Tucked away near the southern tip of Sardinia about an hour's drive southwest of the island's capital city of Cagliari is the small community of Sant' Anna Arresi, where for the last 33 years, the festival Ai Confini tra Sardegna e Jazz (On the Border between Sardinia and Jazz) has presented a striking array of artists performing creative improvised music. This year's fest extended over a nine-day period and featured musicians from Germany, Italy, France, Austria, England, the USA, and of course Italy, plus several other countries. Although in a relatively remote area on this island that is worlds apart from Italy's bustling jazz scene, this festival has consistently offered music by the most current and important talent in the genre. From solo concerts to large orchestras featuring as many as 25 or more artists, the festival provides a stunning array of performances that each night stretches well past the midnight hour, much to the delight of the enthusiastic crowd.
This year, seasoned performers who represent the foundation of the new music movement such as David Murray
and Joe McPhee
were featured alongside younger groups schooled in the music of today's electronically infused age. And the festival boldly mixed these disparate segments, such as when Joe McPhee played with the experimental group Talibam in an intense set that showed no signs of a generation gap. David Murray, staying true to his roots, spun fascinating improvisations based on many of the compositions of Butch Morris
. From the stimulating tentet of Eve Risser
's infectious White Desert Orchestra, to Ingebrigt Håker Flaten
's powerfully emphatic "The Young Mothers," to perennial favorite Rob Mazurek
with his Chicago Underground expanded to Great Britain, to the conduction of an assemblage of 28 musicians from the Cagliari Conservatory of Music, each night offered a different glimpse into the world of inventive music. In addition to the acoustically-friendly amphitheater primary venue, two concerts were held on a Tyrrhenian Sea beach and one in the courtyard of a church built somewhere around 1020 AD. The festival touched base with the history of avant-garde music all the way up to the present interpretations of free expression.
And when not being enamored by the sounds of musical freedom, one is able to lose oneself in the island's cornucopia of delights, including beautiful sun-drenched days, fabulous seaside restaurants, great wine, pristine beaches, and many historic sites dating from antiquity. The island's history reaches back thousands of years before Christ. Its riches have been coveted by many countries claiming ownership over the centuries. But Sardinia today is an autonomously governed region of Italy offering scenic and gastronomic delights to complement this festival's heady dose of inspired music, all served up in a tranquil, stress-devoid environment.