There are plenty of good reasons for a spring break in Kaunas, Lithuania. The cultural calendar is packed with exciting events, the restaurants and cafes present their new menus and open-air terraces, the streets are full of people, and the trees are green again. What’s not to love? So, if you’re thinking about visiting Kaunas this spring, consider scheduling your trip around the events of Kaunas Jazz festival. Here’s why…
The festival’s 29 year-long history, beyond any doubt, proves that its start in 1991 was an essential event to jazz music lovers and an unusual happening in the cultural life of Lithuania. When the Kaunas Jazz team were working on the first festival almost three decades ago, they had no idea what festival they might have in 2019.
Kaunas Jazz was born together with the reinstated independence of Lithuania. It survived blockades and various other hardships. Until today, the organisers of the most significant jazz event in Lithuania believe that music contributes to social and emotional development and economic prosperity. We agree!
This year, the international festival takes place not only in Kaunas but also in the towns and cities of Vilnius, Raudondvaris (Kaunas District), Panevėžys, Palanga, Jurbarkas, Birstonas, Žąsliai. You can find all of the programmes here, and below are some of our hand-picked recommendations for concerts in Kaunas. The official start of Kaunas Jazz 2019 is scheduled for April 25. Piotr Baron Quintet will perform for invitees of the festival in the Kaunas Town Hall. A few concerts before the opening night will warm the city up for jazz. We recommend not to miss the free-for-all gig by Jazzway, a Klaipėda-based quintet consisting of experienced legends and musicians of the younger generation. The concert on April 24 will be held at the Kaunas Bus Station.
The biggest star of this year’s event is, of course, Bobby McFerrin. The multiple Grammy award winner and performer of one of the most iconic songs ever will perform in Kaunas for the second time. In 2011, he was also part of the Kaunas Jazz festival and played in Kaunas Sports Hall. This time, it’s Žalgirio Arena, the largest multifunctional space in the Baltics. Grab your tickets for April 28 before they’re sold out!
History buffs shouldn’t miss the chance to attend a concert in the Kaunas Choral Synagogue, the only functioning synagogue in the city which had a significant Jewish population before WW2. On April 28, Selah Collective, an Israeli band with a Lithuanian singer, will perform there.
A venue the festival would not exist without is the main hall of Vytautas Magnus University on S. Daukanto street. We recommend heading there on April 26 and catching Ąžuolas Paulauskas with his band and Joshua Redman trio from the US.
If you’re into the open air and big crowds, join the free concerts of Kaunas Jazz at the Nepriklausomybės square (the one with Soboras in the middle). Both local bands and foreign guests will perform there. Another tradition of the festival is the daytime pop-up concerts in the Old Town, namely Vilniaus street. This year, Jazz Street is scheduled for April 27.
Night owls should check out the Sandėlis live music venue located in a historic warehouse a stone’s throw from the Town Hall. On April 27, a Serbian band Jayus Jazz will play there, starting at 11 pm.
Yet another concert we recommend not to miss for the ultimate kaunastic experience will be held on April 26 at the Vytautas the Great War Museum garden. Carillon concerts are an inseparable tradition of Kaunas Jazz. The carillon will be played by Giedrius Kuprevičius, the legendary Kaunas-based composer who’s celebrating his 75th birthday this year.
P.S. Kaunas Jazz is a traditional spring event, but it has got one more treat for those that will be in Kaunas in autumn. On September 22, the Portuguese singer Salvador Sobral will perform in Žalgirio Arena. It’s already the second time Kaunas Jazz invited the musical prodigy to Lithuania – and the second time he agreed! We hope he will sing some more Lithuanian songs in Kaunas.
Programme, tickets and more information: www.kaunasjazz.lt