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Music city: Leuven Jazz never disappoints

17:10 19/02/2019
Guitars are all the rage at this year’s edition of Leuven Jazz, 11 days of non-stop music, spoken word and movies all dedicated to the legendary genre

This year’s edition of Leuven Jazz is all about guitars. From 14 to 24 March, the seventh edition of the festival boasts more than 60 concerts and some of the most famous jazz guitarists in the world.

Acts such as the celebrated American jazz guitarist Julian Lage, Dans Dans, Belgian jazz guitarist Fabrizio Graceffa (pictured) and Albert Vila of Barcelona will be on stage in the capital of Flemish Brabant. The final concert of the festival, local music collective IH8 Camera, will feature eight guitarists on stage at once.

“Leuven Jazz is and will remain a city festival,” says Denise Vandevoort, city councillor for culture. “Walk through the city, and you will feel jazz everywhere – in the concert halls and cafés, in the library and in the cinema, in boats and in living rooms.”

Brussels-based indie label Igloo Records will be celebrating 40 years with exclusive vinyl re-releases and a performance by Belgian jazz guitarist Philip Catherine and pianist Éric Legnini. It’s also the 40th anniversary of the city’s B-Jazz International Contest for young musicians, and organisers are bringing back the competition’s very first winner, Milkshake Banana 2.0.

My Foolish Heart

Although the festival is focused around music, there are plenty of other activities. Cinema Zed will be screening the new Chet Baker documentary My Foolish Heart and The Jazz Ambassadors, a look at how jazz musicians in the US dealt with rampant racism well into the 20th century.

Jazz’n’Words, meanwhile, is a spoken word performance, and there are even jazz quizzes for aficionados to put their knowledge to the test. There are multiple programmes for children, including Gimp for the littles kids, which combines music with painting, and Thelonius for the over-6 crowd, which adds a video element. There will also be a showing of Disney’s The Jungle Book, with its Dixieland melodies and Baloo’s unforgettable scat.

Finally, young adults can dance the night away at Prelude, with live music over five locations.

There are so many styles of jazz and performances to choose from, you might find yourself consumed in the festival all week long. Ruben Machtelinckx will be playing the steel string guitar, bassist Cyrille Obermüller will be performing in four different bands and The Breath, an Irish-British band, will be performing in support of their second album.  

Vandevoort: “Above all, Leuven Jazz reflects the spirit of Leuven as a music city.”

Leuven Jazz: 14-24 March, across Leuven, tickets from

Written by Sophia Moll