REPORT: Opening night of Jazz & The City Festival in Salzburg

The French Orchestre National de Jazz take the stage
Jazz & the City 2016 opening night
Various venues in Salzburg Altstadt, 19th October 2016. Report by Sebastian Scotney) 

This was the opening night of the seventeenth Salzburg Jazz & the City Festival, the first under the artistic directorship of the dynamic Tina Heine, the instigator and creator of the Elbjazz Festival in her home town of Hamburg. She was headhunted earlier this year to run the festival here by a city at the opposite extremity of the German-speaking area of Europe (link to our interview below). Several of the speakers at the opening ceremony last night (including the mayor who was announced as arriving onstage direct from the shower...!) expressed their delight with the difference she has already made.

In her opening speech, she had a neat expression for the aim of the festival : "to let the music tell the story of the locations in this city in a different way." The local audience - which can on other festival occasions spend a whacking 400 Euros a seat (!) to see opera productions in Salzburg - appeared very happy indeed with one key feature of this festival: all of its 118 events have free admission.

The festival has a particular evanescent here-today-gone-tomorrow feel because each night it takes place in a particular area / Viertel of the town. That contrasts with the sense of history and permanence everywhere in the city, (shops in well-built new buildings selling products made to last...). One good branding trick is that the festival staff spray the logo/branding in washable paint on the pavement outside every venue.

Clever branding on the pavement! 

The festival's first night was centred around the Republic venue in the Anton-Neumayr-Platz, and after the formalities the Orchestre National de Jazz played their Berlin suite under Olivier Benoit. I just heard the carefully paced slightly ponderous opening salvoes of the piece, and by the time I left, the more flamboyant characters in this band like Theo Ceccaldi on violin and trombonist Fidel Fourneyron had not yet been given the proper space to even give a hint what they are capable of.

The other act in the main Republic venue was Ian Shaw with the trio of Barry Green on piano, Mick Hutton on bass and Dave Ohm on drums.  Tina Heine had said in her opening introduction that the first time she had heard Ian Shaw in London, it had been a gig that had made her both laugh and cry, which set the scene well. This was one of those sets when a supportive and sizeable audience gives from the start by cheering - and then gets back. The sense of shared enjoyment was spreading from stage to audience, building and becoming palpable in the room. The audience were enjoying it, the band were enjoying it, the virtuous circle of live performance was complete. September in the Rain was teeming with dare-devil energy. My Brother had soul and passion. Happy.






I also headed off to sample a few of the other venues. The "Kavernen 1595" is a great (cavernous) performance space hewn into the rock with (result!) no mobile signal. There I enjoyed part of a good-time set from fusion trio Loktor, led by keyboardist Bernhard Ludescher channeling Both Herbie Hancock and Bob James with energy and humour.

In the Afro Cafe, extra bar staff had been drafted in. They were threading their way through the packed audience to elicit drinks orders. But one couldn't help feeling sorry for powerful and persuasive Zambian singer Yvonne Mwale who was working her socks off and engaging a crowd, but failing to receive the glass of water she very much deserved.

At the Carpe Diem restaurant singer Doro Hanke and her band were pleasing a crowd with some very complex and worked song arrangements. My ear was caught by the great full Plas Johnson sax sound of Robert Friedl. And some of the gentlest, sweetest sounds - again in a rammed venue - came from melodic less-is-more guitarist Diknu Schneeberger and his trio in the Art Hotel.

The fun - and the neck-craning in packed rooms! - have only just begun.

LINKS: Our interview of March 2016 with Tina Heine on her appointment 
Europe Jazz Network's list of women in leadership roles
Jazz & The City website

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