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Live Reviews

Belgrade Jazz Festival 2005

By Published: April 7, 2006
On the other hand, Dave Holland's band put on a creative and entertaining show full of power. What I witnessed was an awe-inspiring and electrifying performance. Simply, they were in top form and whatever expectations I had beforehand, the Quintet easily surpassed that. The band's members were at the same time exciting accompanists and galvanizing soloists doing wonders with their bold and challenging phrases and blasts of power. It even seemed that all four musicians could have easily been the headliner. In retrospect, this was the best performance at the festival by far.

The second night offered a concert by Dushko Gojkovi' and his Trumpets and Rhythm Unit 2. This unit, or project, was first presented back in 1979 together with Lala Kovachev. Just like with the first band the members represent the cream of the local jazz scene, but this time it was a meeting of players from the younger generation with the elder ones. Basically, they used the same formation of instruments (four trumpets, bass trumpet and a rhythm section). Add these musicians to Gojkovic's flawless flights and you have a good performance. My only objection to this would be that it was a textbook example of hard bop jazz without much stepping out of the confines of tradition.

But Denys Baptiste's reinterpretation of Love Surpreme was the night's highlight. Supported by Andrew McCormack, Larry Bartley and Tom Skinner, Baptiste did a fantastic reinterpretation of Coltrane's work. Baptiste's phrasing, swing and the band's imaginative improvisation, brought something unique. Even though they initially planned to do just the first suite of Love Surpreme, the band went into an hour-long performance of Love Surpreme. That was powerful and at moments I forgot that I wasn't listening to the real thing but a cover. Their dedication and prowess were astonishing as they litterally froze the audience.

The third night featured a set by Charlie Hunter and Nicola Conte. Hunter's performance was a standard bluesy, soul, funky that left me aloof. Apart from his special technique on the guitar, I was expecting much more from someone like him. Their set sounded primarily like a band jamming slow bluesy tunes and having fun together and nothing much more than that.

On the other hand, Nicola Conte's performance was a revelation. Performances like these indicate of a festival that is capable of not only delivering the expected, but is also providing great surprises along the way. Conte is primarily known as a DJ who mixed house/lounge music with jazz sounds. This time he was supported by a full band that turned the house up side down. It is obvious that Conte draws a lot on modal jazz and the likes of Miles, Coltrane, Silver, Blakey. Each of the musicians rose to the occasion and gave their all on this set. The spotlights were shared, the solos were passed around with generosity and none was wasted. Just like with Dave Holland's performance few nights back, all of this was forged with the sacred give-and-take between the artists and the audience.

The 4th night was dedicated to Brazil and it featured 2 groups of artists from different generations. Domenico + 2, is another offshoot of a trio consisting of Moreno Veloso, Domenico Lancellotti and Alexandre Kassin. They can be seen performing either under the name of Moreno + 2 or Kassin +2. This time they expanded the basic trio featuring Pedro Sa on guitars and Stephan San Juan on drums. The band's material shifted between nice acoustic songs backed with electronic beats or with noisy guitars again backed with beats. But it was full of good fun and their performance was very noisy and entertaining.

On the other hand, the performance of Vinicius Cantuaria was very gentle and the audience sat there in front of the stage listening, spellbound by the gentle sounds of Cantuaria's band. Vinicius went through a bunch of beautiful songs such as Gilberto Gil's "Procisao, "Cubanos Postizos," where Cuban son and funky samba entwined together, then Jobim tunes such as "Este Seu Olhar" and "Ligia." It was an enchanting and delightful performance.

The closing night was a special night. The star of the night was definitely World Saxophone Quartet's drummer Lee Pearson. Apparently, Liebman's drummer Billy Hart lost his passport somewhere in Italy, so Pearson jumped in and blended with the band perfectly. The complexity and clarity of Liebman's work and the band's unity were compelling, nearly mesmerizing. But to me the best part were Richie Beirach's own compositions (2) that were played in the middle of the set.

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