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Jazztopad Festival 2017

Henning Bolte By

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Witold Lutoslawski National Forum of Music
Jazztopad Festival
Wroclaw, Poland
November 21-26, 2017

Jazztopad is the yearly Jazz Festival of Poland's Witold Lutoslawski National Forum of Music in Wroclaw. Wroclaw is a vibrant, hip, internationally oriented city that never sleeps, a city with character, lots of peculiar neighbourhoods, populated by many young people from all over the world. Fall season is called listopad in Polish and so Jazztopad is fall's jazz, a festival with striking commission works, an artistically distinguished, highly profiled program, with vivid session activities, expositions and exclusive concerts hosted in homes of Wroclaw people all together creating a special Jazztopad vibe. Young artistic director Piotr Turkiewicz developed the festival into a foremost European festival with prestigious commission work, challenging and fruitful exchanges, daring co-productions and exquisite programming.

Jazztopad, a ten-day festival, premiered four works during the first weekend: the first ECM album of the Maciej Obara Quartet, Terence Blanchard's "Herbie Hancock: By Himself" with his quartet and the NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra, a co-production with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association and the EFG London Jazz Festival plus new commissioned work by Vijay Iyer performed by Iyer himself and NFM's Lutoslawski string quartet and a genuine Wroclawian debut album by Wroclaw-based trio Sundogs.

The second week of the festival covered in this article presented the premiere of Charles Lloyd's commission work "Red Waters, Black Sky," his second commission for Jazztopad after the earlier "Wild Man Dance" released as a Blue Note album in 2015. Lloyd has participated three times in the festival and on the occasion of his close connection and his musical as well human merits a permanent memorial plaque was unveiled in front of the main entrance of the NFM on Liberty Square (plac Wolności) (view the slide show for the event).

The second part also offered us two mixed Polish-Danish groups, the group Pugs & Crows as part of the Vancouver-Wroclaw connection, an appearance of the quartet of cellist Tomeka Reid, a brandnew collaboration between US pianist Kris Davis and French pianist Benoit Delbecq, a solo concert by Bulgarian flutist Theodosii Spassov and a concluding concert of Herbie Hancock with a new quartet.

The concerts

Music is created from the over and again more or less attentive perception of already existing music and its absorption. It is the basis for revival, reformulation, transformation, re-invention. The creative appropriation, reshaping and ensoulment were manifested through the appearances at the festival in manifold ways.

Two young Polish-Danish units, the quartet of saxophonist Maciej Kądziela and the Atlantic quartet of Polish drummer Radek Wosko, exploited and shaped elements from the jazz tradition in different manners. While Kadziela's unit comprising pianist Artur Tuźni, bassist Johannes Vaht and drummer Olle Dernevik conjured and revived early free jazz sonorities with its persistent stormy, violent far-flung attacks, Wosko's unit on the other hand reintegrated heterogeneous absorbed elements from the past by its sophisticated, careful way of shaping outlines and sound-sculpturing. It happened in an astonishing economic and appealing way; a give-and-take between pianist Soren Gemmer, bassist Mariusz Praśniewski and guitarist Brian Massaka who contributed striking ingredients with his very own, fascinating guitar-playing. He is an guitarist to keep an eye on.

The Kadziela unit and Wosko unit were opposites in terms of temperament, temperature, energy flow and economy. Both units are underway to their very own destination. The Kadziela unit paved its way along stormy coastal strips, whereas the Wosko unit combed out the inlands along newly beaten tracks and discovered routes thereby yielding a captivating new gestalt, a sophisticated kind of enriched mainstream—a nice oxymoron. It is an approach manifested also in the music of Norwegian groups as Eyolf Dale's Wolf Valley.

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