Jerusalem Jazz Festival

Jerusalem Jazz Festival 3


On Thursday night, the Israel Museum came alive with the notes of saxophones, basses, pianos and clarinets, as visitors and musicians from around the world gathered for the first international Jerusalem Jazz Festival, which took place at the Israel Museum from December 2-4. The festival was a joint undertaking of the Israel Museum, the Israel Festival, and the Jerusalem Foundation; it launched the celebration of the Jerusalem Foundation’s 50th anniversary, which will continue to be celebrated through a series of events throughout 2016. Guests were greeted to music from the moment they stepped through the doors, as alternating jazz ensembles played in the corridor throughout the evening, and the museum’s café was transformed into a bustling bar, serving wine and sushi, alongside more mundane dining options.


The museum’s different galleries were turned into performance spaces, allowing for intimate concerts in which the music complemented the art on the walls. One singer was heard excitedly exclaiming, “I’ve never sung next to a Picasso before!” Indeed, one of the pieces, Playground, explored the relationship between visual arts, music, and the body, through a series of choreographed performances in the space currently housing an exhibit on the history of humankind.

Jerusalem Jazz Festival 1


The Duchess trio, which hailed from New York, treated the audience to a delightful performance of vocal jazz classics, complete with humor and pizzazz. Abraxas, also hailing from the New York jazz scene, performed rougher music, full of instrumental crescendos and interesting harmonies. Meanwhile, there was plenty of Israeli talent on display from the pianist Yonatan Avishai’s performance in the museum’s auditorium, which was followed by a concert from Grammy-winning saxophonist David Sanchez, whose music drew on Caribbean, Latin-American, and African traditions for a magical cross-cultural experience.


Given the wide variety of talent on display, it’s no surprise that the performances were packed; often, even standing room was scarce. In addition to the eight concerts that took place at the Israel Museum, there were also shuttles to the Yellow Submarine for a midnight jam session with the artists for those who wanted to end the night with a musical after-party.


The festival was a celebration of music, but it was also a celebration of Jerusalem as a vibrant center of international culture whose notes continue to inspire people across the globe, much like the genre of jazz itself.