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3rd Zbigniew Seifert International Jazz Violin Competition

Ian Patterson By

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With two albums as leader and as a member of Kaja Draksler's octet, Romanian violaist, violinist and electric guitarist George Dimitriu came into the Seifert competition with a wealth of experience. Add to that his classical training and tours with The National Opera & Ballet Amsterdam and it's fair to say that Dimitriu is a rounded musician. On viola, Dimitriu began with Seifert's "Singing Dunes," an impressionistic number of understated lyricism. Dimitriu showed great control in the sustained higher registers of that number, but it was with his own two numbers that he really came into his own. There was emotional depth in his delivery on "Future Nostalgia," an elegant tune tinged with melancholy. With the trio lending gently bouyant support, Dimitriu embarked on a beautifully judged solo with singable melody at its core. There were straight-ahead elements to "Manipulation," with bass ostinato, close-knit ensemble play and vamps throughout, with Dimitriu saving his most expansive and fluid solo—articulate, elegant and above all emotive—to the last. Surprisingly perhaps, given the circumstances, the composition finished with a drum feature over a joint viola and piano vamp.

Marcin Halat

A graduate of the Faculty of Jazz and Popular Music in Katowice, Marcin Halat was a member of the renowned Atom String Quartet from 2013-2015 and was making his second appearance at the competition, following his participation in 2016. He released his debut, On the Way (Sluchaj Foundation) in 2017, an album which provided two original tunes for this first semi-final. A sunny, folksy atmosphere colored "The Cheerful Time," an appealing tune that nevertheless had plenty of edge in the tensions between piano and violin. Halat's playing, bright, precise and flowing, brought a suitably uplifting response from Wania, although the most fertile—and exciting—ground lay in their contemporaneous dialogue. Halat went up a gear on Seifert's "Coral," his bold attack maintaining a balance between tension and release. Once more, Wania, Mucha and Fortuna provided intuitive support, empowering Halat with their solid foundations and passionate interplay. With a fine sense of stagecraft Halat saved the best to last, the dramatic intro to "Invitation," a foretaste of the storm to come. Flirting between lyricism and abstraction, Halat then opened the floodgates to a tumultuous quartet passage, his searing violin at the heart of an energetic collective performance. The ending of this relatively short composition was sudden and more dramatic than the composition's opening, leaving the lingering impression that Halat had still much more to relate.

Gabriel Terracciano

It was the playing of Joe Venuti and, a little later, Zbigniew Seifert, that lured Gabriel Terracciano from the field of classical music—which he had studied for eight years—to jazz and improvised music. His tastes, however, are much more eclectic, and he has played Middle Eastern, bluegrass, Latin, electronic and pop music as well. In 2014-2015 he toured Ghana with the Ghanaian National Symphony Orchestra. A leader of his own quartet, Terracciano can also be found in Brad Shepik's Balkan Peppers. Despite a broad musical palette, Terracciano's performance of Cole Porter's "Night and Day" and Cecil McBee's "Compassion" were rooted in the swing, blues and post-bop traditions, his tone very much influenced by the aforementioned Venuti. On the former, an unaccompanied section mid-tune showcased his fluidity and technical control, while an animated back-and-forth with Fortuna, a tried and tested jazz convention, provided some fun. On the post-bop/modal "Compassion," Terracciano blended poise and passion, allowing the excellent Mucha an extended solo spot before reclaiming centre-stage with another arresting solo. Seifert's "Turbulent Plover" seamlessly followed "Compassion," with a hike in the quartet's energy levels. Wania's feisty improvisation set the scene for Terracciano, who played with Venuti's grace and Seifert's swagger.

Semi Finals Day Two

Layth Sidiq

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