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3rd Zbigniew Seifert International Jazz Violin Competition

Ian Patterson By

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Iraq-born, raised in Jordan and currently based in Boston, Layth Sidiq is a classically trained violinist who has made an international career with his highly personal musical language -one that encompasses classical, jazz and Middle Eastern sonorities. Amongst many projects, Sidiq plays in Danilo Pérez' group The Global Messengers." For this performance Sidiq presented two tunes from his debut recording as leader, Son of Tigris. (2017) as well as Seifert's "Man of the Light." Haunting, Arabic melodic lines introduced "Aghaati" -Sidiqi's technical prowess matched by the emotional heft of his delivery. The cadence of Fortuna's rhythms mimicked Arabic frame drums, though Wania's intervention steered the quartet into more overtly jazz terrain -his playing clearly reflecting Sidiq's guiding microtonal colors. Sidiq's charging solo, part modal jazz burner, part keening Arabic exultation, commanded the attention. Without pause, Sidiq continued with "Eastern Waves," a ballad of aching lyricism where the drama in his playing was matched by the delicacy. Sidiq's keening wordless vocal, which concluded the composition, floated like a prayer on the wind. Seifert's uplifting "Man of the Light" provided an apt finale to Sidiq's set. The violinist's solo was thrilling, so it seemed odd to conclude with a drum solo over a violin-cum-piano vamp -the one almost clichéd jazz convention in an otherwise wholly original proposition.

Francisco Palazón González,

Madrid-born Francisco Palazón González is a musical all-rounder. Classically trained, he has only recently, since 2013 in fact, begun to explore other musical styles, including jazz, manouche jazz and flamenco. Two original compositions plus Seifert's "Quo Vadis" made up his set. Palazón González' harmonically striking intro to "The Walk" foreshadowed a folksy tune that swung between vibrant rhythmic mantra and soaring improvisation. Wania's tumbling solo led the quartet back to familiar rhythmic ground and, after passionate collective discourse, a gentle touchdown. The lively "Outside," infused with Iberian flavors, saw both Palazón González and Wania take impressive solos. The violinist's dramatic riffing fueled a rhythmically charged finale, the Spaniard signing off with a delightfully acrobatic musical figure. It was arguably on Seifert' "Quo Vadis" that Palazón González gave best account of himself, notably in his captivating unaccompanied intro—melodically and harmonically arresting—as well as in his impassioned soloing.

Amalia Obrębowska

Amalia Obrębowska only turned her attention to jazz and improvisation in 2013, although her affair with the violin began at the age of seven. Classical studies followed, but since that turning point in 2013 Obrębowska has juggled both idioms. As of 2017, Obrębowska began studying in the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw. For this semi-final appearance Obrębowska offered two original compositions plus Seifert's "Turbulent Plover." The first composition, "Mind Traveler" saw Obrębowska hand the initiative early to Mucha and Fortuna, before wresting control with a seductive solo of free-flowing lyricism, her voice seeming to add a subtle harmonic edge to her playing. A quiet pocket ushered in Wania, who delivered a dashing solo. A joint violin and piano vamp served as the canvas for another tremendous solo from Fortuna. Obrębowska's interpretation of Seifert's powerhouse "Turbulent Plover" inevitably drew an animated solo from Obrębowska, though there was little that was predictable about her highly personal voice, powerful yet eschewing facile theatrics. Obrębowska's beguiling, unaccompanied intro to "Promien" set the tone for an engaging quartet journey that moved effortlessly from ballad to more rhythmically dynamic terrain. At whatever tempo, however, Obrębowska exuded lyricism of the most persuasive kind.

Benjamin "Benni" von Gutzeit

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