From the hum of a saxophone to the long cheer of a horn, there’s nothing as unmistakably cool as jazz, and it’s flooding Barcelona at the 48 Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival. Here at Lifestyle Barcelona, we’re beyond excited for the latest installment in Barcelona’s epic International Jazz Festival. If you’re searching for things to do in Barcelona this autumn, then grab a sax, a friend, and head out for a night of smooth, sweet jazz in one of the city’s lovely venues.
Jazz may have been born in the USA, but it comes alive in Spain. As jazz came about in 1920s North America, musicians hopped over to Europe, bringing their smooth new sounds with them. While jazz remained fairly popular, it didn’t really take off in Barcelona until Catalan pianist Tete Montoliu did. Blind from birth, Montoliu studied classical piano from experts as well as from American jazz musicians. Soon, his overseas-influenced pieces served as examples of great music while subtly undermining dictator Franco’s insistence on a popular culture influenced only by Spain itself.
As one of the most unique activities in Barcelona, the Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival traditionally takes place every fall, right when the temperature drops and the need for a cozy night listening to music grows strong. Rather than a weeklong extravaganza packed with headliners, the festival operates over the course of October, November, and December and has featured musicians of every stripe, from singer/songwriters like Sarah McKenzie to stars like Miles Davis.
Jazz artists from all over the world congregate to play in sold-out theaters like the Palau de la Música Catalana or cozy bars. Sponsored by local brewery Voll-Damm, the festival is going into its forty-eighth iteration. Its longevity, quality lineup, and seamless integration into Barcelona’s culture helped to foster a wonderful jazz scene that thrives even to this day.
With so many exciting events over the course of a few months, October, November and December are great months to catch some stirring jazz in a cool Barcelona hangout. 2016’s Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival kicked off on October 1st with the “Jazz & Food” event in Poblenou Park. This party, which in 2015 had over 23,000 visitors, offered a smorgasbord of exciting food and twelve hours of exquisite music. Of course, the main event is pretty exciting, too: this year, there will be eighteen different venues for 136 performances and events. The Hotel El Palace features a revolving door of stunning performances. Each will be located in the marvelous Bluesman Cocktail Bar, a lounge with an atmosphere that evokes the roaring 20s, in all their glory. The Harlem Jazz Club will feature its fair share of incredible acts, as well. This weekend, you can catch Anna Luna, a singer with a sultry, arresting voice that encapsulates the spirit of jazz. Of course, the Palau de la Música Catalana has arranged for several showstoppers. In fact, the Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival finale will take place right there, with a special performance by the Black Heritage Choir, with a second performance by James Rhodes to follow on February 24th, 2017. Some brand-new venues like the Wittmore Club will have an out-of-this-world culinary experience based on the music of the performer for the evening, so you’d better check it out.
Jazz is one of the world’s most cherished art forms. A combination of American, European, and African styles crystallized in the African-American communities of the 1920s, jazz was born out of a desire for peace, dignity, and autonomy amidst a callous system. It’s not hard to see why Catalonia would fit so well into this genre of music, blending it with other influences to create a special brand of jazz. Hosting the Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival allows Barcelona to inhabit the dark, soulful spirit of jazz music–and it allows the public to join in.
Interested in any of the fantastic shows available this year at the Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival or just wondering where to go in Barcelona? Find concert dates for artists you love right here.