The JMJWO 2018 Balkan Tour

The world's premier international youth jazz orchestra tours Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia and Croatia

  • about 1 year ago

In July 2018 the JM Jazz World Orchestra brought the global future of jazz music to the Balkans for it’s 7th European tour.

Young musicians representing 12 different countries and and 6 different continents toured Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia led by internationally acclaimed US trombonist, composer and educator Luis Bonilla.

As ever this project delivered both artistic excellence and intercultural exchange. The musicians selected showed the highest promise and passion for their art and lit up stages across South Eastern Europe. 


On the 1st of July eighteen young talented musicians from across the globe sat down together for the first time to perform as one. In the beautiful town of Ohrid, Macedonia, under the directorship of Luis Bonilla, the 2018 JM Jazz World Orchestra had begun. Following the success of last year’s programme, the JMJWO returned with another heavily Latin-influenced set.

After an intense week of rehearsals which fused musical and cultural identities (and evening jam sessions in town) the band hit the road. The tour kicked off with a launch party at the Kadmo Beach Club on the shores of the stunning lake Ohrid. Next up was an appearance at the Bitola Summer Festival (BitFest) before the orchestra headed to Bulgaria to at the AtoJazz festival.

We were back two days later, however, to play the Macedonian capital of Skopje. After some rescheduling due to rain the band took to the stage to wrap up the Macedonian leg of the tour, and to say a heartfelt goodbye (and thank you) to our hosts at JM Macedonia.


The JMJWO was honoured to be part of the 2018 AtoJazz festival, a world-class jazz festival that brings international jazz performers from around the world to South Park II in Sofia. On the final day the JMJWO took to the stage to a fantastic reception. Despite (very) heavy rain, the crowd danced and gave it up to the JMJWO, who were supporting Snarky Puppy’s Corey Henry and the Funk Apostles. After the show the JMJWO joined Corey and other artists from the festival in town for a jam session that lasted long in to the night.


Next the JMJWO were in Novi Sad to play the 2018 Youth Fair, which launched the 2018 Exit Music Festival. We set up in the beautiful Katolicka Porta square and delivered one of the funnest sets of the tour, with Luis Bonilla at one point dancing with members of the audience. The set also featured a guest appearance by bassist Vladimir Samardžić, who helped our bassist Hamish Smith push the poor bass amp to its limits as they dueled on Ran Kan Kan.


Hosted by our friend Gregor Grasic, the JMJWO delivered an intimate set in the beautiful Slovenian town of Kranj at Cafe Pungert. It was great to return to such a beautiful place and deliver an incredibly fun, smaller-scale set to the other nights.


It was great to be back in Zagreb, returning to play at the ZgKul festival on Lake Bundek. By this point in the tour we had tweaked programme to include compositions by band members Enrique Serrano Cruz, whose percussion playing has shaped the bands Latin sound for the past two years, and by Zagreb-born-and-raised Valdemar Kusan.

Our final night of the tour was an appearance at the wonderful Jazz Is Back Festival in the JMJWO spiritual home of Groznjan, Croatia. Just like last year the festival was a wonderful way to end the tour, and marked the opening of the Jazz is Back Festival and the 2018 Groznjan Summer Jazz Academy run by JM Croatia.