During the last weekend of May, Europe’s largest jazz festival will once again welcome you to Brussels. The sixth edition of Brussels Jazz Weekend puts the spotlight on Toots Thielemans: the ‘ket’ from Brussels and jazz legend would have turned 100 this year. The free festival Brussels Jazz Weekend will happen on the 27th, 28th and 29th of May.
Brussels Jazz Weekend is an adventurous trip through Brussels and a musical voyage of discovery. The accessibility of this free city festival connects with Toots’ (musical) legacy on different levels. During the Brussels Jazz Weekend, the line-up on the Grand Place will be entirely dedicated to Toots Thielemans.
After the alternative Balcony Edition in 2021, the Brussels Jazz Weekend will once again pull out all the stops for an edition in its original form. The BRU JAZZ WE team presents more than 200 free concerts on four squares in Brussels and at numerous indoor venues.
As part of the Toots edition, Brussels Jazz Weekend will extend the highly anticipated festival podcast Jazziness. Jazz historian and journalist Frederik Goossens will once again talk to jazz rookie Ellen Leemans. Together they explore the music, life and legacy of Toots. A podcast for both experts and discoverers.
One of the main goals of the Brussels Jazz Weekend is to introduce any jazz newbie to a diverse, wide-ranging and deeply rooted genre. Here are some ideas and personal experiences.
1. A voyage of discovery
Josephine (22) studies in Brussels and during the last family event in her hometown, Uncle Hugo couldn’t keep quiet about the Brussels Jazz Orchestra. According to him, the BJO is the best jazz orchestra in Europe and a not-to-be-missed act during Brussels Jazz Weekend. Josephine doesn’t have a connection with jazz, but she is curious after Hugo’s enthusiastic story and decides to go and have a look on Friday evening.
She is surprised by the intricate melodies and lush harmonies of young jazz powerhouse One Frame Movement on the Place de la Chapelle and then strolls on to the Place Sainte- Catherine, where Big Dave Trio introduces her to the Chicago-style blues of the fifties and sixties. She runs into a couple of fellow students and together they head for the Grand Place to witness the impressive energy of Brussels Jazz Orchestra (and Hermine Deurloo).
The orchestra pays tribute to Toots Thielemans and after the amazing concert, Josephine heads over to the SPEAK EASY afterparty at KFK Hope and quickly opens her podcast app to mark the series Brussels Jazz Weekend made about the jazz legend. Something to listen to while running the 20 km of Brussels on Sunday.
2. Cycling through Brussels
Sporty Boris (35) lives in Anderlecht and is a regular visitor of Brussels Jazz Weekend. He usually allows himself to be surprised by the program, but this year he has marked the guided bike tours on Saturday and Sunday in his agenda. He was one of the many who rode the mapped out tours during the alternative Balcony Edition in 2021, along various balconies in Brussels.
This year, on Saturday, he will cycle through the heart of the Marolles, the Woluwe and Maelbeek valleys, the architectural gems along the way and performances by Burocratico, Moanin’ Birds and Ozaín 4tet on Place Van Meyel in Etterbeek. On Sunday afternoon, he takes his daughter Ellie (5) with him.
In Anderlecht, the girl is overwhelmed by the wild percussionists of BRUiTAL and the brass band Remork & Karkaba, who give their best on a boat at Hangar du Kanaal. After Ellie has gone to bed and the babysitter arrives, Boris takes his wife Sophie to the Grand Place, where Antoine Pierre URBEX closes off Brussels Jazz Weekend.
3. Musical shopping
Retired nurse Chantale (64) lives in Zaventem but occasionally takes the train to Brussels to go shopping. When, on Saturday, she proudly walks down the boulevard Anspach with her new outfits, she crosses the path of The Brass Parade. No less than 7 brass bands fill the streets of Brussels with their cheerful sounds and uplifting vibes.
Chantale is pleasantly surprised and settles down on a terrace on the Grand Place, where the bands -one by one– give the best of themselves on the main stage. From the large banners and posters, she learns that a jazz festival is taking place in the capital this weekend and sends a text message to her husband Walter (‘Jazz festival in Brussels now. It’s free’), who is a regular of Jazz Middelheim and Gent Jazz.
After Chantale does a bit more shopping along the ‘Shop on Jazz’ route, she picks up Walter at Brussels Central Station and together they enjoy the set of young top talent Eliott Knuets (Grand Place), the enchanting voice of Muriel d’Ailleurs and her trio (Sainte-Catherine) and the unique sounds of the Niels Lan Doky International Jazz Collective (Grand Place). Back on the train to Zaventem, they decide to never miss a single edition of Brussels Jazz Weekend again.