There has never been a better time to be a jazz aficionado in the Croatian capital. The venerable BP Club has been joined by newer venues such as the Bacchus Jazz Bar to create a formidable live music scene.
Along with the much-loved and long-in-the-tooth BP Club, there are a handful of other venues to catch regular live performances. The music fan should usually be able to see a show most nights of the week.
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World-famous vibraphone player, TV presenter, club owner, record label founder and Croatia’s greatest jazz impresario, Boško Petrović is known by his initials, BP, also the name of his landmark jazz club in Zagreb city centre, BP Club. The venue has hosted some of the biggest names in the business. All of today's venues owe a debt to Boško and his BP Club, the first to introduce quality live jazz to Zagreb. As a member of several notable local combos – the Zagreb Jazz Quartet, the Zagreb Jazz Quintet, the BP Nonconvertible All Stars, Boško Petrović & Damir Dičić Big Band, the BP Convention, the Boško Petrović Trio – Boško has now been performing for 50 solid years. His career as a musician dates back to the autumn of 1959, when his first cherished Premier vibraphone came through as ordered, declared a ‘household item’ by a bemused customs official. Within two months, the Boško Petrović Quartet made their debut at the Croatian Music Institute. Thus was formed the core of the group who would bear the name of the Zagreb Jazz Quartet from the start of the 1960s.
For Boško, ZJQ gigs were opportunities to meet many world jazz stars. These contacts helped him to play with them later, appear on his radio and TV shows and perform at his own BP Club, which opened in 1988. Since then, many great jazz artists have appeared at this modest basement venue, starting with Joe Pass who played on the opening night.
The relatively recent arrival of the Bacchus Jazz Bar has had a significant impact on the city's music scene. Taken over by a music enthusiast from Split, this informal cellar venue with a summer terrace garden is packed to the gills every night. Occasional unplugged and spoken-word performances complement a solid programme of jazz acts. The venue has a homely, Dalmatian feel, with wines and food to match. Early in the week, a Nat King Cole CD may softly croon in the background, while live acts feature in a busy agenda over the weekend.
Turn up on any evening in Zagreb and you’ll probably find at least one live show taking place. If there's nothing at the BP Club or Bacchus, then try Sax and the Jazz Club.
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Alongside this regular agenda, there are half-a-dozen festivals of varying degrees of importance being staged in the city throughout the year. The most significant are the Zagreb Jazz Festival (www.zagrebjazzfestival.com) in November and spring’s Jazzarela, which features female-only performers. Check www.jazz.hr for October’s International Jazz Days.
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