Euro-jazz festival open to all

For the third year running, the Athens Municipality will host its European Jazz Festival in Athens, a four-day event with continental jazz acts for the populace. The event, which seems to be gradually developing into a yearly staple for the capital, will feature 14 acts from as many European Union member states, some formidable on their domestic circuits and beyond. There will be no «tele-voting» procedures from the living room couch, nor competition at this European jazz event. Instead, concertgoers are invited to attend and enjoy the music and outdoor social interaction offered by a festival with an open-door policy between this Thursday and Sunday. Organized by the European Union state holding the EU’s six-month rotating presidency – Greece this time around – the event will be held at its customary grounds, the open-air Technopolis venue (100 Pireos) in the downtown Gazi district. The schedule will feature four acts on each of the first three days, and a further two on the final day, as well as an anything-goes jam session to be joined by willing members of the various acts in the festival’s finale. Entertainment on all four days will run from 8 p.m. until midnight. On opening night, the Athens Municipality’s Big Band will open proceedings an hour earlier, at 7 p.m., before the evening’s four acts, from Austria, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain, in that order, each perform one-hour sets. Italy’s representative, Marco Zurzolo and Banda M.V.M., from Naples, play fusion written by frontman Zurzolo, a saxophonist. In his work to date, Zurzolo has been blending Arabic music with traditional rhythms from his hometown, as well as Balkan and Spanish elements into his fused jazz form. Zurzolo and his band will be preceded by Sax4You, a saxophone quartet from Austria formed a little over two years ago by musicians with backgrounds in various other acts. Together, they play numbers inflected with swing, rag and blues. Luxembourg’s Largo, a quintet, is led by a prolific trumpeter, Gast Waltzing, who has put out 10 albums of work and whose stylistic leanings range from jazz to classical, with touches of dance beats occasionally thrown in for something modern. Day No. 1 will end with Spain’s Gorka Benitez Trio, whose frontman, Benitez, a saxophonist, is considered to be one of his country’s leading jazz players. His last two albums, «Fabou» and «Gorka Benitez Trio,» were well received at home. The following day will open with two Scandinavian acts, beginning with the Arne Forchhammer Trio from Denmark, giving over to a Swedish act, the Fredrik Nordstrom Special Quartet. The Danish trio, a modern-jazz act, active and much loved at home, have performed at foreign events on numerous occasions. The Swedish act is fronted by a 29-year-old sax player and composer who is considered one of his country’s brighter jazz prospects. The young band leader has invited an influential figure in Swedish jazz, pianist Bobo Stenson, to join his combo for its Athens performance. The UK’s contribution to the festival, Greek Warriors, will in fact be dominated by local players, as the band’s name implies. Ten budding Greek musicians will be fronted by two internationally respected British jazz artists, the saxophonist Jason Yarde and trumpeter Sean Corby. Both hail from the ranks of the popular British Jamaican collective Jazz Jamaica, which brought its delightful, upbeat reggae-ska-jazz sounds to the Greek capital several seasons ago. Corby and Yarde will front the Greek 10-piece band, comprising mostly young Greek musicians who participated in a British Council-sponsored educational program dubbed «Tomorrow’s Warriors» for compositions written by the two Brits. Friday will close with La Campagnie des Musique a Oiur, a French trio combining the rawness of a self-taught percussionist with the work of two trained saxophonists who learned their craft at Paris’s advanced conservatory. Together, the trio compose works of popular French tunes in free-jazz mode with blues and funk injections. Saturday’s entertainment will open with the Irish act Guilfoyle/Nielsen Trio, an established band on the country’s domestic circuit which formed 15 years ago. Besides the customary European and American routes, the act’s extensive touring has also taken it to more exotic destinations, such as China and India. A tightly knit, violin-led Finnish act, the Antti Heermann Quartet, which plays mostly original material written collectively by its members, will follow on Saturday. Violinist Antti Heermann has been named his country’s best jazz violinist by critics on four occasions. Also on Saturday, the Dutch Yuri Honing Trio, formed in 1990, is one of the more popular younger jazz acts in the Netherlands. The group’s innovative players includes a non-conventional double bassist, Tony Overwater, who extracts sound from the entire instrument, not just its strings. Germany’s Manffred Leuchter, an accordionist, will perform Arabic-inflected work with his Arabesqeue orchestra, as Saturday’s finale. The final day, Sunday, will open with a Belgian trio, the Erik Vermeulen Trio, whose frontman is a key jazz figure at home. Greece’s contribution, the Minas Alexiadis Quartet, a quartet of heavily schooled players, will follow for an hour before offering the stage for a two-hour jam session as the event’s finale. The local Jazz&Jazz magazine has compiled tracks by most of the participating acts for a CD available with its current edition.

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