Belgrade » Beograd | 61 HA L F A CENT URY OF T HE B E LGR ADE J A ZZ F EST I VA L “Filled with excitement and a new tide of hope, for thefirst timewearewelcoming to this city some of the greatest living figures of jazz... We already have Bitef, Bemus and Fest: nowwearealsogetting Newport in Belgrade, with the hot hope that it will also become an inalienable tradition of the culture of this region,” wrote publicist Žika Bogdanović on the eveof thepremiereeditionof the festival, half a century ago. And that was how it came to be... The first Newport Jazz Festival in Belgrade was held from 31st October to 3rd November 1971. The event represented the culmination of a cycle in the work of the Belgrade Youth Centre, where people who had a clear affinity for jazzgathered, suchasprogrammeeditorsGuta Grdanički andMilanŠević, aswell as jazz expertAleksandar Živković, a journalist for Tanjug. On the back of the successof thePodiumJazz concert series, Živkovićwrote toGeorgeWein, directorof the famousNewportJazzFestival, expressing the company's desire to work with him onmore ambitious projects.The first suchproject, billed as “the biggest jazz concert ever held in Belgrade!”, was held in November 1970, when Earl Hines, Anita O'Day and Charles Mingus performed on the same evening. One year later, Duke Ellington and His Orchestra opened the firstNewport Jazz Festival inBelgrade. Four days of jazz at Trade Union Hall cast a light on the entire history of the genre, from the Dixieland Innocence of KidThomas and the PreservationHall Band, through the boppers’ fire of the Giants of Jazz (Dizzy, Blakey, Monk) and Gary Burton's intimate impressionism, to the avant-garde traps of Ornette Coleman and the wild jazz-funk of Miles Davis. That first edition was part of the “AmericanJazzWeek inEasternEurope”programme, but Belgrade was the only place to host Miles, thanks to Živković's personal intervention, with the State Department having refused to “send him to Europe” due to his controversial views. While the famous trumpeter performed music that no one was prepared for, everyone was nonetheless aware that they were witnessing a changeof history. Belgradebecame ametropolis ofworld jazz, while the festival immediately placed a heavy obligation on itself: to watch world trends closely and to be a chronicler of those trends. Živković was appointed selector the following year and put together the “orchestra of dreams” line-up – as the first Yugoslav All-Stars band. Most of the rest of the programmewas nonetheless proposed byGeorgeWein, while visiting guests included famous publicist Leonard Feather and radio hostWillis Conover. For the third edition, the festival was called the Newport-Belgrade Jazz Festival, only for it to finally become the Belgrade Jazz Festival in 1974, marking the coming of age of the team at the Belgrade Dom Omladine Youth Centre to take on the festival’s organisation and the selection of artists. The main programme was held at Pionir Hall, and apart fromAmericans (SonnyRollins, StanGetz,McCoy Tyner), performers also included artists from Argentina, West Germany, several countries of the then Eastern Bloc and SFR Yugoslavia. Ljubitelje džez avangarde čekaju susreti sa najboljima u žanru Fans of avantgarde jazz are awaiting the best in the genre ETERNAL RADIANCE OF THE JAZZ FLAME Charles Lloyd NewQuartetv FOTO: TimDickeson