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The city’s jazz scene is always lively, but September 8th marks the start of what is unarguably among the most important festivals the city plays host to.

The MOL Budapest Jazz Festival (look for programs around the city, or visit www.trafo.hu/programs/1940) runs through the 12th at venues around the city, and delivers a staggering lineup of stars from Hungary, jamming with the best from around the globe.

2010's program is a great example of art imitating life, mirroring the EU presidency’s succession to Hungary following Spain and Belgium, respectively. The Festival Theatre opening on the 8th features Kálmán Oláh (piano), and his shades of flamenco jazz complemented by Spaniards Perico Sambeat (saxophone) and Marc Miralta (drums), with fellow Magyars Mátyás Szandai (double bass) and Ferenc Snétberger (guitar), and the renowned Belgian Steve Houben (saxophone). The second half of the evening features the amazing Belgian trumpeter Bert Joris with Hungary’s excellent Modern Art Orchestra, playing the compositions from both nations.

Any year you go, the program is not to be missed! Some unique experiences included collaboration by the humor-driven, vaudeville-inspired group Pulcinella (France) and the massively talented Dzsindzsa (Hungary) on the 9th. The 10th brings István Grencsó (sax and flute) and his Grencsó Open Collective to the stage with American alto saxophonist and poet Lewis Jordan. The combination of the avante-garde stalwart Grencsó’s musicianship and Lewis’s pseudo-rap recitation should thrill.

The unusual and interesting would include the appearance on the 11th of Germans Michael Schiefel (vocals) and Carsten Daerr (piano) with locals Miklós Lukács (dulcimer) and Mátyás Szandai (double bass), who play together in the Dresch Quartet and the Lukács Miklós Quintet. If you are in the mood for jazz in a more intimate venue, and some good eating as well, you can't beat iF Cafe's JazzForum Budapest (Ráday u. 19, +36 12 990 694). On the bill for September 9th, 10th and 11th (all shows 21:30) are Thea Soti Quartet, Tamarazene and Csongrádi Gábor Quintet, respectively.

The city’s rich jazz scene remains hopping throughout the year. Budapest Jazz Club (VIII, Múzeum utca 7, www.bjc.hu) features a wide array of jazz styles along and classical concerts on Sundays and free entry jam sessions on Fridays & Saturdays with visiting virtuosos, there is always a high-caliber night of music in their club and café.

Take 5 Club (VI, Paulay Ede u. 2, www.take5.hu), a pub, offers a formidable lineup of performers but has also intentionally created a space in which one can carry on a chat or focus on the concert.

Finally, Columbus Ship Jazz Club (V, Vigadó tér, harbour 4, www.columbuspub.hu/club), aboard Budapest’s sole permanently moored ship, hosts the Hungarian Jazz Club and guest musicians in an elegant, all-ages setting.

Illustration by the legendary David Mucci Fassett

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