PREVIEW: 2018 Suedtirol Jazz Festival Alto Adige (29 June - 8 July)

Ben van Gelder and Reinier Baas, featured artists at the 2017 Festival
Photo credit Ralf Dombrowski

Alison Bentley writes:

This year’s UN World Happiness Report puts Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Sweden at the top of the list. The 2018 Suedtirol Jazz Festival Alto Adige is adding to the sum of human happiness by bringing more than 160 innovative jazz musicians from these countries and more, to play in imaginative venues in the mountains and towns of Suedtirol (South Tyrol.)

Gigs are grouped into four city tours to help negotiate the festival’s geography. In Suedtirol, everything is written in Italian and German, including place names: Bolzano/Bozen is the festival hub, with 31 concerts. Many are within walking distance of each other through the old streets – the surrounding mountains look down. The Festival always values musicians from different countries working together, and the opening concert (in an industrial warehouse) has the Nordic Connection countries playing with Austrians and Italians (the Euregio Collective) in an 18-piece band directed by Finnish flautist Pauli Lyytinen. Good to see bassist Ruth Goller in the list, representing GB, as well as her home town (Vahrn) in the region of Suedtirol. Scandinavian 11-piece CARLIOT - It's never too late Orchestra plays "heard and unheard music from theatre, dance…" on 5 July in the Museion art gallery. Swedish vocal/drum duo Wildbirds and Peacedrums are in the Obstmarkt on 6 July. Norway’s psychedelic jazzers Broen have two gigs at the Park Laurin Hotel on 7 July, the second a DJ set.

Merano/Meran has 21 gigs; if you missed a gig in Bolzano it’s likely the bands will be playing here too. Swedish-Finnish trio Elifantree bring their "acoustic jazz pop sound experiments" to Thermenplatz on 4 Juy, while you can hear ECM pianist Giovanni Guidi with US/Italian trio DRIVE! at the Wolkenstein Viertel on 6 July.

Bressanone/Brixen has 18 gigs. 7-piece Norwegian-Swedish Megalodon Collective combines "free jazz, fusion, film music, noise, classical and medieval music" in the Fortress Fortezza on 6 July. On 30 June electro-jazz sextet Klabbes Bank are on the rooftop of the Tourism Cooperative Association –  not the bank. Many gigs are outside, and on 30 June, the SJ Street Band will be stomping through the streets of Brunico/Bruneck (17 gigs.) Nearby, Anni Elif Egecioglu, Amanda Blomqvist and Verneri Pohjola are on vocals, drums and trumpet in San Vigilio di Marebbe on 8 July.

The festival’s motto is "fresh sounds, new perspectives", and many gigs are in spectacular and beautiful venues. Some are in mountain refuges among dramatic scenery: on 8 July, a two-hour walk along a mountain trail ("easy", it says) takes you to Finnish singer Stina Koistinen and Icelandic guitarist Sigurdur Rögnvaldsson in a duo created especially for the festival. Trio Nils Berg Cinemascope (2 July) will be competing with the stunning mountain backdrop of Bolzano/Bozen’s Parco Semirurali. That morning, Finnish pianist Tuomas A. Turunen (aka The Wine Composer) ‘"translates wines' aromas and tastes into music" in the Weingut Pacher Hof, flanked by vineyards- and you get to taste the wine too.

Is there a collective noun for singers? The Nordic Voices theme refers to the individual styles of around 17 bands featuring vocalists. To highlight a few: Norwegian duo Lars Andreas Haug and Camilla Susann Haug’s Messing with Voice is in Bozen/Bolzano’s Hotel Greif on 2 July. Bjork-like Mari Kvien Brunvoll sings in Norwegian dialect with her trio Building Instrument on 30 June in Renon/Ritten’s Hotel Weihrerhof. The Swedish/Finnish quartet led by Hannah Tolf bring their experimental jazz to Bolzano/Bozen’s Batzen Sudwerk on 6 July.

The festival is an organisational miracle. A 20€ Jazzpass allows you to book seats on the shuttle buses between venues. It also gives ticket reductions and reservations (though many concerts are free) and food and wine discounts. There’s extensive info on the festival website about the plentiful public transport. A flight to Verona, an hour’s train ride to Bolzano – then expect to be transported.

LINK: Suedtirol Jazz Festival Alto Adige website

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