Ljubljana Jazz Festival 2014

Henning Bolte By

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When drummer Tony Buck, bassist Lloyd Swanton and pianist Chris Abrahams took their places onstage and started to play, there was no way at all to suspect or have any idea what would emerge—which sound waves and massive swaths would arise and spread through the space of the actual venue. It's fascinating that such "huge" effects came out of the interplay of three simple acoustic instruments. Still more fascinating was the difference of the actual played tones and the "bigger" sounds that were perceptible and could be experienced. Apparently the cumulation resulted in a higher level of sound quality. The phenomenon may be widely known, but is something else to deliberately work with and work on in a consequential way, as the Necks' three musicians started to do. However its music may be labeled, it has some properties in common with Asian music, for instance Indonesian gamelan music. An essential part of the trio's general approach is the way it gradually built up this bigger- than...-thing, the way it kept it enduring on that higher level and the way the group gradually let it come down again.

There were two things going on: one, a gentle de-automation of expectancy patterns; and two, strongly pulling in the listener to let him/her immerse in an increasing suction. The Necks have developed not only effective ways but enjoyable, deeply sensible means to accomplish this again every time. There are some recognizable devices and elements they make use of, but depending on a lot of circumstances it remains an open process every time the trio plays—and as such still unique up to these days. With an approach like this, each concert can be sensed to be different---depending on the interlocking of the musicians and the location—the space in the room. This Ljubljana concert had a quite gentle expansion, a strong and long hovering in the middle and a gentle downturn. It seemed dead easy and it left many speechless.

It was the right moment for Canadian group The Souljazz Orchestra to march in, greet the night and make bodies dance. The hard-hitting Orchestra forged old school stuff, soul, funk, rock and jazz elements into such a burning alloy that just watching and listening was no option anymore, but instead to join the syncopated funky flow into the night sky.


Ljubljana is a pleasant, small scale festival with lots of allure and clear artistic vision and choice (more about this in the videos on the festival's website). The Norway focus presented,

in a nutshell, the main varieties of jazz made by musicians from the country. Alas, the important vocal variety from Norway was lacking. The piano focus showed enough interesting and provocative contrast as well as underlying coherence. And, again, there were productions and performances which clearly bore the hallmark of the festival. Likewise, it was clearly noticeable that the festival and its programming was embedded in and is an elongation of the high-end concert series taking place throughout the whole year at Cankarjev House, which means there is a good chance for a visitor to see some extraordinary music in Ljubljana at other times of the year.

The city provides a worthwhile ambience as the festival's context. It is easily walkable and has a calm atmosphere and some amazingly well-proportioned architecture, especially in the urban construction of master architect Jože Plečnik (1872-1957), who answered style icons and monumentalism of neighbouring nations from the past with sophisticated understatement and transformation. Tarrying on the terraces along the Ljubljanica River, which winds around the city, is a pleasure of a kind. The same goes up for the markets including the art market where, for instance, it is possible to find and meet well-known Slovene jazz photographer Žiga Koritnik.

Photo Credit: Henning Bolte


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