­Jazz is Back – 2016: Groznjan at its finest

By 28 July 2016

A slice of jazz heaven in Istria until July 30, 2016.

I first encountered the late vibrophone player Bosko Petrovic at his well known eponymous BP jazz club, in Zagreb, sixteen years ago, where we used to go after Rotary Club meetings.

When I came to Istria I found Groznjan, the prettiest of all the medieval hill towns, had a jazz festival each year in late July that Bosko had founded and was actively engaged in until his death in autumn 2011. Sponsorship comes from, amongst others, the county, the municipality, San Rocco and many local wine makers.

An evening spent there, listening to jazz played by Bosko and his many friends, under the stars, was magical.
You could go there easily, park your car free, listen to the great jazz being played free of charge on the open air stage that the municipality had built and get food and drink at normal prices. There was no security presence, no drugs and the widest audience age range that I've ever seen at a festival. There were none of the rip-offs that I associate with British music festivals.
Intriguingly, whilst visitors came specifically for the festival from all the surrounding countries and from over in Zagreb, there didn't seem to be many tourists coming from the coastal hotels. The festival was for serious jazz lovers, rather than another tourist event.

As a festival, it has never been just about the public performances. Groznjan hosts a summer jazz school and many of the notable public performers are the lecturers for the school. On the final night, the students give their own concert.

When he died, we all worried about what would happen to the amazing jazz festival. In 2008 it had won the title of best small jazz festival in Europe. It regularly pulled in jazz musicians from all over the world. Bosko knew them all and a word from him got them there. People like my fellow Lancastrian, Georgie Fame loved coming and playing somewhere where they could relax and mingle, without the security that normally kept them apart from their fans at other venues.

Neven Franges bravely took up the baton and ran with it for a couple of years but encounterd unexpected difficulties.

This year, Luis Bonilla, the popular American trombonist who is another larger than life character and had been playing at previous festivals, took up the reins and is doing a sterling job of bringing back the magic. He, too, knows all the right people and has brought back Bosko era favourites like Georgie Fame, Karlheinz Miklin, Ewald Oberleitner, Elvis Stanic and young vibrophone player Vid Jamnik, as well as many new to Groznjan top musicians.

The atmosphere in the beautiful old town each night is terrific ! You can sit, stand at the bar, or enjoy a meal at either of the restaurants overlooking the stage. If you prefer to eat before the performance, there are even a couple of pizzerias in the town and you can browse around the many art galleries that Groznjan is famous for. There is even free WiFi.

Each performance starts at

The festival runs until the 30th of July and the programme can be found here.

Tagged under: groznjan