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European Jazz Conference 2017

Ian Patterson By

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The complexity in any discussion about social inclusion was underlined by Abou-Khalil, who had listened attentively throughout. Racism, that's to say the exclusion, marginalization or harassment of one group by another, he pointed out, has existed in every society since the dawn of time. "I think this is something very inherently human," he opined. "I hear even apes have that." Abou-Khalil also said that we should not be afraid to challenge the racism that exists within the societies from which the migrants come. "They have to learn to live with each other."

As for programing ethnic cultural nights at festivals, Abou-Khalil was clear: "I don't think it is a music festival's job to be a museum of music. Music is an emotional experience...way more than a cultural experience, because that becomes cold and stiff. We need more sensuality in all of this and less political correctness."

Book Presentation: The History of European Jazz

One of the most exciting projects of the Europe Jazz Network is the forthcoming publication by Equinox Publishing of the book The History of European Jazz. The idea for an authoritative history of European jazz was that of jazz historian, author and Siena Jazz Archive Director, Francesco Martinelli. After much dreaming and several years of diligent and exhaustive work, the book is due to hit the shelves in the first half of 2018.
  • Martinelli, and jazz author, critic and BBC Radio 3 presenter Alyn Shipton—who has worked closely with Martinelli—gave fascinating insight into the mechanics of writing this unprecedented linear history of jazz across Europe. Whereas individual country histories exist, often written by outsiders, The History of European Jazz will give voice to the people of the countries themselves, with forty three authors from forty countries contributing.
  • Martinelli paid tribute to the people who kept jazz live often under very difficult conditions such as war, authoritarian regime and strained international relations. He also acknowledged the significant role of Equinox Publishing in assuring the production qualities of the book.
  • Martinelli and Shipton discussed the technical challenges of multiple translations, the cover design, chapter size and stylistic homogeneity, cross-referencing information and providing detailed and accurate bibliographies for each chapter.
Contextual chapters [non-country specific} will cover the history of jazz festivals in Europe, manouche jazz, Jewish jazz and klezmer music, the dialogues of the avant-garde, jazz in film, plus a chapter on African-America entertainers who came to Europe prior to World War One.

Shipton stressed the importance of the European record labels: "The first recording of stride piano was made in Europe. The first recording of the blues was made in Europe. The first recording of an African-American improvising ensemble playing jazz with a drum accompaniment was made in Europe. These are very significant things."

When the final full-stop is in place The History of European Jazz will weigh in at a hefty 660 pages, give or take. It is, and has been, a huge and demanding process. As Martinelli joked: "Maybe I'll write a book about writing the book."

Special Concert: To Pianos

A special musical interlude saw Eve Risser (France) and Kaja Draksler (Slovenia) give a piano duo performance to mark the official release of the CD To Pianos (Clean Feed, 2017). The concert took place in the Cankarjec dom's intimate, circular amphitheatre Sith Hall, which afforded optimal views of the two musicians at play.

Beginning in unison, the duo sounded a repetitive motif like chiming bells. Gradually the two streams separated, creating at first interlocking patterns, and then, as the two musicians moved into more personal terrain, a denser and less distinct mosaic.

Cacophonous mantras were juxtaposed against hypnotic minimalism, while mallets small and large coaxed shimmering overtones from the pianos' innards. Draksler's resonator drew droning hum from her piano strings a she maintained deep bass notes like a slow pulse, while Risser responded with small hand cymbals. The two pianos offered up an orchestral range of sonorities—creaks, knocks, echoes, drones and harp-like strums, insistent pulses wrought from strings, wood and ivory.

At a break in the music Risser introduced the first two pieces by their respective titles, though any compositional frameworks seemed sketchy compared to the improvisational elements. A brief, punchy interpretation of Carla Bley's "Walking Batterie Woman" captured the precision and playfulness of the original. It marked the end of a memorable performance and drew a sustained ovation form the appreciative audience.

Abstract in the main, whether spare or full-blooded, jagged or flowing, the sense of Risser and Draksler' brave experimentalism was ever-present in a performance that rewarded open minds as much as open ears.

Creative Walks

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