European Jazz Diary, Part 5 & Fall Openings 2005
Before I forget, I need to modify references to Jazz activities in Finland. Several readers, after viewing last month's installment, reminded me that there are some 34 jazz festivals each year in Finlandremarkable for a country with a population the size of New Jersey! This, of course, is further evidence to support our initial contention that jazz has a following in Europe that surpasses that in most parts of the United States. For jazz travelers who get to Finland the following festivals are ones to check out: Alandia Jazz & Music Festival, Kalott Jazz & Blues, Keitele Jazz and the Pori festival already cited. Each festival has its own web site but for the big festival picture visit Finland Festivals.
After experiencing the wonderful Baltic music scene I arrived in Oslo and visited the site of the Coliseum where the Lionel Hampton band initiated its 1953 European tour. It was here that performers Annie Ross and George Wallington first experienced booing from audiences. Ironically, in 1953, white performers on European stages were thought to be inferior to blacks when it came to jazz. This is certainly no longer the case as Norwegians have joined the parade of enlightened European cultures in embracing any and all styles and personalities in the world of global jazz. In summer, along the shoreline of Oslo's charming harbor, there are street musicians playing jazz and day visitors who usually arrive on cruise ships often sit and listen while munching on Ludifice (the local fish) sandwiches. Again, there are festivals here in numbers too numerous to mention but a visit to www.festivals.no will be helpful.
In Copenhagen, the Hampton band played dates in KB hallen and at a few private parties certainly contributed to the emergence of Denmark as a leading European center of Jazz. It was Thad Jones who followed Hamp in the 50's and his arrangements led to the founding of the Danish Radio Big Bandthe most established group of its kind on the continent. Upon arrival, I immediately went to Tivoli because the Tivoli big band usually has Danish Radio musicians in its chairs. For jazz fans there is no experience quite like a visit to Tivoli. The sheer beauty of the park, the gardens and the eateries all integrated into a truly magic kingdom (Tivoli was the original inspiration for Disneyland) is breathing in itself but when you hear the sound of the Tivoli Big Band playing Basie and Kenton charts you won't ever want to leave. I interviewed leader Peder Krageup and tenor man Pernille Bevort and marveled at the outstanding swing achievements of this band.
Copenhagen was a fitting place to conclude my trip because it symbolizes, like no other city in Europe with the exception of Paris, the intense dedication and commitment to the development of jazz awareness that exists everywhere on the continent. Americans who travel to Europe will be astounded at the jazz presence there. I've been asked to write more on this subject and will hopefully return to it in future columns.
Fall Openings 2005
The fall jazz scene in Gotham has been more frantic than ever with Jazz at Lincoln Center garnering more and more jazz headlines and elbowing out other programming news because of the epic nature of events there.
Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola has grown by proverbial leaps and bounds since just last spring. The special ambiance, the locale, and the striking number of popular shows have combined to make the room the city's hottest for first nighters .The club is in the middle of a Diet Coke festival for Women jazzers and is featuring a cornucopia of outstanding performers.
I was present for Toshiko Akyoshi's trio performance and welcomed the opportunity to see this legend apart from her large ensemble. Choosing her repertoire with familiar care, Toshiko wove impressive improvisational tapestries around "Just one of those things and Clifford Brown's "Minor Mood. Her pianism, with its frolicking textures, was especially delightful in the context of Dizzy's hushed sophistication. Upcoming headliners include Cyrus Chestnut, Barbara Carroll, George Cables and Randy Weston. The room's popularity is so enormous that mostly all shows are SRO.
Wynton Marsalis led the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra in its season premiere performance with a show dubbed KC and the Counta retrospective of Kansas City jazz from Benny Moten to Count Basie. With new musicians' pianist Dan Nimmer, trumpeter Sean Jones and trombonist Vincent Gardner leading the way, the band roared its way through some of the most seminal music in the history of swing. The evening focused on arrangements by Neal Hefti, Eddie Durham and Tadd Dameron and the band swung wildly. Marsalis led the impressive soloing in an intriguing "conversation with drummer Ali Jackson and Frank Wess provided another highlight with his boudoir tenor rendition of "Blue and Sentimental.