Outdoor European jazz festival now a regular summer feature

A hit introduction to the capital’s summertime open-air entertainment several years ago, the European Jazz Festival returns for its eighth edition between May 28 and June 1 at its customary ground, the Technopolis complex in the Gazi district. No doubt the festival’s free entrance policy, combined with the surprisingly low prices, for Athenian standards, of food, beer and drinks – especially outside the venue where vendors offering grilled meat and drinks straight from coolers jostle for business – has been a prime reason behind its ability to consistently draw hefty crowds. But affordability aside, the festival, which is organized and funded by the City of Athens, offers decent music from mostly emerging acts hailing from various parts of Europe. Fifteen acts from as many European Union countries will be taking part in this year’s festival, a five-day event. On opening night, a Wednesday, the Athens Municipality Big Band will get the event rolling with a one-hour set scheduled for 8 p.m. The imported entertainment begins immediately after that with Makiato, a quintet from the northern part of Slovenia. An ethnic jazz-fusion band that has been active for a little over a decade, the combo has released two albums to date. Makiato, which enjoyed a solid year in 2007 with a number of appearances at festivals and clubs around Europe, will be performing here shortly before the release of its third album. The evening will continue with Sascha Ley & Her Traveling Light Band from Luxembourg. The act’s one album to date, released last year, generated favorable reviews. Opening night ends with a Belgian band, The Wrong Object, a fusion quintet with a penchant for blending modern jazz, rock, and electronic sounds. Influences include Soft Machine, Gong, Bela Bartok, Amon Tobin, Charlie Mingus and Frank Zappa. Thursday, May 29, opens with an Estonian duet, Duo Tuule Kann-Jaak Sooaar, on lyra, electric guitar and vocals. They released a debut album, «Beauty of the Evening,» last year. The Apostolis Anthimos Trio from Poland, a regular on the European jazz circuit since forming in 2002, follows. A Portuguese act, Andre Fernandes 4Tet, which is led by a gifted 30-year-old guitarist, tops off the entertainment. The agenda for Friday, May 30 opens with a Danish act, the Deodato Siquir Trio, which is led by a Mozambican drummer-vocalist who migrated to the Scandinavian region in 2001 as a 26-year-old. The trio’s work carries heavy influences from the frontman’s native land. A Dutch quintet, The Erik Ineke JazzXpress group, which was formed in 2006 and quickly released a debut album, «Flames’n’Fire,» is the evening’s second band. May 30 ends with a drum-and-vocal duo from Sweden comprising Andreas Werliin and Mariam Wallentin. Their work includes pop, rock and blues elements. Saturday, May 31 opens with a Spanish quartet from Barcelona, 12Twelve. Formed a decade ago, they have delved into a variety of styles and approaches, from improvisation, 30s music, funk, even krautrock from the 70s. The Ondrej Pivec Organic Quartet from the Czech Republic, which won a prestigious domestic jazz and blues category award in 2006, impressed with its first album, «Don’t Get Ideas,» which was released that year. The quartet has proven prolific with two more albums, last year and just a few months ago. The evening ends with the festival’s Greek entry, Eiristho en Parodo, a sextet that was formed in 2005 with the ambitious objective of fusing jazz and traditional tunes. Closing night, Sunday, June 1, gets under way with Jacoustic Inc from Austria, a quartet influenced by figures such as Gary Burton and Chick Corea. Finland’s Sami Linna Quartet, which follows, includes two musicians who appeared on an album released by Giorgos Kontrafouris, a Helsinki-based Greek jazz musician, last year. The festival ends with Hungary’s The Harcsa Veronica Quartet, formed by Veronica, the band’s vocalist, in 2005. Veronica was awarded the Budapest Fringe’s Best Voice award last year. The act, which has performed at various international festivals, has released two albums to date. On all days shows start at 9 p.m. and end at midnight.