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Novara Jazz 2018

Novara Jazz 2018
Henning Bolte By

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Novara Jazz 2018
Novara, Italy
May 31 to June 3, 2018

Novara Jazz is a three-week festival in Northern Italian town of Novara situated in the Piedmont region and the Po plain. It is a young and dynamic scion in the festival landscape with a strong spirit of exploration and discovery. It is a case of less propaganda and more real experience. Its strong card in the game is the connection of music with special historical/cultural sites, food and wine.

Novara is an entirely unique Piedmont urban entity (about 100.000 inhabitants) with its very own character situated in between the big cities Milan and Turin and near Lago Maggiore in Ticino. It has a beautiful historic old town center with a relaxed, hip atmosphere and is not yet overrun by tourists.

Novara is rice and the color associated with it is a special kind of silvery bluish green, which you can experience when riding along the extended rice fields of the Po plain outside town.

Novara will be the host of the 6th European Jazz Conference, September 12-15, 2019. It will be the first time this event is hosted in Italy since the General Assembly of Europe Jazz Network was transformed into the European Jazz Conference in 2014. There is also a strong connection of Novara to this year's conference that will be a held at Centro Cultural Belém in Lisbon, September 13-16. The building of Centro Cultural Belém was designed by the architects Vittorio Gregotti (1927) from Novara and Manuel Salgado (1927) from Lisbon—an astounding continuity.

In Novara I met and experienced an extraordinarily vivid interaction of developing cutting edge music with architecture, sites, art, culture, history, business, and, as part of it all, unusual hospitality—an astonishing alliance that gradually revealed itself. While the mindset around festivals often is determined by exclusion, by 'what is not possible,' in Novara the mindset is rather driven by a spirit of 'what more is possible?'

The festival and its sites

The festival stretched over three weekends and had more than 30 concerts spread over one main venue, Broletto, and special sites in the historic city center and in the Countryside: Restaurant/winery Opficio, farmhouse Cascina Bullona, the old mill Mulino Vecchio, powerplant Centrale Idroelettrica 'Orlandi," Parco Beldi, Villa Picchetta, parks and vineyards, de cathedral, courtyards in the old city, castle Visconteo Sforzesco, Palazzo Natta, museum Giannoni. The whole town is permeated by the spirit of the festival, most palpably through a great variety of inventive artifacts of musical instruments in shops and shop windows.

There were 11 Italian units, 15 foreign units and 5 combinations with Italian musicians. Musicians and groups came from Sweden (3), Norway (2), UK (2), Finland (1), Denmark (1) Belgium (1) and the US (5+3). The festival presented five outstanding female musicians: Italian bassist Silvia Bolognesi, Finnish saxophonist Linda Frederiksson, Norwegian saxophonist Marte Lea and British vocalist and bandleader Nabiya Brandon.

The three weeks' middle weekend I attended, focused mainly on musicians and groups from Italy, a welcome opportunity to get to know more groups from the Italian scene rather than the ever-returning well-known names. The three days presented three Italian configurations, Bortone Trio, Simone Lobina "Solo," Vignato/Mirra/Pacorig plus three Italian-American collaborations, namely Pipe Dream, Giovanni Guidi Drive!, the Kinzelman/Haberman duo, two American acts, Horse Lords and Hank Roberts solo, and British unit Nubiyan Twist on Saturday night.

Writer Enrico Bettinello, from Venice and also heavily involved in Novara Jazz, recently ranked 15 Italian jazz musicians as the ones you need to know about. This year's edition of Novara Jazz had five of them at the festival, namely bassist Matteo Bortone, saxophonist Dan Kinzelman, vibraphonist Pasquale Mirra, trombonist Filippo Vignato and bassist Silvia Bolognesi.

The main venue was the semi open-air stage in the inner courtyard of Broletto located in the historic center of the city. In the morning and afternoon other special locations in the historic center became venues too.

Broletto is composed of four constructions around a courtyard. The entire, recently restored, complex of buildings houses the prestigious Giannoni Collection, which includes hundreds of paintings and works of internationally acclaimed Italian artists. It is a hub in the historic old town and a location for events and exhibitions.


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