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European Jazz Network General Assembly: Bari, Italy, September 27-30, 2012

European Jazz Network General Assembly: Bari, Italy, September 27-30, 2012
Henning Bolte By

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European Jazz Network General Assembly
Bari/Italy
September 27-30, 2012
The European Jazz Network (EJN)-an association of presenters, producers of venues, festivals and of facilitating national jazz organizations from various European countries-celebrated its 25th anniversary during its General Assembly, which took place September 27-30, 2012 at the Puglian capital, Bari, in South Italy.

From the very beginning in the second half of the 1980s, when Filippo Bianchi-longtime Artistic Director of Ravenna Jazz and Reggio Emilia Jazz-took the initiative and recruited almost 20 colleagues from all over Europe to share ideas and collaborate in organizing tours and concerts, a large and firm organization has emerged. Since then the music-its contexts and ways of production and performance, as well as the audiences' participation-also underwent major changes.

Italian Base, Italian Trait

Whereas the constitutive assembly took place at Ravenna, twenty-five years later the community members again made their way to Italy, this time to assemble at Bari, the capital of Puglia, in the deep south of Italy-traditionally a neglected and disadvantaged region, but nowadays prospering culturally. The assembly was organized by Puglia Sounds, a program of the Puglia Region for enduring development of the music system.

Puglia Sound is clearly visible in public areas, as in the attractive listening columns spread around the Bari airport. Bari also hosts Medimex, dedicated to all music genres and Italy's only music market fair. Furthermore, Puglia is the only region in Italy where the tourism branch is growing. Puglia Sounds is financed by the European Union's ERDF (European Regional Development Fund). In recent years, it has successfully fostered the development of all facets of the music industry-artists, companies, record labels, festivals, recording studios, service, manufacturers, distributors, organizers, institutions, local authorities operating in the region-while, at the same time, consolidating regional musical activities for the benefit of the public and of the generated economic system. This is contrary to the severe budget cuts to culture taking place acrosss central Europe.

Bari and its region are the origin and home of a number of internationally well-known jazz musicians like trumpeter/Italian Instabile Orchestra founder Pino Minafra, trombonist Gianluigi Petrella, guitarist Nicola Conte, saxophonist Roberto Ottaviano and young pianoist Livio Minafra. Auand, one of the internationally better known and highly active Italian labels -with 300 albums featuring international lineups-is also from Bari, along with a dozen other smaller labels.

The Beat of Instable Hymns

The Assembly, with its conference program, took place at the Palace Hotel, with the concert and showcase program at Teatro Petruzzelli, both situated on the periphery of the town's ancient section. Teatro Petruzzelli, Puglia's biggest theater, has a turbulent past. It burned down in 1991, but was finally reconstructed and reopened in old glory on October 4, 2009, with a Turandot performance directed by the great Roberto De Simone, founder and director of famous Nuova Compagnia Di Canto Populare.

The special showcase program presented known and up-and-coming Apulian musicians and groups indoor and outdoor. The outdoor concert activities took place in a pleasant ambient space, but suffered from bad sound quality. The indoor activities in the freshly restored historical space had a touch of grandeur.

Pianist Mirko Signorile turned out to be the most impressive discovery, especially with his own quintet of cello, bass and two percussionists. He also performed in the groups of saxophonists Raffaele Casarano and Gaetano Partipilo.

A central highlight of the event was the performance of the world famous, eighteen-piece Italian Instabile Orchestra which, founded in 1990 by Puglian trumpeter Pino Minafra, is nearly as old as the EJN. Instabile may be considered the most stable and steady entity of Italian jazz, as cited in the2010 documentary, Il Suono Instabile della Libertà, by Marco Bergamaschi and Gianpaolo Gelati.

There is no other prominent ensemble in jazz which has succeeded to function so loosely and freely for such a long period. There is no formal director, only changing advisory committees, and the ensemble is conducted by one of the commissioned musicians accepted by the advisory board.

On this occasion, the ensemble was confronted with a new kind of challenge. Belgian EJN board member Wim Wabbes came up with the idea of having every EJN country contribute a one-minute mini-hymn, which would altogether add up to a hymnal soundcloud-or an anti-hymnal cutup.

23 younger musicians were commissioned to write these one-minute pieces. Giancarlo Schiaffini arranged it all and, with a steady hand, led Instabile to and through the cloud.

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