“JazzBaltica has become one of the world's most important festivals. It is unique and unusual, taking place in a very pleasant atmosphere. A great deal of work is put into the presentation. The programme is devised with great love and care. It gives creative musicians like ourselves the opportunity to play with many different musicians, with colleagues whom we might not know and whom we have never had the opportunity to meet. I also had the opportunity to follow the music of other colleagues from a close perspective, that's fabulous” says saxophonist Michael Brecker, summing up why he and other colleagues are always so fond of coming to East Holstein.
In 1991 Rainer Haarmann, Artistic director of JazzBaltica, drafted the programme for the ‘gem of jazz festivals’ (Jazz Thing) for the first time. At the time it was the opening event of Ars Baltica, a network for commercial cooperation among the Baltic countries founded on the initiative of the government of Schleswig-Holstein. Since then the ‘core cell’ of JazzBaltica, the JazzBaltica Ensemble, has been getting together every year. This small ‘big band’, which is always made up of different artists, includes top-flight musicians from Scandinavia, Germany and the Baltic regions, with names such as Lars Danielsson, Nils Landgren, Marcin Wasilewski, Axel Schlosser, Wolfgang Haffner and Jukka Perko. Their mission is to develop special programmes for the ‘Festival of Baltic Jazz’.
The idea behind JazzBaltica, however, is also to initiate unique projects and to enable formations of musicians that have never existed before. In Salzau the big names of jazz find the right setting in which to carry out such projects. American musicians such as Dave Brubeck, Max Roach, Milt Jackson, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Roy Haynes, Dianne Reeves and Pat Metheny or European colleagues such as Albert Mangelsdorff, Wolfgang Haffner, Cæcilie Norby, Viktoria Tolstoy, Ulf Wakenius, Thomas Stanko and the Esbjörn Svensson Trio are only some of the artists who have been pleased to be persuaded to spend a weekend at Salzau Castle. For many years Swedish trombonist Nils Landgren has been particularly closely connected with the festival and has even earned the nick-name, ‘Mr. Jazzbaltica’. Over and over again he has been the main force behind the night jam sessions at the Castle, besides performing in the main programme, and these are part of the inimitable flair of JazzBaltica.
JazzBaltica also has the permanent mission of furthering up-and-coming musicians. Among them are artists of the Schleswig-Holstein scene and also talented young musicians from Scandinavia and the Baltic states whose careers are given a significant boost through their appearing at the JazzBaltica.
Since 2002 the JazzBaltica, under the experienced directorship of Rainer Haarmann, has been part of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival.