Gent Jazz Festival 2010: Days 6-9
Mariza's voice arcs skyward with lengthily sustained notes. Then, she'll canter with rapid syllables in a jaunty, Bacchanalian rush. It had been a few years since I'd caught one of her gigs. Back in the day, frequent attendance had revealed how slowly the repertoire was evolving. Now, a small pause had re-invigorated this listener's response. The band has expanded, with a more constant percussion presence and pianist Simon Wadsworth doubling on the trumpet . This is a result of Mariza seeking collaborative influences on her music. Most of the set revolved around the old reliable material, but there were also songs that ventured further away from the fado root. One questionable development is that Mariza has refined her audience control techniques. Too much of the performance's climactic stretch was devoted to a laborious sectioning-up of the crowd for singalong purposes. Undeniably, this technique was successful in further electrifying the atmosphere, but she lost crucial singing-time when time was rapidly escaping. There had also been a few earlier breaks to facilitate a pair of instrumental spotlights. Mariza obviously understands the advantages of making three spectacular entrances during a single show.
Mariza could have been the main act of the evening at many festivals, but there was one of Brazil's greatest artists waiting in the wings. Gilberto Gil has now relinquished his Minister Of Culture position, allowing him to go out on the road more frequently, devoting himself to his biggest love. This was the first time I'd seen Gil play, and it was an extra treat to catch his forró band in action. This is the heavily rootsy folk music of North-Eastern Brazil, loaded with propulsive rhythms, overworked accordions and harshly-sawing violins. It soon became apparent that fixed seating was not a wise choice for this climax to the evening.
Strictly speaking, Gil was using baião rhythms as the core of these tunes, but to most ears outside Brazil (and probably within the country) it's easier to describe the thrust as being predominantly forró-esque.
There were pockets of fans in the crowd who were calling out for Gil's mainline repertoire, but there was also a growing rebellion at the sides of the marquee. The lure of this makeshift dancefloor was becoming inescapable. Gil himself remains extremely nimble, even at the age of 68. He's a prancing pixie, swinging his guitar around and making acrobatic shuffling movements across the stage. Gil's agile vocal technique mirrors his physical grace. Sometimes Gil's guitaring featured prominently, but most of the stinging solos were taken by his lead player Sergio Chiavazolli. This was an amazing band, with frequent solos also springing roughshod from accordionist Toninho Ferragutti and violinist Nicholas Krassik. A booming undercurrent was maintained by Jorge Gomes on the traditional zabumba drum, which is the core baião instrument. Gil's latest album, Fé Na Festa, saves most of this material until its second stretch, introducing the concept gradually. This performance represented a lustily immediate immersion, played with a much more vigorous attack.
Even so, a strange calm descended during the encore, as Mariza joined Gil for a brief duet, continuing the sub-theme of outstanding collaborative encounters during this year's Gent festival.
July 16: Kruder & Dorfmeister/The Cinematic Orchestra/Vive Le Jazz
Native Belgians were more easily able to grasp the significance of the Vive Le Jazz project. It involved the transformation of the normally rocking Vive Le Fête combo into an expanded swing machine. The core duo of both bands is singer Els Pynoo and guitarist Danny Mommens, who used to play bass for dEUS. For Vive Le Jazz, the five-piece rock set-up is enhanced by extra personnel, including a horn section. The leading couple come across as a deliberately kitschy rock'n'roll parody act, particularly Mommens with his shades and spiky hair. Their particular jazz manifestation was definitely more appropriate for this second week of multi-styled performances. Singing in French rather than Dutch, they were aiming to capture the sophisticated Parisian café sound, entertainingly targeting the heart of jazz nostalgia. Their saxophonist looked like he'd only recently downed his guitar to blow cool sounds, and the horn soloing space was more confidently colonised by the band's frequently soloing trumpeter.