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Bergamo Jazz Festival 2017

Bergamo Jazz Festival 2017
Francesco Martinelli By

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Four intense days full of music in beautiful settings with plenty of discoveries and some music for everyone’s taste: you cannot ask much more than that to a festival
Bergamo Jazz Festival
Bergamo, Italy
March 19-26, 2017

The Bergamo Jazz Festival, one of the most long-lived and prestigious Italian festivals, celebrated in 2017 its 39th edition. Since about ten years the Town of Bergamo nominates a musician as artistic director, and the 2017 edition has been the second under of the tenure of Dave Douglas, whose constant presence to all concerts, introducing bands and checking that everything was running as smooth as possible, showed a great deal of attention and care for the job and was very appreciated by musicians and audiences alike. The program this year was quite packed, taking place in several different locations in the two different main areas of the city, the historical center up on the hill—Città Alta—and in the more modern downtown, or Città Bassa, where the Donizetti theatre, the main and monumental venue, is located.

The final four days of the festival brought capacity audiences to all venues proving that intelligent programming can keep interest in jazz from different audiences. I heard more than once people on public transportation and on the street discussing the concerts, both locals with pride for such an internationally qualified event and visitors who took the chance to visit the beautiful city, rich in beautifully preserved heritage but at the same time willing to take a chance with contemporary artforms: an excellent sign.

The program of the festival included morning concerts where the Europe Big Band, formed by the faculty with the best pupils of the local jazz school CDpM, presented the music of Duke Ellington in over three concerts to more than 1500 young students, a major and successful effort to ensure the future of the music, and a photo exhibition of Riccardo Schwamenthal, a major Italian jazz photographer and author from Bergamo, recently deceased and much missed by all.

After a joint event with the Bergamo Film Meeting, a sort of symbolic relay between the two festivals, including a live soundtrack to the movie Paris Qui Dort by René Clair improvised by the trio Drops (Tino Tracanna, Roberto Cecchetto and Walter "Bonnot" Buonanno) the final days of the festival opened with a concert in the quaint Café of the Funicolare—the wire railway that brings up to the old city: Tri(o)ttico. The band was selected by saxophonist Tino Tracanna, well-known for his tenure in Paolo Fresu's Quintet but a major musician and teacher on his own, to open the sub- program "Scintille di Jazz/Jazz Sparks" devoted to the presentation in various venues around the city of young jazz musicians. Led by bass clarinetist Federico Calcagno the trio presented in difficult conditions a delicate and well played chamber jazz in the style of Jimmy Giuffre and Chico Hamilton.

Later in the Teatro Sociale the trio OriOn led by the texan drummer Rudy Royston opened the evening concert. Growing in a house full of music toys brought by his father and then playing for the church, this inhexaustible source of African-American music, Royston is definitely his own man on the trapset, which he plays with great timbric richness and drive. His compositions seemed to try and include all the different strains of black music, aptly aided by the saxophone improvisation by Jon Irabagon, another master of the timbral variation. Not always able to successfully join the different strains of inspiration, the set after a brilliant, torrential opening seemed however to lose momentum. The following band was Giovanni Falzone on trumpet, Danilo Gallo on bass and Zeno De Rossi on drums, in a project dedicated to the memory of Woody Guthrie. Active for the past ten years, this is a well oiled machine, and when they take speed like a steamtrain they're really bound for glory, hell bent and no prisoners taken: Falzone's playing is full of fireworks, the leader energetic on reeds, and the rhythm section masters the furious groove. Maintaining the same intensity in a ballad at low volume proved somehow more difficult, and the final song with involvement of the audience an anticlimax.

A weary reviewer after many hours of travel and music made it to a cave under a pub where the quartet "About Silence" led by local double bassist Roberto Frassini Moneta performed in an environment where silence was quite hard to find. Against the odds this was a brilliant concert of finely chiseled sounds with Francesco Ganassin on clarinet—an instrument which is decidedly, and rightly, back at the center of the jazz scene—Gabriele Mitelli on trumpet and Nelide Bandello on drums. With the same instrumentation of Tinissima—or thereabout—it was an exercise in contrast and I'm looking forward to the forthcoming Cd to listen more closely to the music.

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