FESTIVAL ROUND-UP: Jazz & The City in Salzburg (Part Two - the ‘Women in World Music’ theme)

A "seismic voice." Shayna Steele at Jazz & the City in Salzburg

Jazz & the City, Salzburg. Part 2 
(Various venues in Salzburg, Wednesday 25 - Friday 27 October 2017. Festival round-up and photos by Alison Bentley)

Women were very much to the fore in this, the 18th Jazz & the City Festival. A quick glance showed that women were involved in over half of the 100 concerts over five days, brought by artistic director Tina Heine to this ‘Festival for Jazz, World and Electronic Music’.

A rich voice in a bulging bistro: Aline Frazão

One of the Festival’s themes was ‘Women in World Music’, and tucked away in the Afro Café was Angolan-Portuguese singer-songwriter-guitarist Aline Frazão. The bistro was bulging at the seams, and her rich voice spilled out on to the pavement beyond. The audience loved her mixture of Brazilian and African rhythms.

All the Festival’s gigs were free, and the audiences’ desire to hear the music was strong, so much so that many venues filled up early, and queuing individuals were let in on a one-in-one-out basis. In the exquisite Marble Room of the Schloss Mirabell, Nataša Mirković (from Bosnia-Herzegovina) was singing Sephardic songs (the project is called En El Amor) from Eastern Europe with a calm, serene presence that filled the room. Creative percussionist Jarrod Cagwin and Michel Godard on serpent (used by Mozart in the 18th Century!) improvised a spell round her.

The Toihaus Theatre played host to the youngest audience I have ever seen at a jazz festival - average age 4 years. Austrian-Israeli duo Timna Brauer (vocals, guitar) and Elias Meiri (keyboard, melodica, cajón) led them in children’s songs from around Europe- lyrics onscreen. Brauer’s beautiful, striking voice held them entranced in Greek, Slovakian, Yiddish, Hungarian and Spanish - even poking fun at the English obsession with tea. The children guessed the tunes (correctly) that Meiri had hidden in clever reharmonisations. A great way to build future audiences.

Seda Röder (aka ‘the piano hacker’.)

In a Künstlerhaus artist’s studio was Turkish-born Salzburg-based pianist Seda Röder (aka ‘the piano hacker’). She describes herself as "walking through life with open ears to discover fascinating sounds". She brought her classical training to her own songs; they had a clarity and calmness, jazz-inflected and improvised. Satie in Space added electronic enhancement to the composer's  Gymnopédies. Mostly she created effects with items (baking tray, plasticine) placed inside the piano, which intrigued watching children. Imperfect Universe had eerie scrapings and gamelan-like tones, expressive and Romantic.

Marike van Dijk has been making waves in her native Netherlands and New York with her sax-playing and composition. Her Stereography project had two outings at the Festival: the first, another hard-to-get-into gig, featured her arrangements (for 12-piece) of the songs of Welsh-Breton vocalist Katell Keineg. Keineg’s voice was clear, pure and ethereal, and blended especially well with the string quartet, the whole band delicately underscoring the chords.

Guembri and Sax: Lukas Kranzelbinder and Anna Webber
Photo credit: Galerie 5020


Canadian Anna Webber (NY-based) was that band’s flautist, and also played sax in one of the mysterious ‘blind date’ sessions- set aside for artistic director Tina Heine to bring together two musicians for the first time. In the atmospheric Galerie 5020 we heard what Lukas Kranzelbinder called possibly "…the first guembri and sax improv gig in history". Kranzelbinder coaxed sounds and rhythms out of the Moroccan bass instrument, sometimes strumming the strings, sometimes creating ostinato patterns that grooved behind Webber’s tenor and flute. Webber likes to use ‘forms and structures’ to shape her improvising, and it seemed to resonate with the free-standing sculptures around them. She admires Tim Berne, but her sound had a warmth and intensity that also reminded me of Mark Turner. Her meditative flute sounds beautifully complemented the African tone of the guembri.

Airelle Besson’s Radio One Quartet

French trumpeter Airelle Besson’s Radio One Quartet had a full house in the large Musikum Steinway Saal. She’s studied with Wynton Marsalis, but her music perhaps owed more to a Scandinavian vibe. Swedish singer Isabel Sörling had a clear, otherworldly tone, improvising a little like Norma Winstone but about an octave higher. Simple chord sequences, funky keyboard bass lines and excellent piano from Benjamin Moussay blended with the trumpet’s obbligatos and lovely angular lines, and Fabrice Moreau’s complex drumming. The musicians were listening intently to each other and creating something special.

The seismic voice of US singer Shayna Steele (top pictiure) ended Republic’s Friday gigs. She’s recorded her own songs with Snarky Puppy as well as singing on Broadway, and her stage presence was electric. She opened with a reworked Secret Love which reminded me of Dianne Reeves’ '90s funk. But as the gig progressed she revealed more of her vocal style, always perfectly pitched and totally committed. At times she recalled Tina Turner singing Proud Mary, with rocky vocal fry, and swampy guitar from Jeremy Most. Grandma’s Hands moved from gentle soul to a big gospel sound with touches of Aretha. Big Mama Thornton’s country blues Life Goes On brought a massive cheer. The band had an end-of-tour energy. "I’m gonna give every ounce of myself to you tonight," she promised. And she did.

These were all superb gigs - and just the ones I was able to hear. Hats off to Tina Heine and the (mostly female) team for a wonderful festival.

(Alison Bentley was the guest of Jazz & the City/Altstadt Marketing)

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