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

Adriana Carcu By

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The tones weaved in a compact harmonization, and from the perfect polyphony the theme arose, anew. "The Empty Chair" started with a bass solo where the fluidity of the chord nips created a legato, rather specific to the strokes of the bow. The theme was taken over by guitar, becoming amplified by long accents. The dialogue became a common territory where jazz met the blues and where the soundscape acquired a new quality, surpassing the sum of all components—the rare quality only titans have, to set off the profound inner balance called jazz.

In a formula continuing the good old tradition of guitarist Django Reinhardt, Emi Drăgoi & Jazz Hot Club De Roumanie—accordionist Emi Dragoi, guitarist Alex Man, guitar, drummer Laurentiu Zmau and bassist Adi Flautistu—brought a touch of freshness to the festival scene; a wind of joyfulness, matching perfectly the festive atmosphere of the evening. Beyond the rhythmic accents of the guitar, the musicians gave a compact performance full of vitality.

Tord Gustavsen Quartet came next, featuring pianist Gustavsen, saxophonist Tore Brunborg, bassist Mats Eilertsen and drummer Jarle Vespestad. Talking about his own music in a recent interview Tord Gustavsen confessed: "It is generally about the richness of what is seemingly a kind of simplicity. To filter things through a channel of very simplified childlike themes and open up the inherent complexity and richness found there, instead of trying to play everything you can and show off everything you know." This is the basis of the musical acts brought to world by Gustavsen and his band. Due to the acoustic peculiarities of an open-air concert, the concert in Garana had an increased degree of external intensity, as compared to those held in a closed space, preserving nevertheless its elegance and inner reflection. The set opened with a piece inspired by Nordic folklore, the melodic suggestiveness creating a natural scenery that seemed to descend from the high North in order to embrace the public in the Wolf's Clearing. In "Still There," Gustavsen's sensitivity and outstanding musicality coagulated into an incantation with hymn-like accents. The piece did not fail to induce the state of grace required, in that the true dimension of his music be perceived—that peculiar state of introspection and deep spirituality which delights, and brings comfort and support.

Kuara—Molvær and Eirletsen, along with drummer/percussionist Markku Ounaskari, pianist Samuli Mikkonen, and saxophonist Trygve Seim—closed the day with a unique musical experience. The original trio invited their friends to join the show for a jam session in the best jazz tradition. The musicians came together on common ground—that of their Nordic heritage and music which crossed borders and reconciled extremes. The piano, saxophone and trumpet—united in ancient whispers marked by passages of silence—reached that ineffable quality which, again, made any endeavors to describe music in words seem futile. The Finnish song "Tuuin, Tuuin" became the thematic nucleus of an exceptional performance. Seim reached into the depths of the ancestral harmonies with tones that seemed to tear the fabric of time. The classical accents of the piano were permeated by Molvær's trumpet, like lightning coming from a different story, told in a celestial chamber. Piano, trumpet and drums took over the theme in a calm inner combustion. The musicians gave a performance like a yarn that was being told anew, always to be heard for the first time.

Sunday, July 15

The Eugen Gondi Trio—drummer Eugen Gondi, saxophonist Catalin Milea and double bassist Bambass—opened the final day of the festival with a set of remarkable instrumental presence. The saxophonist's complex phrasing was accompanied by the robust, yet nuanced comment of the bass. The musical pulsation of the drums created an inner balance that fueled the dynamics throughout the performance. Ballad sequences alternated with stormy atonalities, with the background becoming the middle point, with firm tones metamorphosing into graceful whirls. The perfectly balanced performance of the Dutch trio, led by legendary Romanian drummer Gondi, set the standard for jazz excellence.

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