PREVIEW: Suedtirol Jazz Festival Alto Adige 2014 (June 27- July 6)

Alison Bentley looks forward to the Suedtirol Jazz Festival Alto Adige 2014

London has many great jazz venues but none with mountain views. ‘New Sounds, Beautiful Views’ is the slogan of the Suedtirol Jazz Festival. It sounds like a long way away, but a flight to Verona brings you very close. The train ride into the mountains is an experience all by itself, as increasingly lofty ancient rocky crags appear round every turn. (Plentiful, efficient Italian trains.)

10 days with 60-ish gigs in 42 locations. You can think of it in different ways- just go to the devastatingly beautiful area of Suedtirol (South Tyrol), straddling the borders of Austria and Italy, and travel to the different venues on different days. Some bands have various dates in several places. Or you can just pick one centre and go to everything there. There are lots of daytime and early evening gigs, many of which are completely free. There are some special reductions for the larger, later gigs with an entry fee.

BOLZANO. The lovely old city of Bolzano (known in German as Bozen) hosts 26 of the gigs. This year’s Festival theme is France, and Nice-born, multiple-prize-winning accordionist Vincent Peirani opens the Festival in Bolzano on Jun. 27th, with a hand-picked band of eight French (or France-based) musicians- Une Nuit Française. Classically-trained on accordion, Peirani’s music can be ethereally beautiful, jazzy, folk-edged or rocky. He’s featured in dfferent incarnations in several bands throughout the ten days. Some of his musicians appear in other bands during the festival. Trumpeter Airelle Besson, for example, can be heard the following morning, in Bolzano’s museum in duet with Brazilian guitarist Nelson Veras.

French sextet Les Faux Frères play two outdoor venues with their rumbustious mix of folk and jazz. If you miss them in Bolzano, you can catch them throughout the festival in five other places, even over the border in Innsbruck.

Jazz improvisation is often described as risk-taking. It’s elevated to an extreme sport at the 1000-metre high rock face of the Saslonch/Lagkofel on Jun. 29, when improvising musicians, some playing inside the rock, accompany acrobatic rock-climbing.

MERANO The Festival has spread out from the regional capital of Bolzano in the last 10 years. Merano (Meran), closer to the Austrian border, has Vincent Peirani, solo in a mountain resort on Jun. 28, and with sax-player Emile Parisien and Indonesian-French singer Serena Fisseau on Jul. 1. The town also hosts percussive duo Alchemia, anarchic French jazz-folk band Papanosh and intriguing improvising singer Leila Martial on other days.

BRUNICO. Brunico (Bruneck) has a number of gigs by ‘street jazz big band’ Fischermann’s Tauchgang, with their African-Balkan-Latin influences, in various permutations.

The UK’s excellent Kit Downes plays organ with French drummer Sylvain Darrifourcq and guitarist Julien Desprez, while Oliver Py’s Birds of Paradise follows Messiaen in basing their contemporary jazz pieces on birdsong.

BRESSANONE. Bressanone (Brixen) has Peirani’s Living Being Quartet, with its 70s jazz-rock and hip-hop influences.

About half the musicians in the Festival are women, and many of them lead their own bands. London-based bassist Ruth Goller (of Acoustic Ladyland) was born in Brixen, and her UK band Let Spin plays here as well as two other locations.

Legendary pianist Chick Corea with his Return to Forever bassist Stanley Clarke conclude the Festival on Jul. 6 in the Vipiteno Produktionshalle Pistenfahrzeuge.

Mountains of information, and so much I’ve had to miss out.

Festival website

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