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Molde International Jazz Festival

July 19-24, 2010 in Molde, Norway

Rune Grammofon exhibit at the Molde Jazz Festival in Norway
Sonny Rollins and Bob Cranshaw at the Molde Jazz Festival in Norway
Tiny street musicians at the Molde Jazz Festival in Norway
Scene view of Molde, site of the Molde Jazz Festival in Norway

Mention the Molde International Jazz Festival to most American jazz fans and you’re likely to get a puzzled look. It’s not because it’s a new festival-in fact it celebrated its 50th anniversary this summer and it’s arguably the longest continuously running festival in Europe. Perhaps it’s one of the best-kept European jazz secrets because they don’t have to do any publicity outside of Norway. Each summer for seven days, every hotel, campsite and spare room in and around Molde is booked to capacity and the population of this sleepy town on the Ramsdal fjord more than triples in size, so there’s no point in trying to draw more people. This year Molde celebrated its golden anniversary with its customary mixed bag of mainstream and cutting-edge shows in various genres along with free concerts, daily daytime parades through the town and some very special events.

Part of what makes this festival so memorable is the setting for its concerts. For example, a noontime performance Javid Afsaru Rad offered a chance to hear centuries old Persian melodies played on santur (hammered dulcimer) and hand drum inside an 18th century wooden chapel lit only by candles. It was a mystical experience heightened by dark skies and a steady summer rainstorm. Another unusual setting was a 7:00 am break-of-day concert by Nils Petter Molvaer and Biosphere in the amphitheater in Reknes Park. It was a stirring sight to see 1600 people gathering for an outdoor show of trumpet and lap-top triggered rhythms and ambient sounds at that hour of the morning, though based on the faces of the crowd it was unclear how many woke up early or stayed up all night.

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