The Soul of a Festival

There are jazz festivals, and there are jazz festivals. This opening might lead you to suspect that this is an entry into the current debate about the implications of broadening the programs of ‘jazz festivals’ by including music that is not actually jazz – with the goal of making them appealing to a wider audience. Well, it is not. This article is about something else – but maybe it can still point to an alternative way for jazz to make new friends.

When you write about something where the background is well-known to some people and unknown or less known by others, you must decide how much of a background you want to give. The main subject of this article is the Sant Andreu Jazzing Festival, but without knowing basics about Joan Chamorro and the Sant Andreu Jazz Band, an important dimension of the Jazzing festival will be missing. So, for those who are not familiar with Joan Chamorro and the Sant Andreu Jazz Band, or those who want to refresh their knowledge, I present my short version of that background in the following section. Others may wish to go directly to the Sant Andreu Jazzing Festival.

Joan Chamorro and the Sant Andreu Jazz Band

In 2016 I found a youth jazz band on YouTube, the Sant Andreu Jazz Band from Barcelona. I then got to know the band gradually through the enormous amount of well-produced video recordings from public performances and from studio recordings. I was amazed by the high quality of the music. More recently I have experienced a number of live performances – and many more recordings. There are recordings with the big band, as well as with smaller constellations of SAJB musicians – sometimes in collaboration with internationally acclaimed professional jazz musicians. All recordings are available on YouTube and audio streaming services.

The man behind all this is the jazz musician Joan Chamorro, who used to be a music teacher in a music school in Barcelona. He started the band in 2006 with eight very young music students, and since then he has developed the band, and a lot of spin-off projects, enormously. The young musicians pass through the band, leaving it when they are in their early twenties, and new young musicians are recruited to replace those who leave. The new ones can be as young as eight years of age. Many SAJB ‘alumni’ continue as musicians with professional careers of their own, and they often also continue to collaborate with Joan Chamorro and different constellations of current and former SAJB musicians. And there are often internationally acclaimed professional musicians within that frame. Thus, we are talking about an informal network of musicians around Joan Chamorro and the SAJB.

Ever since my discovery, my ambition has been to spread the word about Joan Chamorro and the SAJB. Many other fans have the same ambition, and they do so through social media, articles etc. There are links to some of my articles below. I also encourage you to search for articles by Garry Berman.

When writing about Joan and the band, I always mention the positive band culture that supports the successful education model that Joan Chamorro uses to train the young musicians. The culture is friendly and supportive, and the older members help the younger and serve as their role models. The culture strengthens the positive attitudes of the individuals in the group.

When the older members leave the band, the new seniors replace them as leading musicians and role models. New young members are recruited, and so the chain of the band’s development continues. With the leadership of Joan Chamorro, this model has made the SAJB a strong and sustainable educational music project in terms of music of high quality. Frequent performances and recordings are part of the project. They also provide the main financial resources of the project. There are some sponsors, but the students do not pay any fees.

The band now has many fans over the world, and there are two international Facebook groups following them with great enthusiasm – one in English (Friends of Sant Andreu Jazz Band with about 9,700 members) and one in French (Amis du Sant Andreu Jazz Band with about 6,000 members), and they are still growing. Recently, the association Friends and Amis du Sant Andreu Jazz Band was formed. Testimonials from the professional musicians who collaborate with Joan and the band make it fair to say that they can be counted as fans too, in their own professional way.

The fans, of course, appreciate the surprisingly high quality of the music, but also the wonderful culture of the band and the charm of youth. There is also a lot of interest in Joan Chamorro’s method and the importance of his personal qualities.

The Sant Andreu Jazzing Festival

In 2014, Joan Chamorro started a jazz festival in Sant Andreu, the district of Barcelona where the band has its home base, and where Joan lives. I believe that the official name of the festival still is Jazzing – Festival de Jazz de Sant Andreu, but the logo profiles the name Jazzing de Sant Andreu. Among fans the festival is referred to as the Jazzing Festival, or even just Jazzing. The location does not need to be mentioned among fans. These shorter names show the popularity of the festival.

The Jazzing Festival usually takes place in the beginning of September. For the first four years the festival concept was as is typically the case – a number of jazz concerts. Some of those concerts mirrored the activity of Joan Chamorro’s work with the SAJB big band, a number of its spin-off projects, and invited professional musicians. However, other jazz bands were also invited – in the first festival as many as ten big bands!

In 2018 Joan Chamorro expanded the festival to include the educational side of the SAJB project. The Jazz Education Stage was introduced as an important part of the festival, where Joan, invited professionals, and SAJB seniors/alumni led master classes and workshops in jazz music. SAJB members participated, and anyone else was invited to register for the sessions of the Jazz Education Stage. Those who played an instrument could bring it and participate, but you could also, as an ordinary festival visitor, register and sit in just to see and listen to what happened in the educational sessions – which meant that you did not have to be a musician to attend. Not least, the educational sessions became a way for festival participants to get to know each other, socially and music wise.

The Jazzing Festival 2023

Together with my wife, I have experienced quite a few concerts by SAJB and its spin-off projects, in Barcelona and in other European cities, but the festival September 1-3, 2023, was our first Jazzing Festival. There has been a lot of communication among fans about the Jazzing Festivals, but for some reason we have not until this year come around to visit Barcelona in September, when the festival celebrated its 10-year anniversary.

This festival was wonderful in many ways. The concerts with different groups and bands were exquisite, and members from different bands were mixed in several concerts. The formidable saxophonists Scott Hamilton and Joel Frahm played together with many constellations, to the joy of the audience and the young musicians who got the opportunity to play with these famous musicians. They both know the SAJB project well. Late Saturday night there was a jam session at which musicians of quite different ages played together.

Scott Hamilton, Joel Frahm and the trombonist Alba Pujalso also joined the Jazz Education stage for one session each, where they shared their experiences from music life with the participants. Many questions were raised by the participating young musicians.

The Jazz Education Stage sessions all took place before lunch each day, and Joan Chamorro himself led three master classes (one each day). Those three had the form of rehearsals of three songs that were performed by the participants after the last education session. Do remember that this constellation was a big band of musicians that had themselves registered for the Jazz Education Stage, meaning that they had different experiences of music, and that they had never played together as a band. It was very interesting to study all these education sessions, and then a joy to experience the ‘exam’ of the participants in their performance of the three rehearsed songs.

The very special experience of attending this festival made me analyse the different formats of how I experience live concerts. To attend a single concert is of course precisely that. You go to a concert and enjoy it, and there is after that nothing more than your memories of that particular concert, and maybe a CD that you bought at the concert venue. It can be a wonderful concert, which gives you wonderful memories, but there is nothing more around that single concert.

A music festival is generally a number of such single concerts arranged in one location (often a city), within a certain period of time, and within a more or less broad theme such as jazz. There need not be any other connections between the festival concerts. The bigger the city, and the more spread out the concerts are in time and/or geography, the less you get the feeling of a festival. When I visit such a festival, I do so to enjoy a few artists that I like, but the festival as such does not contribute much to these different music experiences. This is where I believe the Sant Andreu Jazzing Festival differs in an interesting way from most other jazz and other music festivals. I am aware of the fact that the Sant Andreu Jazzing Festival has developed over time. My analysis reflects the current state of the festival.

The multitude of SAJB constellations, and the diversity of jazz subgenres played by them, means that these constellations offer almost enough music to form a festival by themselves. However, an important part of the SAJB culture would then be missing – the welcoming of outside influences and the willingness to share and learn. So, a number of well-known professional jazz musicians are always invited to the festival, as well as other young big bands. Within many of the concerts, and in the sessions of the Jazz Education Stage, musicians meet, collaborate, and learn. And the festival visitors who cannot play themselves, but nevertheless love music, are invited to everything.

As the centre of a Sant Andreu Jazzing Festival is Joan Chamorro and the different SAJB constellations, there is at a Jazzing festival a base of the very special SAJB culture. As other invited musicians already have connections to Joan Chamorro and the SAJB, they easily contribute to that cultural frame. The collaboration on stage rests on a professional and serious approach, but at the same time it seems fun, warm and informal.

I would say that the audience also fits into the cultural frame. We are there because we love the music and the culture of Joan and the SAJB, and being there almost feels like being at a big (extended) family party. During breaks we meet and talk to both musicians and fan friends from other parts of the world. We can also meet and talk to the different important people who administrate SAJB activities, run the site of Joan and the SAJB, and who record concerts on audio and video. We might also get the chance to meet and say hello to parents and other relatives to the young musicians, which of course contributes to the feeling of a family party.

As does the fact that the festival is arranged at one single venue, an old textile factory in the local Barcelona district of Sant Andreu. In that complex, the concerts of the festival were played in a big hall, and the sessions of the Education Stage in another hall. Outside the concert hall there was a large foyer where you could mingle, have a drink and/or something to eat, and also buy CDs and SAJB T-shirts. But as the weather was beautiful, you could also socialize outside in the old factory area. A common meal, a paella (Paejazzing), was as a tradition served outside on the last day of the festival.

However, do not jump to the conclusion that the local aspect of the festival means that the music was not of high quality. Joan, the SAJB and the festival are world class in their cultural domain, which is shown by the fact that visitors of the festival come from many different countries of the world.

So, I recommend you to one day visit the Sant Andreu Jazzing Festival – a festival with a soul.


The program of the 2023 festival is still on the festival site. You can find it, and more information about the festival, here. On the site of Amis & Friends du Sant Andreu Jazz Band, the festival activities are reported.
And just to get a flavour of what we experienced at the Jazzing Festival 2023, here are a few videos, shot by festival visitors. Four of them are shared on YouTube and two on Facebook.

Recorded by Peter ter Haar.
Recorded by Peter ter Haar
Recorded by Peter ter Haar
Recorded by Garry Berman

“The Masters Show” with Élia Bastida, Scott Hamilton and Joel Frahm.
Recorded by Philippe Aubert.

Jazz Education Stage with Maestro Joan Chamorro. Rehearsal of ‘Moanin’ before the big evening show.
Recorded by Philippe Aubert.

Links to earlier articles about Joan Chamorro and the Sant Andreu Jazz Band

The Sant Andreu Jazz Band Formula, October 2018

Joan Chamorro, August 2019

Why do we love the Sant Andreu Jazz Band?, June 2020

The Sant Andreu Jazz Band in pandemic times, April 2021

Dear Joan, December 2021

We meet Sant Andreu Jazz again, in Stockholm!, June 2023