New Conversations – Vicenza Jazz reaches a somewhat historic edition in 2021: it was the twenty-fifth edition and marked the return after the closure due to the pandemic. Music helped to see a light at the end of a long night. It was the first time that the festival took place in summer, in July, in places almost always outdoors (at the Communal Theatre in case of bad weather) and for the most part new in the geography of the festival: from Querini Park to the Garden of Santa Corona , from the Hangar of the Peace Park to the Garden of the Olympic Theater, but also the Temple of San Lorenzo, as well as Palazzo Chiericati, the Palladian Basilica, Palazzo Leoni Montanari and the eternal Olympic Theater were a must.
But New Conversations – Vicenza Jazz 2021 – festival promoted by the Municipality of Vicenza in collaboration with the Municipal Theater Foundation of the City of Vicenza, in co-production with Trivellato Mercedes Benz and with Acqua Recoaro as technical sponsor – experienced many musical innovations, imagined by the artistic direction of Riccardo Brazzale, along a common thread marked by some key words: the artistic twinning with Norway, the openness to young people, the presence of many Italians, in an extraordinary variety of styles, tastes and proposals.
“I was very keen for Vicenza Jazz to restart – says Mayor Francesco Rucco – because, among many, it was one of the events most affected by the consequences of Covid, first in May last year, then with the winter wave. In my imagination, Vicenza Jazz has remained for many years one of the most markedly ‘Vicenza’ events, loved by both connoisseurs and simple enthusiasts, who await it, like a family appointment. We have talked about it many times, in recent months, with Riccardo Brazzale and with Luca Trivellato: it was just time to leave ”.
“I like that Vicenza Jazz resumes in the summer – underlines the councilor for culture, Simona Siotto – in the greenery of Parco Querini and inside the Parco della Pace. I think they are good signs, which can go beyond music, together with foreigners, who even come from Scandinavia, and with many young people. I am sure that jazz will amaze us and will give us more desire to go beyond difficulties. It will be a great party, the return of jazz music to the city. And it will be a return to life and a joyful normality, built on cultural events that give recognition and credit to Vicenza, the one we are working for, all together ”continues the President of the Teatro Comunale di Vicenza Foundation, Enrico Hüllweck.
“We could not imagine another year without the jazzfest”, Luca Trivellato is keen to say “I believe that in this 25th edition there is a lot of the essence of our festival: the will to look for new ways, open up to new things and sounds, seek contamination with other music and other artistic experiences. Based on these basic ideas, it is very easy to be in tune with Riccardo’s choices.
For the first four days of the festival, Vicenza was an outpost of the Norwegian music scene, with its epicenter in an at least singular place: the hangar of Parco della Pace, finally open to the public, also with various surprises revealed between in July. Scandinavia has always been a land receptive to African American music, in all its historical expressions, from classic style to swing, bop and its evolutions. The local scene did not take long to take possession of the jazz vocabulary and, for several decades now, it has integrated it into its Nordic sensibility. Improvisation and jazz forms have thus merged with clear sounds and thematic contents with an extremely idiomatic cantability. And a thriving underground scene overwhelmingly devoted to modernism and sound technology has joined the acoustic mainstream.
In four concerts, Vicenza Jazz 2021 was to capture all these different expressions, importing them directly from Norway: trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær is the standard-bearer of a high-tech nu-jazz (1 July, Hangar Parco della Pace); the saxophonist Trygve Seim with his “Helsinki Song” proves heir to the more suave style of Jan Garbarek (the 2nd, Teatro Comunale, in an evening that also saw the final of the Olimpico Jazz Contest, with Giovanni Fochesato, Michele Tino, Matteo Zecchi); the group of singer-songwriter Rebekka Bakken flaunted irresistible retro atmospheres (3, Hangar Parco della Pace); Red Kite bring together the most experimental experiences of jazz and seventies rock in a modern progressive jazz synthesis (4, Hangar Parco della Pace).
Like going through a customs of styles, the event moved away from the Norwegian sound fjords to arrive at the Land of the pianos. In the concentrated space of three evenings, some absolute stars of the modern jazz piano landed in Vicenza. The famous Gonzalo Rubalcaba arrived from Cuba (already protagonist of several and memorable appearances at the festival): this time he returned to face the dance rhythms of his land with a group co-directed together with the vocalist Aymée Nuviola (5 July, Parco Querini). On the 6th (again at Parco Querini) there was another long-awaited return, that of Brad Mehldau: after the standing ovation received with his trio in the 2016 edition of the festival, he performed in a solo piano in which his lyrical vein and the penetrating repertoire choices reached the maximum concentration and power of suggestion. On the 7th, the Olympic Theater hosted Fred Hersch, who boasts many attractions: he is one of the most sensitive interpreters of his generation, one of the few to transform post bop into poetry; he is also Mehldau’s master and reference model; he also played with a trio of wonders (with Drew Gress on bass and Joey Baron on drums).
Electric vs acoustic
The queue of the festival was under high voltage. Literally, given the electric sounds that dominated the concerts of the band of Mark Lettieri, reference guitarist at the Snarky Puppy court (8, Giardino di Santa Corona), and the intriguing homage to David Bowie’s music created by trumpeter Paolo Fresu , who for the occasion presented himself at the helm of a team with a surprising cast with, among others, Petra Magoni, Filippo Vignato and Christian Meyer (9, Parco Querini). A complete change of sound paradigm took place with the final event of the festival: the quartet of drummer Antonio Sanchez, an all-star with some of the best exponents of the so-called American modern mainstream with an unusual acoustic instrumental mix, with the saxes of Donny McCaslin and Miguel Zenon and Scott Colley’s bass (10, Parco Querini).
Jazz in the afternoon
Despite an edition with an inevitably atypical program, Vicenza Jazz did not give up on creating a particularly dense outline of live proposals in support of prime time concerts. Italian jazz, with interesting foreign ‘infiltrations’, found ample space in the afternoon programming. Starting from the “in residence” project of the guitarist Francesco Zampini (May 3, Palazzo Leoni Montanari, combined with Dante’s “Poetry Vicenza” celebrations), the event continued with the solo of the more than promising violinist Anais Drago (also on the 3rd at Palazzo Chiericati and then in the hall of the Palladian Basilica); the quintet co-directed with a very expert hand by trumpeter Alex Sipiagin and guitarist Michele Calgaro featuring Robert Bonisolo (2nd, Giardino di Santa Corona); the vibrant percussive crosses of the drummer Hamid Drake in duo with the vibraphonist Pasquale Mirra (4, Giardino del Teatro Olimpico); the free and convivial spirit that springs from the meeting between Flavio Boltro’s trumpet and his “friends” (4th, Garden of Santa Corona); the tribute to Pink Floyd by singer Kathya West together with pianist Alberto Dipace and bassist Danilo Gallo (5, Palazzo Chiericati); the meeting of the trio of clarinetist Federico Benedetti with the elegant sounds of a string quartet (9, Palazzo Chiericati); the ecstatic reinterpretation of “A Love Supreme” proposed by saxophonist Gavino Murgia with Fabio Giachino on the pipe organ (10, Temple of San Lorenzo, with the projection of photos by Pino Ninfa, on a spiritual theme); the exploration of the music of the visionary Hermeto Pascoal by the Barga Jazz Ensemble, arranged by the baritoneist Rossano Emili (10, Giardino del Teatro Olimpico).
An unmissable presence at the festival was then the large formation of the Vicenza Choir and Orchestra which, under the direction of Giuliano Fracasso, performed the “Missa Criolla” at the Hangar Parco della Pace (on the morning of the 4th), in a liturgical celebration “outside door”.
In reality, as always happened at Vicenza Jazz, the opportunities for music and “close” to music, during the festival, were many: from those related to food (after all, the real link between Vicenza and Norway is called “cod “), Books (with the presentation of the new History of Jazz published by Hoepli, with copies signed by the authors), films (in conjunction with the opening of the” Cinema sotto le Stelle “at the Cloisters of S. Corona), many clubs that, in compliance with the rules with which we have learned to live in the last year and a half, resumed making music with a novelty that promises to be very welcome for managers and traders: the SIAE fees offered by the historic co-producer of the festival, Drilled Mercedes Benz, also directly involved with the prizes for the young winners of the first edition of the OJC, the Olimpico Jazz Contest, reserved this year for saxophonists.