Austria’s wide array of jazz venues and festivals is a testament to the country’s thriving scene. In this article, we’ll take a look at six clubs and events that put on some of the best jazz in Austria.
Austria has one of the most thriving jazz communities in Europe. It’s one that has birthed many internationally acclaimed musicians, including Wolfgang Puschnig, Harry Sokal, Fatty George and pianist/composer Joe Zawinul who founded the legendary jazz-fusion group Weather Report.
There are so many clubs and festivals to choose from, but in this article, we’re focusing on six of the best which help shape the country’s incredible jazz scene.
The Best Venues for Jazz in Austria
Whilst festivals may pull in the headlines, it’s often the jazz clubs in a city which really set the one for the scene.
Here’s a round up of just a few of the best jazz clubs in Austria…
Opened in 1972, Jazzland is Vienna’s oldest jazz cellar and one of the most important jazz clubs in the city.
Situated at Schwedenplatz in central Vienna and hosting live music every day of the week, Jazzland specialises in more traditional jazz styles, so if you’re a fan of blues, swing, big bands and free jazz this could be the spot for you.
On the programme, you will see a great mix of local artists as well as internationally renowned musicians. Over the years the club has played host to the likes of Dave Liebman, Lee Konitz and Bob Brookmeyer.
Jazzland is also a great place to sample local Viennese food and a good range of Austrian wines.
ZWE is a small yet wonderful jazz club near Schottenring.
For the Viennese and Austrian jazz scene, it has proven itself to be an important destination for artists to meet fellow like-minded musicians from the community.
Stylistically they operate mostly in the traditional jazz field. Although it’s relatively small they manage to squeeze in a big band from time to time!
A treat for the local scene is its weekly jam sessions which take place on Tuesdays (and sometimes Wednesdays and Thursdays, too). Some of the city’s top players and up and comers congregate to play a stimulating selection of jazz standards.
If you want to hear and play with Austria’s traditional jazz greats, then you must go to ZWE.
ZWE is also home to concerts hosted by the various Austrian and Viennese music conservatories and universities, such as the ipop (institute for popular music at the Viennese Music University), the Vienna Conservatory, the Jam Lab, the “Kunst Universität Graz” (KUG) and the Vienna Music Institute (VMI).
Students, together with their teachers, come to the venue to perform and experiment together.
If you want to check out Austria’s future jazz stars, this is the place to be.
Kunsthaus Haffenstrasse (Linz, Upper Austria)
The Kunsthaus Haffenstrasse in Linz (Upper Austria) was named like that in 2012 and has since then become a nice concert location.
It’s actually a gallery run by the gallerist Stefan Brunnhofer and not only hosts concerts (mostly by jazz musicians) but also book readings, vernissages and film screenings. It’s very much a hotspot for bringing all the arts together.
As the capacity of the venue is not huge, the setting and atmosphere is very intimate and friendly.
If you’re a musician wanting to perform at the venue, an insider tip is to get in touch with Peter Guschelbauer (Sounddesign Austria & Alessa Records) who often organises jazz concerts at the venue.
All in all, Kunsthaus is a fantastic place for watching amazing jazz music and other performing arts. It’s well worth a visit.
Honourable mentions (Austrian Jazz Clubs)
These three excellent clubs barely scrape the surface of what Austria has to offer.
If you’re looking for more spots to listen or play jazz, check out:
- Porgy & Bess (Vienna)
- 1019 Jazzclub (Vienna)
- Loop (Vienna)
- Kammerlichtspiele (Klagenfurt)
- Culturcafe Smaragd (Linz)
- Eremitage (Schwaz)
- Jazzclub Melk
- Musikwerkstatt Wels
- Stockwerk (Graz) are great!
- Jazzit in Salzburg
- Fine Art Galerie (Traismauer).
The Best Jazz Festivals in Austria
Of course, it’s not just about clubs; the jazz festival scene in Austria welcomes some of the best national and international musicians to the country, all year round.
Here are just a few of our top tips…
INNtöne Jazzfestival (Diersbach am Inn, Upper Austria)
INNtöne is one of the most interesting and fun festivals in Austria.
The festival is organised by Paul Zauner, who, in addition to being a trombone player and label owner, is also a “bio-farmer”. The event takes place on Zauner’s farm in Diersbach.
The festival is known worldwide and has featured musicians like Kamasi Washington, Chanda Rule, Kirk Lightsey, Donald Smith and Gregory Porter. Zauner also programmes local and national artists.
Festival-goers can come with their tents and sleep on the fields during the festival, and if you’re a musician, there are jam sessions in the farm’s cowshed every evening.
INNtöne is a very special event in a very special location. It’s not one to miss!
Jazzfestival Steyr (Steyr, Upper Austria)
Jazzfestival Steyr, organized by Peter Guschelbauer, takes place in the Altes Theater Steyr every year.
The programme consists of three evenings all dedicated to different styles of jazz and concludes with a ”Jazz Brunch’ on Sunday at Hotel Mader.
Over the years it has brought a host of local and national artists to its stage as well as international stars like Dave Liebman or Ulf Wakenius.
All the evenings have a certain stylistic focus such as free jazz, traditional jazz and hardbop/bebop. In recent times, the festival has incorporated modern jazz groups into its programme.
NYC Musikmarathon (Mattighofen, Upper Austria)
The NYC Musikmarathon is held annually in Mattighofen, Upper Austria.
The event was founded by Mattighofen native Gernot Bernroider, a drummer who spent more than 20 years living and performing in New York City.
Following his return to his hometown, Bernroider started NYC Musikmarathon in an effort to marry Austria’s burgeoning jazz scene with the jazz legacy of New York City.
As well as hosting gigs, the festival also organises workshops and masterclasses for musicians.
The international faculty consists of renowned musicians such as Martin Reiter (piano), Thomas Kugi (saxophone), Raphael Preuschl (bass), Chanda Rule (vocals) and Grzegorz Nagorski (trombone).
The programme of live music is quite diverse stylistically, with previous editions of the festival featuring gigs dedicated to 30s big bands, Austrian folk music, gospel and classical music.
In past years, the final evening brings workshop attendees together for a closing concert.
Honourable mentions (Austrian Jazz Festivals)
There are plenty more great jazz festivals in Austria, such as:
- Internationales Jazzfestival Saalfelden
- Jazzfest Wien
- Jazzfestival Leibnitz
- Jazz & Wine Poysdorf
- Bezau Beatz
- Snow Jazz Gastein
- OutReach Jazz Festival in Schwaz
- Jazzbühne Lech
- Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon
- Nova Jazz & Blues Night
Be sure to check them out!
Looking for more about the Austrian jazz scene?
Don’t miss our interviews with Tina Heina of Jazz & The City and Mario Steidl of Jazzfestival Saalfelden.
More great jazz clubs and festivals in Europe?
Head over to our clubs and festivals home to read guides to London’s live jazz scene, the best jazz clubs in Paris and more.