Last week, as a guest on a talk show, I addressed the importance of understanding and appreciating the international scope that jazz has attained. It is fair to say that much of the best in jazz composition, recording and performance comes into the music from foreign shores and the dismissal of these contributions as “impure” is no longer valid. In the “old days” many held that the foreigners “couldn’t swing” that the compositions were derivative, that the recordings were shabby. All of these reactions are passe and anyone who holds them is completely out of touch with contemporary jazz internationality.
Callers into the show asked how they could get “hip” to the international picture and the first response I gave was that they attend some offshore festivals. Here is a couple to consider:
Now in its 33rd year, Umbria Jazz in Perugia (Italy) is in certainly one of the most picturesque settings for a jazz festival that one could imagine. The performances this year go from the 9th to the 18th of July and the lineups feature many familiar names (Harry Allen, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Jackie McLean, Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau) but audiences will encounter first hand some of the emerging European talent that jazz cognoscenti have already heard. Names here include Francesco Cafiso, Renato Sellani, Rosa Passos, Richard Galliano, Michel Portal, Hiromi, Paolo Fresu and Enrico Pieranunzi. In addition to the concerts, Umbria Jazz also features clinics run by our own Berkley College summer school and an ambiance filled with historical magnificence from the Roman Empire to the high renaissance. All of this can be yours together with some of the most delicious wines and gastronomic delights imaginable. Just log on to www.umbriajazz.com .
In France’s incomparable Rhone valley lie the ruins of ancient Roman occupation from the days when Julius Caesar wrote, “Gallia est divisa in tres partes....” Jazz a Viennes hosts its large concerts in a Roman amphitheatre that seats 8,000. A few miles from the lovely city Lyon (which has direct flights from JFK) Jazz a Viennes boasts sellout audiences that are so attentive that one can hear the proverbial pin drop during performances. Held each year at the end of June though the beginning of July, this intriguing festival has jam sessions until the wee hours immediately following its principal evening shows. Visitors, of course, will want to attend wine tastings at internationally famous neighboring vineyards, wander through spectacular museums and art galleries and foot stomp along with devoted french jazz fans. A complete lineup of this year’s performers is available at www.jazzaviennes.com .
The above festivals are among the approximately 800 that Europe hosts each summer and, as indicated, the settings for many of these jazz happenings are breathtaking. For a complete list of European festivals you should consult the web site of The New York Times or any one of the popular search engines.
Jazz fans who can’t get to Europe needn’t be disappointed because the world’s most grandiose festival is, of course, George Wein’s annual JVC cavalcade here in Gotham. What is significant about the JVC in addition to its parade of superstars, is that it contains a large representation of foreign performers who can’t usually be seen at other U.S. festivals. Particularly notable is the large contingent of latino musicians and vocalists from everywhere in the Hispanic universe. The “salsa jams” have been very popular recently and this year Oscar D’Leon and Pancho Sanchez will lead the latino legions. For a complete listing of performances and times for the JVC, which runs from June 15-26, consult www.festivalproductions.net .
To search for an international jazz festival, try the AAJ Festival Guide .