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Garana Jazz Festival 2014

Garana Jazz Festival 2014
Adriana Carcu By

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Garana Jazz Festival
Wolf's Meadow
Garana, Romania
July 10-13, 2014

One of Europe's most visited festivals, taking place on a meadow over 300 ft. high in the Western Carpathians, just had its 18th anniversary. The lineup, a brand mark of the festival director, Marius Giura, combined again tradition with diversity, bringing together American jazz musicians such as Andy Sheppard, Tom Harrell, Joey DeFrancesco and Mike Stern, the Nordic jazz representatives Ulf Wakenius, Marius Neset, Arve Henriksen, Stian Westerhus, Jan Bang and Kimmo Pohjonen, as well as a few representative names of the Romanian jazz scene like Mircea Tiberian, Liviu Butoi, JazzyBit and others. The Woodstock-like atmosphere of the festival made up for the two rainy days at the beginning of the long weekend that attracted jazz lovers from 20 countries.

Thursday, July 10

Adam Bałdych Imaginary Quartet— The violinist Adam Bałdych, who was performing in Garana for the third time, opened the festival together with his band fellows—Paweł Tomaszewski, piano; Michal Baranski, double bass; and Paweł Dobrowolski, percussion—with a ballad of rasping tones of violin, mixing tenderness with aggression, that unfolded in large breaths sustained by the solid piano backing. Further on, the alternating of the piano stances rose in fluid crescendos with the languidness of the violin glissandos, creating an atmosphere of mystical romanticism. As the birds started flying low, the music took on tinges of nostalgia infused by the melodiousness of the double bass and the softness of the trumpet line. The steep rhythmical escalation, induced by the articulate drum work, inflamed the sound of the performance, adding the swing note to the medieval coloring of the themes. "Letter for E" brought tender tones of sorrow for the still deeply felt loss of fellow musician, Esbjorn Svensson. The show closed with "Village Underground" in a virtuous sound orgy, with a plethora of horse hair surrounding the double bass bow and a cloud of colophony rising from the bow of the violin that hit the chord to bring out a cry, a howl and a wail.

Andy Sheppard Trio Libero—The sound of Andy Sheppard's sax rose in floating communion with Michel Benita's double bass and Sebastian Rochford's drum work spacing the intervals between the instrumental lines, which were marked by the hushing touches of cymbal. The tender intensity of a warm summer rain brought by the cadence of the fingers on the snare drum gave a perfectly balanced act of poetical interaction of the three instrumental voices. The clear, profound bass line was pacing the rhythm of the flowery intros on the sax while the drum marked the passage with fine felt breaks. The performance moved on as an open dialogue with a strong melodious bass line. The sax line was progressing in a dusty, velvety modulation from lyrical to abstract, while the drum saraband rarefied by the bass line moved into a counterpoint transition that was leading back into melodiousness. The fine sax line was picking up the expectant melodic line in an ascending dialogue, falling then back upon itself to return in the generous rounds of an exultant final tune.

Dave Douglas and the Riverside Quartet—The trumpeter Dave Douglas brought to the Garana Festival, in a quartet formula this time, the Riverside Project conceived as a tribute to the music of Jimmy Giuffre, together with Chet Doxas on sax, Steve Swallow, an old companion of Giuffre's, on bass, and Jim Doxas on drums. The dynamic performance fused traditional American music distilled in modern improvisation, mingling remote tunes with a hymnal quality and ancient Appalachian tunes with the tradition of folk, R&B and jazz. The tall, clear trumpet line, the solid sax sustenance nuanced by the firm bass accents, and the steadily progressing drum work moved on in a self-induced swing, incorporating a whole world of musical heritage. The intricate sax melodies and the trumpet scalar progression moved on in a steady groove, bringing up surprising shifts, a limerick, a childish tune, an abstract breeze, a congruence of forest hums. The drum performance fueled by a pull/hold/draw-back rhythmical motion resulted in a growing inner tension—like a half step back that doubles the impact of the step ahead. The show closed with "Old Church New Paint," a somewhat funereal melodic line on bass with a refined drum solo, and a tinge of humor, a touch of New Orleans.

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