Over the last seven decades, jazz and improvised music in Portugal has undergone remarkable developments, and there is an annual vibrant scene of concerts in clubs and other venues, that is supplemented by more than 40 festivals throughout continental Portugal and the Autonomous Regions of Madeira and Azores. 

According to the 2021 Culture Statistics report, published by the Portuguese National Statistics Institute (INE), from 24,469 cultural events, 36.9 % (9 052) were music-related, of which 8.4 % were Jazz & Blues. Regarding audience analysis, 44.0 % (1,573,406) attended music events, of which 6.0 % were Jazz & Blues.

In 1958 the first jazz festival took place in Lisbon organised by Hot Club de Portugal, one of the oldest jazz clubs in Europe (est. 1948). In the following decade, in the city of Coimbra, the Orfeon Jazz Club organised the first international jazz festival (1967- 1968), and in 1971, Porto’s first two jazz festivals took place. These successful events led to the launch of the ‘legendary’ International Jazz Festival of Cascais in November 1971 (Newport Jazz Festival in Europe), bringing together more than 10,000 people. 

In terms of education, the first informal initiative took place in Coimbra (1966), followed by the launch of the Hot Club de Portugal jazz school in Lisbon (1977-present) - a milestone in the country’s jazz education. In the following decade, in northern Portugal, Porto Jazz School (1985-present) was founded. These initiatives were enhanced in the 2000s with the establishment of Professional and Higher Education jazz courses in Portugal. 

Throughout the 21st century new creative musicians and platforms have emerged.  The Festa do Jazz, founded in 2003 by Associação Sons da Lusofonia and led by the saxophonist and cultural programmer Carlos Martins, has become an annual meeting point for anyone involved in jazz and improvised music in Portugal, and brings together established jazz artists, students, emerging artist with producers, promoters, educators, researchers, and journalists.  It has also established the Portuguese Jazz Network, an association of professionals who aim to collaborate with European counterparts, such as the Europe Jazz Network.

Beyond Europe, there are several professionals in Portuguese jazz-related contexts, including musicians, educators and researchers such as Carlos Bica, Susana Santos Silva, Sara Serpa, José Dias, and Pedro Cravinho, just to name a few. In addition to this dynamic and consistent international presence, the Portuguese Jazz Network has become the vice-president of the foundation known as the ‘Voice for Jazz Musicians in Europe’ (VJME). 

Guide compiled by Carlos Levezinho for Portugal Jazz – Portuguese Jazz Network 
Reviewed by Pedro Cravinho and Carlos Martins.