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Garana Jazz Festival 2014

Adriana Carcu By

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Marius Neset Quartet—The rising star of Nordic Jazz, saxophonist Marius Neset—together with his band mates Petter Eldh on double bass, Joshua Blackmore, drums and Jim Hart on vibraphone—brought to the festival pieces from the albums Golden Xplosion and Birds in a highly energetic profusion of musical sensitiveness and imaginative improvisational skills. The show exploded from the outset with minimalistic urgency to move on in wide counterpoints marked by the robust presence of the sax, fueled by the growing drive of the rhythm section. In full timbre the sax improvisation combined technique with inventiveness to render a performance that merged the traditional jazz tradition with Nordic heritage. The sax solo offered by Neset as an encore took the listener on an improvisational trip along the windy coasts of the North and among the deep green fjords. The raw tones were tamed by the refined nuancing, and the harsh accents mingled with the low whispers of the forest and loud cries of departing birds.

Friday, July 11

Elena Mindru Finnection—The Romanian vocalist Elena Mindru brought to Garana the combo of Sampo Hiukkanen, violin; Tuomas J Turunen, piano; Eero Seppä, double bass; and Anssi Tirkkonen, drums. Mindru opened the show with a Romanian jazz tune in a pleasant mood marked by fine nuancing and sustained by the compact backing of the instruments. In "Life" high-pitched accents were dissolved by the suave voice modulations, then taken over by the piano to be rarefied in improvisational highs, while "Bluebird" brought on a melodic theme in counterpoint progression amplified by the tense accents of the voice.

Ulf Wakenius Band—Ulf Wakenius on guitar, together with Lars Jansson on piano, Paul Svanberg on drums and Jesper Bodilsen on double bass, performed a showcase marked by high dynamics and jovial alertness. The harsh gliding riffs on the guitar and the firm tenderness that has become the Wakenius brand generated the inner tension that fuelled the swing. The imaginative variations on the tonic in "The Way You Look Tonight" were taken over in "Breakfast in Bagdad" by the alert rhythm section, driving on like a compact sonic front. "Hilda Smiles" by Lars Jansson started with the beautiful love theme, gradually gaining substance on the piano, unfolding in large ascendant waves weltered by the bass/drum section and then being taken over by the guitar in quiet, sentimental chords. The show closed with "Seven Days of Falling," another tribute dedicated to the lasting memory of Esbjørn Svensson. The sad piano theme was taken over by the guitar on long rueful riffs and developed into a quiet improvisation suffused with the sorrow of a loss beyond recall.

Joey Defrancesco Trio—Joey DeFrancesco on Hammond B3, trumpet and vocal, and his two band mates—Jeff Parker, guitar and George Fludas, drums—escalated the musical intensity of the evening by performing an incandescent show characterized by vigor and virtuosity. The firm organ tones emerged in rich complexity, specific to a guitar or accordion, and with the impact of a percussion instrument, in gliding pertinence and swinging conjunction with the background. With a jazz blues piece—"I Know My Baby She's Going to Jump Inside"—performed by voice and on the trumpet, Defrancesco offered his tribute to Miles Davis. The smoky dreaminess with harsh edges, the open codas and the distant tone plunges on the trumpet, and the "Bye Bye Blackbird" innuendos were mementos of his time spent with his lifelong model. The tune was picked up by the guitar in mirroring chords and further developed by the round drum work in a progressive conjunction that deepened the groove.

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