PREVIEW: 2017 Suedtirol Jazz festival Alto Adige. (30 June-9 July)

Jazz Labs at the 2016 Suedtirol Jazz Festival


This year's Suedtirol Jazz festival Alto Adige. the thirty-fifth. will take place from 30 June to 9 July. Alison Bentley is looking forward to it:

The 35th Jazz Festival in Suedtirol/Alto Adige is, as always, an international affair. Among the stupendous mountains of South Tyrol, this year 130 musicians play 70 concerts in 60 locations over 10 days. German and Italian are both spoken in the region, and the festival brings together musicians from all over Europe. Most of the concerts are free- only 15 have an entrance charge. The Festival describes itself as having ‘new sounds, fresh perspectives,’ -the organisers want people to experience the new jazz and improvised music that they champion. Festival Director Klaus Widmann talks enthusiastically about ‘bringing some fresh air into the music’ in these ‘cultural concerts’.

Each year the Festival chooses a country and its music to focus on (France 2014, UK 2015, Austria & Italy 2016.) This year the focus is on the Benelux countries. There’s always an artist in residence who’s given special commissions, and plays in several different projects. This year it’s Dutch guitarist Reinier Baas, who’s adapted his jazz opera Princess Discombobulatrix specially for the festival, incorporating local legends. It’ll be performed with opera singer Nora Fischer and musicians from Belgium and the Netherlands. (Baas is part of 11 concerts and projects altogether this year.)

The Festival brings together musicians of different generations, including 75-year-old drummer Han Bennink from the Netherlands (he’s worked with Eric Dolphy, among others.) He’ll be playing with various young Benelux musicians. Some bands are made up of musicians from different countries, such as Carate Urio Acoustic. (8 musicians from 6 countries.) Belgian saxophonist/flaustist Manuel Hermia will be playing with the French Ceccaldi brothers and drummer Sylvain Darrifourcq. Pol Belardi from Luxembourg will be with his 10-piece band on 2 dates.

Musicians are invited back from previous years ‘if it works well.’ For example, Austrian bassist Lukas Kranzelbinder is back, with his band Shake Stew in the open air in Bolzano’s (Bozen’s) main square, and French singer Leila Martial will be performing in a duo in the Planetarium. Enrico Rava’s guitarist, Italian Francesco Diodati is here again, as well as Austrian pianist David Helbock’s trio.

The organisers ‘try to bring musicians together for the first time, and introduce them to each other… some musicians have stayed together after the festival and carried on playing together.’ Jazz Labs in Bolzano (Bozen) is where ‘bands and soloists from different genres and countries’ come together in a melting pot’.

‘We combine music with locations,’ says Widmann, and great care is taken to match musicians with location. Most concerts take place in or near Bolzano (Bozen) but many are in surrounding towns, and even in the mountain ‘refuges’ used by walkers. Sometimes the musicians adapt their instruments to where they are, playing acoustically in the festival’s many outdoor performances: on the mountain train to Ritten (Renon) or on the monumental Saslonch Rock. There’s jazz on a herbal farm with Euregio Jazzwerkstatt, and a jazz and wine tour (local wines and brass quartet, with Natanael Ramos, Romain Bly, Filippo Vignato, Glauco Benedetti) in Bressanone (Brixen.)

‘Every concert is a highlight,’ says Widmann. It’s easy to get from place to place to see as many as possible. Often the walk from gig to gig is all part of the experience, surrounded by lovely old buildings and overwhelming mountains. There are shuttle buses, and helpful Festival staff around to advise on public transport. Fly to Verona, then take an easy train journey into the mountains to Bolzano (Bozen.)

LINK: Suedtirol Jazz Festival website

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