Further Thoughts on the Ljubljana Jazz Festival

I have written a fairly full review of the Ljubljana Jazz Festival on the London Jazz News website, which you can access here.  In this short blog I would like to add a few points.

Ljubljana is a beautiful city full of wonderful Art Nouveau buildings as well as an Old Medieval Town.  A day exploring the city followed by an evening of great music is a perfect way of getting to know that city.

I was very interested in and impressed by the use of the garden outside the main Cankarjev Dom venue with two stages, the main stage and the smaller ‘stage by the old tree’.  There is a tendency in many festivals to concentrate in the outdoor programme on crowd pleasing bands that are not going to scare anyone off.  In Ljubljana the outdoor stages were used to present a whole range of music from free music, e.g. the band Lore with Slovenian, Italian and French members through piano trios, e.g. December Soul, Rok Zalokar’s Port Songs and Bowrain, to the jazz soul of the Norwegian group Rohey.  Also impressive were the short sets by young

small stage Ljubljana
the small stage by the old tree

players as part of the Abeceda (ABCD) project on the so-called ‘stage by the old tree’ culminating in a spirited performance by all 25+ players on the closing day of the festival.

The festival is a showcase for a number of excellent Slovenian artists: for example, Bowrain played a haunting set with gentle electronics creating a lovely atmosphere as the sun was setting; pianist Rebeka Zajc played some fine solos in the set by the Ales Rendla Sextet, and drummer Zlatko Kaucic provided very creative backing for the

Zlatko Kaucic
Zlatko Kaucic

December Soul trio.  I was also fascinated by the focus on Balkan melodies by Vasco Atanasovski’s Melem with guest pianist Bojan Z in the final set of the festival.

The festival is, however, also a showcase for some of the most exciting bands in Europe.  The French/Belgian Hermia/Ceccaldi/Darrifourcq Trio, Austria’s Shake Stew, Finland’s Elifantree, Portugal’s L.U.M.E (Lisbon’s Underground Music Ensemble) and the Norwegian group Rohey all played strong and innovative sets.  It was good that there was one British band, Portico Quartet, who, as mentioned in my London Jazz News review, have moved back towards their original style.

Finally, as Lee Paterson has commented on Facebook, Dr. Francesco Martinelli’s lectures are a MUST!  In Ljubljana he talked of the influence of Islam and the Arabic language on jazz, talking of how the Saeta track on the Gil Evans/Miles Davis Sketches of Spain album is derived from the music of Holy Week in Andalucia and the influences of that music from Arab traditions.  He also went on to argue persuasively that certain vocabulary items key to jazz may well be derived from the Arabic or Arabic-influenced West African languages . Jam as in ‘to jam’ or ‘jam session’ may well be derived from the Arabic trilateral root J-M-ain which has the general meaning of ‘meeting’ or ‘coming together’.  Similarly, rag as in ‘ragtime’ may well be derived from the Arabic for dance ‘raqs’.  In Sarajevo last year I hear Dr. Martinelli talk about the influence on opera on early jazz, specifically Sidney Bechet’s version of Summertime and on Jelly Roll Morton’s piano playing.     

Photos presented with the permission of the photographer Nada Zgank.


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