“It’s Time for Summer. It’s Time for Jazz”
Musicians, journalists, media reporters, and jazz lovers from all over the world have crossed their paths in Ascona, located in Ticino region of Switzerland. 33rd time in a row, for 10 remarkable days, Ascona became the source of positive vibes and jazzy motives. It has been a great experience to witness some of the brightest representatives of the world jazz scene there. From this summer issue on, we are going to publish the reviews on jazz music regularly alongside with video reports and interviews – made especially for you and for the love of jazz!
The revelation of soft, vibrant, intelligent jazz came along the performance of Oriental Jazz Band whom I heard for the first time in JazzAscona. “New and Northern”, Oriental Jazz Band members come from the North of the Netherlands, but the music they are so passionate about originates in New Orleans. So is the music they perform: fresh, vibrant, new, on the one side, and with a northern elegance, grace, and European nobleness on the other. All the musicians had obtained the classical music education, after which they decided to embrace the vintage jazz. They play it with “a personal and unique twist”, indeed.
The band was formed as a high school project when its members decided to motivate young musicians to play jazz. At the beginning, Oriental Jazz Band was just a Quartet, but soon expanded and achieved its full sound with the appearance of Carmen Vos, the pianist, on the stage.
Brilliant piano player, Carmen Vos, charmed us by her beauty and the mastery of play. Replying to my question about the freedom of expression she has obtained in jazz, Carmen told: “Playing jazz piano instead of the classical one turned to be like playing another instrument!”. She also called the piano as being “elegant and funky” at once and underlined the peculiarity of jazz technique: the approach is completely different from that in classical music, instead of reading notes you need to improvise and make many of chordal progressions, for instance.
We just do it with love. And this pays off…
What distinguishes Oriental Jazz Band is indeed this friendship and togetherness, permeating the atmosphere on the stage during the gig. It is not only the band, it is the group of friends out there, who enjoy the music and make the moment special. “It is what makes the music extra-nice” – as Carmen said. She also noticed the positive tendency, to which the Band has been contributing: some years before the traditional jazz appealed to aged listeners and old people more than to the youth, but nowadays the jazzy ideas appeal to younger generations indeed. Jazz gains popularity among people of any age, income, or geographical area. With that in mind has the band been formed: to keep the traditions of jazz alive and ensure their transmission through centuries…
As Carmen Vos told me, the secret of the band’s success is easy: “We all like being together and playing music. We just do it with love! And this pays off…”.
On one of the first JazzAscona days we have listened to Trombone Trio consisting of three awesome trombone players: Craig Klein performing with New Orleans Jazz Vipers, Dan Barnett from Australian SwingRockets, and Michael Watson – the special guest of Ascona, the member of Soul Brass Band, who impressed me by the noble sound of his trombone, pleasant voice, and great musical charisma.
Concert took place in Castello Seeschloss, the romantic environment of which went well along the moody medley songs, swinging melodies, and elegant cuisine.
Geoff Burg International Band contained a big surprise for jazz lovers – clarinet player from Osaka, Ryoichi Kawai ! “Kawai” means “cool” in Japanese, and this adjective would well reflect the mastership of Ryoichi Kawai who performed alongside Philippe de Smet, trombone player with an equisite manner of play.
Homage to Louis Prima has been held by amazing band coming from France – “Louis Prima Forever”, while the repertoire of Fats Waller, whose talent and range of fantasy are impeccable, was revived by Fatsology Quintet. However, the latter dared to make it without the piano! It was a striking surprise for the many. Instead, the Waller’s hits were performed on the vibraphone, creating a fairy-tale atmosphere on the lakeside.
Almost simultaneously Topsy Chapman and Palm Court Jazz Band were performing the jazz standards in their remarkable style. Grand maestros of jazz – all with no exceptions – attracted the attention. Gregg Stafford, the New Orleans trumpeter whom many young musicians wish to listen to, excited me by the tembre of his voice and inventive version of “What a Wonderful World”, the most peculiar I’ve ever heard!
Chicago Stompers marked our finale of the festival and it was grandiose! These guys kept my eyes glued to the scene by their performance.
Stylish, purely traditional, and with an awesome sense of humour – could be ranked as Number One in regard to the carriage of rich cultural heritage of 1920-s. Just let them appear on the stage, and their music will act as a magic time machine, transporting into the realm of swing, charlestone, and big band jazz. The existence of such bands raises the hope for the future of old and warm jazz – it is still beloved by many, it is carried in hearts and souls, and it is – thanks God – put into the life by such “ensembles” as Chicago Stompers. Hot, vigorous, artistic – BRAVO!
Mentioned earlier “Louis Prima Forever” is another group of musicians who performed as a real Team on the stage. Not just the band, but a group of friends. A family. The music which they share is more than unforgettable concert, it is a true show, “le spectacle”. And what a great joy it was to make acquaintance with the members of this band after their successful gig – I was making an interview with Pauline Adlan, the beauty and grace of “Louis Prima Forever”, and Stephane Roger, the chief of the band, creative director, and an unbeatable drummer, who impressed us the most among all the other drummers of the festival. Every musician presents his own gem of music, a distinctive trait of talent. But if one needs comparisons, then we would put Stephane Roger, coming from European musical scene, together with Shannon Powell, from New Orleans. The mastery of the both of them is extremely high as well as something, which is nonetheless important: charisma, artistry, magic energy, which is unexpressible with the words and comes from within the person. These artists are endowed with it, undoubtedly.
All the members of “Louis Prima Forever”, musicians of a great talent, appeared to be cheerful, kind and vibrant not only on the stage…. As well as the legendary Louis Prima, who was not acting but simply reflecting the qualities of his soul. They bear one of the best attributes of human nature and show it sincerely and naturally during the performance. That’s why it is so appealing, so warm, so much charming, and charging with the positive energy. It was a pleasure to have a talk with Pauline Adlan and Stephane Roger, who agreed to share their life experience and reveal the secrets of their success. If you happen to stroll in Paris one day, do not miss “Louis Prima Forever” concerts! The joyful mood and exciting show are garanteed!
All the members of “Louis Prima Forever”, musicians of a great talent, appeared to be cheerful, kind and vibrant not only on the stage…. As well as the legendary Louis Prima, who was not acting but simply reflecting the qualities of his soul.
Ella Fitzgerald’s centennial has been celebrated by the Players Ella & Louis Tribute, a New Orleans Band, a Grammy nominee this year, including Leon “Kid Chocolate” Brown, on trumpet and singer Eileina Dennis. They provided a soft sounding jazz, which made the stay in Ascona even sweeter. Their music is out there now: in iridiscent cloud, radiant afterglow – one sweet memory…
Jazz Ascona 2017 encouraged to share the emotions and share the love with entire world this year! Left in Switzerland, carried through thousands of miles, this memory is now far beyond Europe, expanding up till Cyprus, being revived on the pages of Cyprus Observer and imbuing its ”Summertime”.
by TALIYA KHAFIZOVA
(Original publication from https://arthara4.wixsite.com/lifeenroute)
Photos by ALMIRA KHAFIZOVA