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Garana Jazz Festival, Garana, Romania, July 12-15 2012

Garana Jazz Festival, Garana, Romania, July 12-15 2012
Adriana Carcu By

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Garana Jazz Festival
Garana, Romania
July 12-15, 2012
The 16th edition of the Garana open-air Jazz Festival gathered over 5,000 jazz lovers in a glade called the Wolf's Clearing, in the southern Carpathians. The weather conditions were excellent—a factor that should not be taken for granted; in Garana, it has rained during each of the last 11 editions. The lineup, expertly selected, brought over 50 musicians with a wide diversity of gender and style in front of an enthusiastic audience. Each of the four days brought a good mixture of classic jazz, represented by guitarist John Scofield and bassist Dave Holland, and Brit Jazz from Portico Quartet, mingled with a good portion of Nordic Jazz performed by pianists Tord Gustavsen and Bugge Wesseltoft , saxophonist Trygve Seim, and Nils Petter Molvaer.

Thursday, July 12

The festival was opened by Iordache—a Romanian septet with saxophonist Mihai Iordache, trumpeters Sebastian Burneci and Florian Radu, guitarist/keyboardist Toni Kuehn, guitarist Dan Alex Mitrofan, double bassist Utu Pascu and drummer Tavi Scurtu. The set developed to a compact crescendo, optimally sustained by the attacks of the brass section. The dynamics were fueled by the melodic peaks of the guitar and the bass/drums section. A fine rhythmic balance marked a transition from the stern meter of "Triange" to the funky beat of "One Life Left" and "Recycle," where the firm tone of Iordache's saxophone reached minutely chiseled gracefulness.

Polish pianist Sławek Jaskułke appeared next in a solo performance, its contemplative mood similar to pianist Keith Jarrett, likewise combining classical elements, which sometimes anticipated Gustavsen's show, later in the festival. Jaskułke's subdued, minimalist energy, combined with harmonic touches, unfolded in wide surges, uniting themes in a growing rhythmical recurrence, like the progressive motion of waves rolling onto the shore from an ever-increasing tide.

John Scofield's Hollowbody Band—which featured, along with Scofield, fellow guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, bassist Ben Street and drummer Bill Stewart—opened the series of legendary musicians performing at this year's festival with a show of astounding fluidity. Like everything well done, the performance of these exceptional musicians impressed through their ease and fluency, the whole set suggesting the well-oiled cogs of a complex musical gear. The almost organic interaction of the instruments created an ardent dynamic background excellently sustained by the polyphonic harmony. This feeling of musical comfort was augmented by the liquid tones from Scofield's guitar—which, in perfect conjunction with counterpart Rosenwinkel, drove the performance through stimulating, reflective and even humorous contexts. Scofield's solos, perfectly sustained by the rhythm section, attained the purity of a sonata. Adrian Gaspar Trio—pianist Adrian C. Gaspar, bassist Benjamin Labschuetz and drummer Moritz Labschuetz—marked the first surprise of the festival. The Romanian pianist, who lives in Austria, delivered, together with his band mates, a solid performance with a vital, but nonetheless sensitive impact, combining harmonic successions typical for classic jazz with well-placed elements of pop fusion.

Friday, July 13

The second day opened with Mario & The Teachers, featuring drummer/percussionist Mario Florescu, keyboardist Radu Rotaru and flautist Corina Ardelean. The Romanian trio delivered a well-structured show sustained by a solid yet imaginative rhythmic structure. Ardelean largely carried the melody with the alertness and precision of a silver thread. The pieces, clearly structured on the Romanian heritage that streamed through the whole set like a current of harmonic energy, combined traditional elements with those of jazz and rock in well-balanced proportion.

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