Oliver Weindling reports Südtirol JazzfeStival Alto Adige 2021 (June 25 – July 4), and selects five concerts that he particularly appreciated
The South Tyrolean Jazz Festival combines incredible venues in the Dolomites with equally high quality music, looking for the unexpected from all over Europe. By hosting a festival this year in just two months, the impact of the pandemic was virtually imperceptible. How the team led by Klaus Widmann, with the strong support of Max von Perst and Stefan Festini, successfully keeping it at such a high level deserves complete admiration.
I selected five choices to give an idea of what the organizers were able to achieve. There is an even longer list of those that I was unable to include, such as the exciting commission for the local Euregio collective or the electronic pyrotechnics of Zero year old child from Berlin. And often in breathtaking places (often because of the altitude!).
As always, it was an exciting, stimulating and thrilling few days in the sweltering heat of the Dolomites, where everyone from musicians to audiences are treated with the utmost respect.
New generation of Italian jazz (Auditorium Bonbonniere, June 28-29)
For two mornings we could hear a showcase of six Italian groups showing, as always, how strong the European scene is, in a beautiful new concert hall in Bolzano. In general, all had something to say, although it is difficult to say if there was any type of “uniqueness” for most. One of the most interesting for me was the piano trio of Francesco Orio. The music was mainly based on a detailed study of Gregorian chant, although it ended with an air by Arnold Schoenberg. Such a choice of base material becomes less surprising than it might have been, given that musicians like Bruno Heinen have even flirted with Stockhausen! But the connections of these musical genres across the centuries to popular music like the Beatles came to mind, with timeless melodic fluidity. Bass player Silvia bolognesi perhaps extended the concept of a “new generation”, although she was working with young musicians. With recordings on 33 Records and a memorable Vortex gig with cellist Tomeka Reid a few years ago, she has a strong physical presence and a charismatic personality. Here, she based the majority of her material on a tribute to traditional blues singer Bessie Jones. Taking influences from Art Ensemble of Chicago and Roscoe Mitchell, she created a program easily summarized by the phrase: ‘Serious fun’!
Black Sea Songs (Kapuciner Park, June 29)
The festival has now found a stable evening base in the Kapuciner Park / Parco Cappuccini, a small park in the center of Bolzano, where this and a few other of my favorite concerts have taken place. A cosmopolitan backdrop and slightly unusual lineup brought one of the festival’s most focused and moving performances. Coming from Amsterdam, the vocals were provided by Sanem Kalfa (of Turkish origin) with Joachim badenhorst on the reeds and Georges dumitriu on viola, originally from Romania. Thus, two out of three were from countries bordering the Black Sea. By having an overlapping group of instruments in the sonic range, this gave an additional ability to interact, aided by their different timbres. In a way, the countries around the Black Sea have been treated as a homogeneous group of culturally overlapping peoples. This was achieved by not specifically saying where the country songs came from, although we could have told it from the language in which they would have been sung. Even if they are geographically several kilometers away.
Guy Salamon / Abacaxi Group (Kapuciner Park, July 1)
Guy Salamon is an Israeli saxophonist living in Amsterdam. And it was there that he met the other members of the group, although they came from cosmopolitan backgrounds. (Indeed, a few of them had managed to escape Scotland!) What made this set so memorable was their zest for life and camaraderie. A real “team” coordinated by Captain Guy and energized by his personal imagination. A variety of styles were packed in an hour. Much of it really sounded like an imaginary silent movie soundtrack. I look forward to the results when Salomon finds the right filming partner!
Very different from the other group that night, Abacaxi. Parisian guitarist Julien desprez led a group that drew on the jazz rock tradition of the late 60s and early 70s, bringing with them a sense of 21st century perspective and attitudes. The musicians are part of the COAX Collective, which started around the same time as the Loop Collective in London, with a similar sense of cohesion. Desprez has built a reputation for developing an intriguing world of sound. So it was great to hear him develop it with the catchy rhythm section of the bassist. Jean-Francois Riffaud and drummer Francesco Pastacaldi (which we have also heard in London with Jean Louis). They were inspired by a mix of funk and fusion of the 60s, filtered through the electronics available in 2021 and the mentalities of today.
András Dés Rangers (Jenesien (July 3), Würzjoch (July 4))
The drummer / leader Andras Dice is curious to determine the sonic capacities of things less common to hit, such as milk churns or rocks. A bit like Han Bennink or our own Paul Clarivis. Meanwhile, the rest of his group could take, like second nature, the polyrhythmic complexities of Hungarian folk to give energy and organic form. It was quite fitting for them to play in the Jenesien woods or in the Würzjoch pastures, where they split into two duets before meeting inside the mountain hut. The final unification gave a fitting and exciting ending to the festival’s sonic and physical journeys.
LINK: festival website