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Garana Jazz Festival 2013

Garana Jazz Festival 2013
Adriana Carcu By

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Garana Jazz Festival
Wolf's Meadow
Garana, Romania
July 11-14, 2013

For four days each summer, a village in the Western Carpathians becomes the Mecca for the Romanian jazz fans, and an ever-growing number of Europeans. For the 17th time the Bohemian colony Garana (Wolfsberg is its German name) has hosted an event of growing importance in the European jazz landscape. Each year thousands of music lovers take the paths of the mountain to gather at the Wolf's Meadow, some 3,300 ft. high, to join a celebration of remarkable uniqueness. For the fans and musicians alike, the fast-changing mountain climate and chilly nights are just the touchstones marking the worthy. This year the festival featured an illustrious lineup, bringing together long- accomplished masters of the genre like Charles Lloyd, Bill Frisell and John Surman, and musicians of excellence: Zakir Hussain, Eric Harland, Arild Andersen, Paolo Vinaccia, Bugge Wesseltoft and Magnus Ostrom. The strong new generation of musicians like Pawel Kaczmarczyk and In The Country were well represented, together with a well assorted lineup of Romanian artists, among whom were vocalist Luiza Zan and saxophonist Nicolas Simion.

Thursday, July 11

Bill Frisell's Big Sur Sextet—Bill Frisell, guitar; Jenny Scheinman, violin; Carrie Rodriquez, violin; Eyvind Kang, violin; Hank Roberts, cello; Rudy Royston, drums—opened the festival with "A Beautiful View," from the guitarist's Big Sur (Okey Records, 2013); Big Sur, California being the place where Frisell drew his inspiration for this project.



The delicate guitar chords followed the generous unfolding of a waltz led by fine drum work, creating an airy atmosphere of floating daffodils. On "The Animals," the string section, in a compound of atonalities that ended in a pulsing harmony, paced up with the country touches of "Somewhere," just to decompose into sonic particles which gathered into a new cadence. The delicate tones of the guitar dominated the fine thread of the performance in a quiet progression, resulting in a dense polyphonic conglomerate that wrapped around it. The jovial dialogue between the string section and the guitar ebbed into atonal meanderings brought back to the riverbed by the strong drum accents. The guitar chords diminished like the crystal waters condensing into the low mists that bathed the Garana hills.

Charles Lloyd's Sangam—Charles Lloyd, saxophones, tarogato, piano, percussion; Zakir Hussain, tabla, voice, percussion; and Eric Harland, drums, percussion, piano—gave a sovereign performance of rare musical complexity. The combined virtues of the musicians created a multitudinous soundscape ranging from the lingering tones of incantation sung, by Hussain, to stormy sonic attacks led by the pertinent inflections of Lloyd's saxophone under the fluid cadence of the rolling drums.



Lloyd's flute arabesques that were embedded into the intricate tabla work, reaching at times the coherence of a continuous sound, became a floating aria of oriental hues. Lloyd's overwhelming power of expression was masterfully enhanced by the artist's keen sense of nuancing, while his drum work and piano adagios, counterbalanced by the archaic rhythmical platform, created a sonic universe in which worlds of music melted only to be created again. Hussain's performance was balanced by an alternation of depths and heights, which gave the show a tri-dimensional quality.

The Percussion Ensemble Prezent, with its leader—Romanian drummer/percussionist Mario Florescu, brought a jubilant tone of freshness to the festival. The group, made up of his eight students playing percussion, vibraphone and keyboards, engaged in a steady groove, marked by concentrated solos. Florescu's performance on percussion developed gradually into a ramified rhythmic corolla augmented by his perfect dosages of pauses.

The Romanian Peter Sarosi Azara—Peter Sarosi, piano, keys; Joo Sebastyen, bass; Laurentiu Zmau, drums—joined by Cuban percussionist Gilberto Ortega Torres, gave an explosive performance with Caribbean flair. Peter Sarosi's light touch of the keys and excellent phrasing pitched up the groove. The ongoing balance was energized by the change of moods provided by the well-placed percussion breaks.

Friday, July 12

Another Romanian band, Irina Popa & the Sinners—Irina Popa, vocals; Cornel Cristei, keys; Iulian Vrabete, bass; Relu Bitulescu, drums—opened the second day of the festival with a balanced performance. Popa's voice, preserving reminiscent pop inflections, brought in the right amount of nuancing and roundness to keep the dice rolling. A vibrant ''My Funny Valentine" marked the peak of the performance.

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