JAM 2021

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Our fifteenth edition of Jazz Appreciation Month in Montenegro – JAM 2021 will be held under the motto ’’Balkan Jazz’’. Guided by the idea that during these challenging times musicians didn’t have a lot of opportunities to perform in front of the audience, we wanted to emphasize the importance of live concerts and provide space to jazz performers, ensembles and composers from the Balkans region to reencounter with their audience and create new values in music – in cooperation with their colleagues. Taking into account epidemiological situation and adhering to health protection measures, the JAM 2021 is created on a smaller scale than usual and will mainly take place at the Cultural Center of Podgorica (KIC). A total of five programs (two film screenings within the cycle ’’Jazz on Film’’ and three concerts of musicians from the Balkan region) will be held live in the KIC’s halls, while the final concert of the Balkan Youth Jazz Orchestra, marking the International Jazz Day – April 30, will take place at the Royal Theatre of Cetinje.

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The program will start with screenings of two feature films – “Elevator to the Gallows” (1958) by French director Louis Malle and “Paris Blues” (1961) by American director Martin Ritt. Both films feature the music by celebrated jazz composers – trumpeter Miles Davis for “Elevator to the Gallows” and pianist Duke Ellington for “Paris Blues”, and both are known for their original jazz music that creates and stimulates special emotions and atmosphere. Film screenings are scheduled for Monday, April 5 and Tuesday, April 6 at the DODEST Hall at 4 p.m.

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Concert cycle will start with the AJS Quartet, one of the most popular ensembles in Albania. The The members of the quartet are musicians from Tirana: pianist and composer Genti Rushi, saxophonist and flutist Ermal Rodi, drummer Emilian Dhimo and double bassist Roni Gyura. They combine different ideas and experiences which make their music and performances very interesting and original. The music of this ensemble is fusion of different jazz styles, and incorporate the flavors of Balkan music. The AJS Quartet regularly performs both in Albania and on the international jazz scene. They did numerous concert tours in Europe and beyond. Their concert at KIC is scheduled for Wednesday, April 7 at 5 p.m.

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The JAM program also includes a concert by the young Montenegrin fusion band Kuhinjazz. The bend members are Enes Tahirović, on keyboards, Slaven Ljujić, on bass, and Martin Đorđević, on drums, Stefan Pavićević, on saxophone, and Dejan Ljujić, on trombone. After completing their jazz studies abroad (Siena, Italy, Graz, Austria and Boston; US), Martin, Enes and Slaven returned to Podgorica with the aim of contributing to the development in their own country and working through composing, performing and coaching. Considering that the Jazz Appreciation Month event has been essential for the educational and musical development of all members of Kuhinjazz since its inception, this concert is a continuation of cooperation through the joint work of a young jazz generation. The Kuhinjazz concert is scheduled for April 22 in the Main Hall of KIC at 8 p.m.

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At the end of the JAM 2021 event, a concert of a new musical formation of young jazz musicians from the Balkans will be realized within the one-year project “Balkan Youth Jazz Orchestra”, conducted by the NGO Jazz Art under the auspices of the Western Balkans Fund and in cooperation with partners from the region: Faculty of Music Belgrade and Music Academy of the University “Goce Delcev” Stip, as well as local partner KIC “Budo Tomovic” of Podgorica.

Balkan Youth Jazz Orchestra will play original compositions written by ten selected young and renowned composers from the Balkan region: Vladimir Botev and Gordan Spasovski from Northern Macedonia, Simona Strungaru and Sebastian Burneci from Romania, Ivan Jovanovic, Damjan Jovicin and Nevena Pejcic from Serbia, David Mastikosa from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mak Mutrić from Croatia, and Rok Nemanič, from Slovenia, under the direction of jazz experts – mentor and professor Antonio Kitanovski (Music Academy of the University “Goce Delčev” Štip) from Vladimir Nikolov (Faculty of Music Belgrade).

The premiere performance Balkan Youth Jazz Orchestra will hold on April 29 at KIC at 8 pm, and a day later the they will present their repertoire to the audience in Cetinje, as part of the celebration of the International Jazz Day – April 30 at noon, at  the Royal Theater.

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In addition to the film and concert program, we have created, in cooperation with the American Corner in Podgorica, an online program-lecture “Virtual Encounters” every Wednesday at 8 pm. We will host prominent artists from the world of music, photography, literature and film. In the past, all of them have contributed to the programs of the festival “Jazz Appreciation Month in Montenegro: John Edward Hasse, a famous music writer, editor-emeritus of the collection of American music at the National Museum of American History; Virginia Jones, professor of American literature at Louisiana State University in Alexandria, USA; renowned art photographer Žiga Koritnik from Ljubljana and well-known film theorist Miša Nedeljković, professor at the University of Oklahoma, USA. Online lectures will be streamed on FB Live at the pages of Jazz Art and American Corner Podgorica (every Wednesday at 8 p.m.).

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We are thankful for support of our longtime partners and sponsors: KIC “Budo Tomović”, Tourism Organization of Cetinje and CKB (Montenegrin Commercial Bank – CKB).

All JAM events are open to the public and free of charge.

Come, experience Jazz! We are waiting for you.

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Balkan Youth Jazz Orchestra Composers

We are happy to introduce ten young composers who  have been selected  for the Balkan Youth Jazz Orchestra repertoire: Vladimir Botev, Sebastian Burneci, Ivan Jovanović, Damjan Jovičin, David Mastikosa, Mak Murtić, Rok Nemanič, Nevena Pejčić, Gordan Spasovski i Simona Strungaru. These young and emerging composers of  jazz and contemporary music are coming from different  Balkan countries:  Bosnia and Hercegovina, Croatia, North Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia, and Serbia.

Their recent and new works will be performed by the Balkan Youth Jazz Orchestra, on 29 and 30 of April this year, in Podgorica and Cetinje, crowning the festival Jazz Appreciation Month in Montenegro.

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Balkan Youth Jazz Orchestra Team

We are happy to present you partners team working on the Balkan Youth Jazz Orchestra project.

Jazz Factory Festival, Maj 2018, Bitola

Toni Kitanovski (PC: Jazz Factory Festival, Bitola)

“Some things indeed can’t be described with words – they have to be experienced. Mark Twain’s famous example of one such experience is holding a cat by the tail. Mine example would rather be performing with or hearing a large orchestra – live!

It would be a first time experience for some of you to be a part of a large jazz group as a performer or a writer. You will all meet your peers from the neighborhood and there will be no more excuses not to continue collaborating long after this project is over. Your passion for music will be enhanced just as always when we all learn a new face of this unique art form. Please bring your hunger for new adventures and we will all have a great time working together and making sure a valuable musical project comes true.

Jazz Art Association is certainly well experienced in organizing such events and I am looking forward being a part of it.”

Toni Kitanovski is guitarist, composer and educator active on the international scene in the field of jazz and contemporary music. After eight years of musical studies with Dragan Gjakonovski Shpato he moved to Boston. Thanks to Robert Share Memorial Award he completed his studies at the famed Berklee College of Music. He has written a large body of compositions in jazz idiom as well as symphonic pieces, music for film, theatre, performance art and contemporary dance. He has performed at prestigious international festivals and venues such as Berlin Jazz Festival, Dunya World Music Festival (Rotterdam, Holland), Bath Music Festival (GB), Barbican Hall (London, GB), Rio Loco (Toulouse, France), etc. His recordings, for ENJA and SJF Records have been distributed and are continuously aired across continents. Collaboration with Roma Brass Band Cherkezi is his most celebrated project (Toni Kitanovski & Cherkezi Orchestra). Mr. Kitanovski is professor of jazz guitar and composition and serves as the Dean of Music Academy at UGD – Stip.

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Vladimir Nikolov  (PC: Tim Dickeson)

“Making music nowadays might mean – playing through hardware and software toys in the warmth of your home. The bad news is – none of that can replace playing together live. Good news is, we have a band for you, and it’s diverse enough so we are sure this will be a one-time experience! Composers and arrangers who try to attain a higher level of knowledge of orchestral writing are also eager to get a glimpse of how something they wrote actually sounds. This is a chance for them to be their own judges but also bring about their joy of composing out in the open.

The Balkans are not traditionally the best place for jazz orchestras, but are indeed the place where one can find tons of different musicians and cultures in a one day ride. We are now in a place where we can gather our western jazz experiences with our roots and make fusion out of anything. Playing in an orchestra and learning from listening is a blissful experience, especially when the right people are joined together. We strived to make a great band, and I look forward to hearing you play together.”

Vladimir Nikolov is a composer whose works cover a wide range of musical languages and genres, using backgrounds in classical music and jazz as points of departure. He has been ‘behind the scenes’ of worldwide orchestral projects as arranger for some time now, while also frequently performing as conductor and guitarist with renowned soloists and ensembles. He was born 1979 and raised in Skopje, Macedonia. He started music at the age of 14, beginning with the guitar. Soon after, he enrolled in classical guitar studies, graduating with an original composition. Meanwhile, Vladimir began cross-over composing and arranging, mentored by Ilija Pejovski. After departing for the Netherlands in the autumn of 2002, he started jazz composition and arranging studies at the Conservatory of Amsterdam. He finished his Master’s studies in 2005 with focus on symphonic writing.

As composer and arranger, Vladimir worked with ensembles such as the Metropole Orchestra, Brussels Philharmonic, Heritage Orchestra, BBC Radio Orchestra. Among the collaborative artists, he worked with: John Clayton, Randy Brecker, Vince Mendoza, Chaka Khan, Jules Buckley, Donny McCaslin, Jacob Collier, to name but a few. He’s a co-leader, composer/arranger of the ensemble Nikolov-Ivanović Undectet, with which he published two studio albums. In the words of JazzTimes, this is one of the most creative large ensembles in Europe, while Downbeat said that the music of this ensemble contains rhythmically complex, harmonically evocative compositions, all impeccably arranged. The ensemble won a prize at the Made in New York Jazz Competition in 2019. He also orchestrated and arranged music for several film projects, among which 2012 Oscar winner “The Artist”. His compositions and arrangements have won numerous international prizes, including four first prizes for original compositions and five first prizes for arrangements.


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“Gathering young talented musicians for jazz workshops and performances was, for over one decade, one of our most inspiring, but also the most complex tasks we made our mission to complete.Numerous jazz artists and educators from the region and the world devoted their time to share the secrets of the genre with young musicians, and showed them that jazz is not just a passing music entertainment, but a passion and a way of life. Its end result – the most enthusiastic among the participants went abroad and enrolled in jazz studies.

The idea to initiate forming the Balkan Youth Jazz Orchestra was born from great many past activities and I believe that it is going to yield a new quality through direct cooperation of young musicians from the Western Balkans and partnering educational institutions. The Balkan Youth Jazz Orchestra is envisioned as a unique setup aimed to exploring and developing their potentials to perform in the spirit of friendship, tolerance and armed with dedication, creativity and enthusiasm, and bringing to life contemporary works of Balkan jazz composers. I believe that together we can provide new outlook on prospects of jazz on the Balkans.”

Maja Popović was born in Podgorica, where she acquired a complete music education, and graduated with honors from the pedagogical-theoretical department in 1987 at the Music Academy of the University of Montenegro. As a scholarship holder of the French government, she studied piano at the “Alfred Cortot” Ecole Normale Superieure de Musique de Paris. She started her career in the Radio Montenegro Music Program, where she later, until the mid-90s, continued her cooperation with the editorial office for culture. From 1992 to 2001, she taught at the newly established School of Musical Talents “Andre Navarra” in Podgorica. During that period, she also collaborated in the culture editorial office of the daily “Pobjeda”, as a music associate and a critic, where she published numerous articles, interviews, reviews and critiques. She was hired as a selector of the music program of the Budva City Theater Festival (1997-2001), within which she presented a new generation of young Montenegrin artists – performers of classical music and renowned musicians from the region and Europe in the field of classical, jazz and world music. She edited three music compilations of live performances in the Church of Santa Maria by various artists, released by the Budva City Theater Festival in 1999 and 2000. At the end of the 90’s, she founded and successfully led the Tango Nova quintet for several years, composed of eminent musicians from Montenegro and Serbia, with the aim of promoting the original music of the Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla in country and beyond.

From 2001 until today, Maja works as an editor of the music program at KIC “Budo Tomović” in Podgorica, where she intensified the music program  in the regular concert season and music events of various genres, creating various thematic cycles, from those dedicated to young people (cycles Youth and Music, Laureates of International Competitions, Young Talents), through the presentations of the greats of the music scene (Masters of Jazz, Chamber Music), women’s music (Shadow Composers), to signature events such as Podgorica Blues Summit, Jazz Appreciation Month in Montenegro, Montenegro Summer Camp for Chamber Music, etc. She initiated the event Jazz Appreciation Month in Montenegro in 2007. In order to continue and develop the program of jazz education and concert promotion of jazz music in Montenegro, along with her colleagues in the field of music and literature, she founded the non-governmental organization Jazz Art in 2009, which has been involved in the organization of this event since 2010 and up to this day, continues expanding its activities throughout Montenegro. Maja has participated in professional visitor programs to countries such as the Netherlands (Western Balkan Cultural Operators), the USA (IVLP – International Visitor Leadership Program), France (Séjours Culture), Canada (CINARS) and Germany (The German Jazz Music Scene), Israel (IMSF) through the invitation of the governments of those countries. In the period 2018/2019, she participated in the development of a new occupational standard for the educational program Music Associate for secondary music schools, as well as in the development of a new module “Organization of Music Programs”, adopted by the National Commission of the Ministry of Education of Montenegro in May 2019.

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