Founded in 1987, Vilnius Jazz is the oldest annual jazz festival held in Vilnius. It is an exceptional event in Lithuania, providing a broad perspective on contemporary trends in jazz from all over the world. Over the years Vilnius Jazz has earned a reputation of a radical avant-garde festival oriented towards novelty and limit-stretching creativity. The stylistic boundaries of jazz and free improvised music are often crossed and expanded here by offering joint projects with musicians from the academic, ethnic, rock and industrial music backgrounds.
The International Vilnius Jazz Festival is renowned for its creative and ambitious programmes featuring some of the biggest names on the international jazz scene alongside the best of Lithuanian talent. The festival’s hall of fame includes such world-class names as The Zawinul Syndicate (USA), Sonny Simmons-Oliver Lake Quartet (USA), Courtney Pine Group (UK), Billy Cobham Band (USA), Arthur Blythe Quartet (USA), Steve Lacy (USA), Leroy Jenkins (USA), Viacheslav Ganelin (Israel), Otomo Yoshihide (Japan), Fred Frith (UK), Carlos Ward Quartet (USA), Defunkt (USA), Django Bates (UK), Cinematic Orchestra (UK), Iva Bittova (Czech Republic), Myra Melford Quartet (USA), Cuong Vu Trio (USA), Willem Breuker Kollektief (NL),
Kazutoki Umezu (Japan), Marc Ducret Trio (FR) and many others. Many international projects have been organised through close collaboration with international cultural institutions and foundations, such as Goethe Institut, British Council, Swedish Institute, Pro Helvetia, US Arts International and Japan Foundation.
Attracting an audience of around 5000 each year, Vilnius Jazz has played a formative role for several generations of jazz fans. It has also to its credit helped develop local players who have then moved onto performing in other European venues and international jazz groups. Vilnius Jazz is also inextricably linked with the development of a distinctive Vilnius jazz school. Recognised as one of the most important signposts in Eastern Europe, Vilnius Jazz remains devoted to nurturing and promoting the living tradition of improvised music in Lithuania. In 2005, it joined the membership of the Europe Jazz Network.
The Festival usually offers a 3-4 day programme of concerts, workshops and jam sessions featuring up to 10 different groups. The coming 25th edition of the International Vilnius Jazz Festival will be held on 11-14 October.