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Ljubljana International Jazz Festival 2018

Francesco Martinelli By

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To avoid overload I had to make some choices so I jumped the Rok Zalokar—Port Songs set to wait in the lovely round room of the Center for the Elifantree concert, which was a very pleasant experience. Powerful songs, great fun by all members of this Finnish trio lead by Anni Elif Egecioglu, of obvious Turkish origins, and such a pleasure to see a young woman assuredly in control of intimidating banks of electronics, pedals, synth and all while singing with such expression. By contrast the Saturday night concert by Dhafer Youssef was, quite frankly, embarrassing. Coupling oud and piano is in my opinion never a good idea, since the Arab instrument, progenitor to the European lute of the Renaissance, is forced to assume a guitar-like sound or to clash with the piano intonation. But there were deepest issues in a performance where the rest of the quartet were mostly left inactive on stage until they were called to act as props for the hystrionics of the leader. Never even trying to build a group sound, the show was totally self-centered and ultimately lacking any sense of an integrated musical experience, despite the very high quality of the sidemen including Azeri pianist Isfar Sarabski. A very early start the following morning forced me to leave before the end, but I was not unhappy to oblige, so my festival experience closed on a sour note, and could not listen to the following concerts by Bowrain, Shake Stew and Vasko Atanasovski's Melem featuring Bojan Zulfikarpasic that were extremely well received both by audience and by the many international professional guests who met at the festival.

The reader may or not have realized that in all the festival I have not listened to a single recognizable "jazz" tune from the "standard" repertory. All original compositions, or left-field pieces from odd corners. No tributes, not even recognizable quotations (from jazz at least—here and there classical or folk influences were floating by). It's a good sign for the vitality of the art form, and it does not matter if not all the tunes were masterpieces. The questions become—will at least some of this music solidify into a shared repertory? Do "jazz" still need it or can players meet in different ways? It's I think an interesting point that shows how good the Ljubljana festival was—a path of discovery that stimulated listening and thinking. I cannot think of an higher compliment to a festival program.


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