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Ljubljana International Jazz Festival 2018

Francesco Martinelli By

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Day 3

Friday's events started with the LORE quartet—a truly European ensemble, four young musicians from Slovenia, Italy and France living in Amsterdam. Singer Laura Giavon, alto saxophonist Pia Podgornik, baritonist Giuseppe Doronzo and drummer Tancrède Kummer presented an original program of carefully crafted compositions, using texts for songs that defied classification but left ample space for improvisation. Later in the day the presentation to the Adventurous Programming Prize was followed by a set of singer Rohey Taalah and her Norwegian band. The volume was so loud that since damaging what is left of my hearing is not something I look forward to I moved first away from the stage, and then away from the neighbourhood. Music that is meant to be listened with earplugs for me negates the purpose, so I will not comment on the music—the volume prevented me to listen to it. Did I mention that it was loud?

For the two final concerts of the day we moved to yet another venue, the CD Club on top of the Cankarjev Dom, a very pleasant room with a terrace and a breathtaking view of the city and the surrounding Alps, for two concerts that were nothing less than explosive. The spirit of Sun Ra is very much alive in the spectacular Subtropic Arkestra led by trumpeter Goran Kajfesfrom Sweden but originally Croatian. Goran's high profile collaborations include Fire! Orchestra and Angles 9; he quite startled me opening the first Cd of this band with a cover of Edip Akbayram's song Yakar Inceden, including its famous guitar riff, and then including several Turkish tunes in the second record, paying tribute to band like Muvaffak Falay's Sevda. They also covered a huge variety of pieces, from Weather Report to Soft Machine and Milton Nascimento in a series of brilliant records, but now moved to a repertory of original compositions, all performed with the trademark relaxed, spaced-out attitude of the band, a solid but easy-does-it groove over which solos grow, intertwine and develop. Think Lanquidity meets European Ethnojazz. A great set.

The Belgian/French trio formed by Manuel Hermia on saxophone, Valentin Ceccaldi on cello and Sylvain Darrifourcq on drums was equally impressive on a totally different vibe—the two concerts in fact set each other off in an example of successful programming. Ranging from timbral explorations to maniacal bursts of rhythm, the trio gave an all-out performance masterfully using dynamics and intense internal listening, with Darrifourcq especially successful in transforming the drum set into a timbral generator or a clockwork machinery gone amok.

The last day, Saturday, opened in the CD Club in the early afternoon for the classic presentation by Clean Feed and Pedro Costa, who miraculously brought to Ljubljana the Lisbon Underground Music Ensemble (L.U.M.E.) from Portugal. This a unique big band, not for the instrumentation but because the leader and composer Marco Barroso developed a specific and original style that could be described as big band swing meets funk. Played at ferocious speed and with impeccable precision the arrangements created unheard sounds with the resources of a big band; especially impressive were some waves of electronic-like timbres produced with the classic all-acoustic instrumentation enlarged by Manuel Luís Cochofel on flute and Paulo Gaspar on clarinet. Often coloured with humour and fragmenting in passages of free improvisation, the pieces opened spaces for brilliant solos, including a startling wa-wa trumpet offering by Jéssica Pina, but what remains in mind is the way that Barroso turned the tables on a well-established style.

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