When asked to explain why he and his colleagues enjoy coming back to JazzBaltica again and again, saxophonist Michael Brecker had this to say, »JazzBaltica has become one of the most important festivals in the world, it is unique, out of the ordinary and presented in a very comfortable atmosphere. It gives us, as creative musicians, the opportunity to play with a wide range of other artists. To play with music colleagues that we might not know yet, or ones with whom we have only had the opportunity to play once – that is fantastic«.
In 1991, Rainer Haarmann created the program of JazzBaltica for the first time, and JazzThing labeled it the »Kaleidoscope of jazz festivals«. At the time, it was the opening event for Ars Baltica, a network for cultural collaboration between the Baltic countries initiated by the Schleswig-Holstein state government.
JazzBaltica continuously promotes up-and-coming young artists. This includes artists from the local Schleswig-Holstein scene and highly talented young musicians from Scandinavia and the Baltic countries who have gained a definitive pulse in their careers by performing at the festival. JazzBaltica has been a part of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival since 2002. As a core element of JazzBaltica since its beginning, each year the JazzBaltica Ensemble has been formed anew. With its rotating orchestration, this Small Big Band is made up of highly-gifted musicians from the Baltic region and performs special programs for the »Festival of East Sea Jazz«. The JazzBaltica Ensemble has come together for the past 4 years without a musical director. The compositions and arrangements instead come from within the group itself.
The concept behind JazzBaltica has also been to present unique projects and to allow for unusual ensembles that might otherwise never have been able to form. At JazzBaltica, the greatest jazz artists from the region and beyond come together to make these projects a reality. American artists such as Dave Brubeck, Max Roach, Milt Jackson, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Roy Haynes, Dianne Reeves, and Pat Metheny, and European artists such as Albert Mangelsdorff, Wolfgang Haffner, Cæcilie Norby, Viktoria Tolstoy, Ulf Wakenius, Tomasz Stanko, Lars Danielsson and Michael Wollny are just a few of the great musicians who have all performed on the stages of JazzBaltica.
The Swedish trombonist, Nils Landgren, has worked especially closely with the festival for many years, and was named Artistic Director of JazzBaltica in 2012. In the same year, the festival officially moved from its former home in Salzau to the shores of the Baltic, at the grounds of the Evers-Werft in Timmendorfer Strand-Niendorf. In addition to the main stage, each year also features a program for children as well as free concerts on the Open Air Stage at the Niendorf harbor, in the JazzCafé and at the @thebeach series.