Creative Jazz Clinic Velenje is a series of workshops and masterclasses started in 2016 by Slovenian musician, teacher and Prešeren Award recipient Jure Pukl, who was raised in the town and is widely regarded as one of the best young saxophonists in the world. The huge roster of musicians with whom he has collaborated over the last two decades means that Pukl has been able to attract many top names from the world of jazz to teach and perform at the clinic, which generally takes places over five days at the end of February.
Although he has lived in New York City since 2013, Pukl continues to take a keen interest in the jazz scene in his homeland, and was also instrumental in reviving the Max Club Jazz Festival in 2012 after a hiatus of ten years.
It would perhaps be more accurate to say that Pukl revived rather than established the clinic, as it is an acknowledged successor to the series of jazz workshops organised by the late Croatian vibraphonist Boško Petrović at the Max Club in Velenje, which ran for five years from 2000.
Today the clinic is organised by Jazz Velenje Cultural Association, of which Pukl is the chairman, Velenje Festival and the Fran Korun Koželjski Music School, and supported by the Municipality of Velenje.
The number of students and younger jazz and free jazz players attending the clinic has grown steadily over the years, from 44 in 2016 to over 70 in 2020. Places are limited, with attendance by prior application only and on a first-come, first-served basis. The fee for a week of workshops and masterclasses was 300 US dollars in 2020.
Mentors and performers
Creative Jazz Clinic Velenje has been successful in attracting some of the biggest names in contemporary jazz, particularly from the US, to perform, give masterclasses and lead workshops, with several returning for subsequent visits. A very selective list would include drummers Han Bennink (NL), Gregory Hutchinson (US), Jeff “Tain” Watts (US), Nasheet Waits (US), Doug Hammond (US) and Žan Tetičkovič (SI), bassists Robert Jukič (SI), Reggie Washington (US) and Joe Sanders (US), saxophonist Melissa Aldana (CL/US), guitarists Femi Temowo (UK) and Jani Moder (SI), vibraphonist Joel Ross (US), vocalist Emilia Mårtensson (SE), pianist Kaja Draksler (SI), and trumpeters Philip Dizack (US), Peter Evans (US) and Raynald Colom (FR/ES).
As one of Pukl’s other stated aims is to help “develop a jazz audience”, concerts are organised for the public at the end of each day, and can attract audiences of up to 200. These are held at various locations around the town, including the Max Club, Velenje Cultural Centre, Velenje Gallery and the Fran Korun Koželjski Music School, which is where the workshops and masterclasses have taken place since the clinic’s inception in 2016.