jazz series of recordings, as Clean Feed has one of the best worldwide distributions.”
The Festival’s focus on new and unexpected collaborations is often at the heart of the programme, and the resulting recordings, as Benigar continues: “Around a quarter of the programme features Slovenian musicians, who often live abroad, and we will motivate them to undertake ambitious projects.  In combining the diaspora with the local scene, we try to find the very contemporary meaning of creative music.  We have artists like Kaja Draksler and Dre Hocevar, who are both now living abroad and creating great careers for themselves.  We’ve also created some great collaborations and groups that have worked together for the first time, like the Trumpets and Drums project with Peter Evans and Nate Wooley on trumpets and Jim Black and Paul Lytton on drums, which was absolutely fantastic.  When we put Mats Gustaffson and Craig Taborn together in 2015, that was something that people would never have expected.”  The resulting 2017 Clean Feed recording, Ljubljana, is the label’s 400th release, perhaps auspicious for such a momentous collaboration.
The benefits of the Festival reaching out to audiences through its partnership with Clean Feed are clear: “People who come to the concert are able to have a tool to remind them that they came, and those jazz fans who couldn’t come hear something really good and think they could come to the festival.  It’s also got purpose as an archive – people will often come up to me and say they have a recording of the Modern Jazz Quartet from Ljubljana in the 1970s.  But it’s not just this; Pedro is very communicative, and our collaboration is really well received in Slovenia amongst professionals and journalists.  Within Cankarjev Dom, our collaboration is highlighted in the 5 year strategy as an example of how to provide a platform for Slovenian artists, to help them build an international career and really do something. That’s now part of our cultural policy, and it’s really important.”

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