Jazz In Marciac 2019

Martin McFie By

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Jazz In Marciac
Marciac, France
July 30, 2019 to August 4, 2019

How does a remote village in South West France end up hosting an international jazz festival for 42 years? The logistics come later, but the answers to most questions about Jazz in Marciac lie in the superb quality of the music.

The first four days were each blockbuster performances. First StingMy Songs, then came Gregory Porter's Nat King Cole and Me, Wynton Marsalis with the music of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and George Benson remembered the music of Chuck Berry and Fats Waller. That is a serious list of names. Serious enough to open the first days of a jazz festival anywhere in the world.

Today Marciac is home to 1,240 inhabitants, up from 1,131 in 1978 when the festival began. The village is between Toulouse, where Airbus makes planes, and the pilgrimage destination of Lourdes, near to the French border with Spain. Every year they erect Le Chapiteau on the village rugby field. It's a metal-framed marquee covered in heavy white plastic material. It's more than a marquee. It's the size of an aircraft hangar capable of seating 6,000 spectators, but by removing the seats, 11, 000 stood to hear Sting perform. There are also performances in the 500 seat L'Astrada concert hall renowned for its acoustic values.

Bill Coleman, "The gentleman of the trumpet," made his name in New York City. After the war, Coleman moved to France, and in 1978 he played the first Jazz in Marciac festival with saxophonist Guy Lafitte. Coleman later collaborated closely with the festival's Artistic Director, now also Mayor of Marciac, Jean-Louis Guilhaumon. In his opening speech, Mayor Guilhaumon commented: "Every year is a gamble, so far we have stayed ahead." He leads a huge community effort by volunteers and their families, local farmers who roast food in the square, local wine producers, bakers, stores and restaurants. Everything is honest local quality, they are highly professional and keep prices reasonable. The current ambassador for Jazz in Marciac is another American gentleman trumpeter, Wynton Marsalis, who plays the festival every year.

The festival budget reached $4.75 million, met 70% by ticket sales, 21% donations and 9% various government support, but the positive financial impact in this rural region of France has been independently estimated to generate a further $20 million in hospitality incomes. Over 250,000 festival-goers have to eat and sleep somewhere over three weeks.

Chick Corea's Spanish Heart Band

Chick Corea's Spanish Heart Band played his interpretation of all the rich ingredients which make up the music of Southern Spain. Corea's long term project fragmented the culture of rhythmic clapping palmitas, the guitar, the fire of flamenco dance, the passion and the pain of gypsy music with roots in India. He added the mellow flute, and his piano sounds to the traditional instruments. Then he reconstituted the whole into an amalgam of Spanish music. The band played "My Spanish Heart," "Antidote" and "Desafinado" by Antonio Carlos Jobim. Corea's last piece "Zyriab" was written by flamenco legend Paco De Lucia whose former group-member Jorge Pardon played flute. Mike Rodriguez trumpet and Steve Davis trombone were the brass section, the rhythm was provided by Nino Josele guitar, Carlitos del Puerto bass, Marcus Gilmore drums, Lusito Quintero percussion, and Nino de Los Reyes the flamenco dancer.

Wynton Marsalis and the Young Stars of Jazz

When Wynton Marsalis first came to Marciac, the young stars who joined him on stage were not even born. They all played seated except Carlos Henriquez on bass. He wrote "Marciac Pyramid" and led them in to the front line playing the theme together. Camille Thurman on the tenor saxophone took an extended solo followed by Marsalis who plays with impossible clarity, intensity, and precision. They moved on to Marsalis' five-part "Integrity Suite" selecting "No Surrender," which recognizes how hard it can sometimes be to carry on in life. The flute from Alexa Tarantino added a soft dimension and an excellent piano solo by Isaiah Thompson received warm support. "Time to wake up" by Henriquez began with his bass introduction followed by alto saxophone from Alexa Tarantino. As they played, Marsalis registered his responses with darting movements and rapidly changing facial expressions. In his solo, Marsalis extracted chirping sounds from his trumpet with a plunger mute. There were fast exchanges weaving lines between Marsalis and Tarantino. "Something about belief" blossomed into a melodic big band sound in unison from the front line, with brushes on drums and hi-hat from T.J. Redick. Tenor saxophonist Camille Thurman delighted the audience by going into high clear scat singing, hitting her notes sweetly. On stage Marsalis was continually encouraging, introducing, praising the young stars. He asked Henriquez to explain his next composition "Moses on the Cross" about the divisive Cross South Bronx Highway promoted by Robert Moses. The Latin rhythm was steady, and as Tarantino played the flute, everyone joined in singing a refrain about the highway, Proyecto de mi Vida, (project of my life). They played out with a Marsalis composition "The struggle to become aware," in which Sam Chess took a strong solo on trombone. The musicians are stars and young, their mentor led them with care. In their turn the young stars revere and respect Marsalis.

The Rosenberg Family Project

Manouche Gypsy Jazz is the Rosenberg family business. Two brothers Stochelo, Mozes and a 30-year friend Sani van Mullen on bass played "Stompin' at the Savoy," "Poinciana" and "Valse a Bamboula." There is fire and delicate romance in the Gypsy guitar style, "I Wish" by Stevie Wonder worked differently to the original version , but it worked. Nonnie came to play bass with brother Johnny who sang a Charles Aznavour classic "In the Old Fashioned Way." The Rosenbergs always include "Sophora" in their performances for their sister. Mozes is often billed as the rhythm guitarist, but he alternated the lead with his brother Stochelo in the Hot Club of France style. Mozes has also been composing. They played his "Mozology."Johnny sang "My One and only Love" and went into "I Got Rhythm" with a doubled-up section in the middle which was almost too fast to sing. For their encore, they played "Caravan" with an upbeat Spanish arrangement which invited the audience to shout Ole! as it ended in a sharp finish. A good number of spectators were dancing by the end of this exciting performance. Called back to the stage, they finished with Django's "Minor Swing."
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