Launched in 1996 Jazz Cerkno Festival is an annual international music festival organised by Jazz Cerkno Institute. Festival events take place every May in the “old square” next to Pr Gabrijelu (“At Gabriels”) bar, which also functions as the local social and musical epicentre.
Jazz Cerkno presents various international high-quality music groups and musicians from a wide variety of music genres: contemporary and avant-garde jazz can be heard alongside freely improvised music, imaginative folk music, post-rock and rock-in-opposition – mixing acoustic, electric and electro-acoustic sounds. There are concerts, jam sessions, regular workshops, various exhibitions, among them a regular exhibition of music photography.
In 1996 a group of local music enthusiasts launched the festival which has gradually transformed itself into one of the most important jazz festivals held in Slovenia, next to the jazz festivals in Ljubljana and Maribor. Boštjan Cvek (1964–2015) should be mentioned as a co-founder and spiritus movens of the Jazz Cerkno and Keltika festival, respectively.
Jazz Cerkno Festival started as a domestic music event squeezed into a small but vivid room in the bar. At the beginning, the programme primarily centred around Slovene groups and performers. The big break-through in every way possible – organisational, musical and social – came in 2000 when the event moved outdoors, out of town, and under a tent. For the first time the programme gained a real international character, marked particularly by a free energetic concert by the trio Brotzmann/Ludi/Hano. In many ways the impact of the powerful trio paved the way for further considerations about the programme, the nature of the event, and its location.
Finally, in 2003 the festival moved back to the town of Cerkno and for the first time took place in the “old square”. The 3-day event is well-known for its relaxed atmosphere, intimacy, good and knowledgeable crowd of 300–400 people and some local particularities.
Artists appearing at Jazz Cerkno Festival since 1996 include Peter Brötzmann, Ken Vandermark, Mats Gustafsson, Steven Bernstein and SEX MOB, Fred Frith, Francesco Cusa, Myra Melford, Aki Takase, Paul Lovens, Eugene Chadbourne, Rudi Mahall, Larry Ochs, Mia Masaoka, Werner Ludi, Antonio Marangolo, Ares Tavolazzi, Bobby Previte, Bojan Zulfirkarpašić, Elliott Sharp, Marc Ducret, Renaud Garcia-Fons, Han Bennink, Marco Cappelli, Joëlle Léandre, Sebi Tramontana, Zlatko Kaučič, Alexander von Schlippenbach, Evan Parker, Bratko Bibič, Damir Imamović, The Electrics, Cyro Baptista, Žoambo Žoet Workestrao, Atomic and Milko Lazar, as well as the photographer Žiga Koritnik, known for his music photography.
Jazz Cerkno Institute also organises a series of regular concerts under the umbrella of the Keltika International Festival, held in Cerkno throughout the whole year. It is a “never-ending” festival of various music, ranging from new jazz to alternative rock, especially younger Slovene non-orthodox and non-established rock bands.