25th GARANA Jazz Festival – Friday 9.7.2021

GARANA Jazz Festival, Garana, Romania, Friday 9 July 2021

The first two festival concerts at the Wolf’s Meadow in Garana had us excited, so we were looking forward to a varied program on Friday.

The opening of the evening belonged to the young Polish band Miłosz Bazarnik Trio, consisting of pianist Miłosz Bazarnik, bassist Mikołaj Sikora and drummer Liliana Zieniawa. Their music, inspired by Scandinavian jazz, especially the work of the Swedish Esbjörn Svensson Trio, was meant to be a tribute to this extraordinary pianist.

Perhaps the reader will forgive, it was not a great tribute to Esbjörn in Garana. Very calm, bland jazz without energy.

Michal Kratochvíl: The announced tribute to the sound of E.S.T. got me quite excited for the performance of these young Poles. Unfortunately, this band was only in the numbers at the festival and was probably the only one whose set I didn’t really enjoy. Boring, shallow jazz without any invention, which failed to appeal to me.

A completely different show was given by the very lively Italian Francesco Bearzatti Tinissima Quartet in their project Zorro. This was a dare, as it should be. The two soloists Francesco Bearzatti – sax, clarinet, flute and Giovani Falzone – trumpet were outdone and outclassed in their riveting solos. Danilo Gallo – bass and Marco D’Orlando – drums provided the thick rhythmic rhythm. Their experimental rendition of the legendary figure was very well done and brought great pleasure to all involved.

Michal Kratochvíl: Fortunately, things started happening right after the Poles’ failed performance. The Italians took the stage and started the story of Zorro in their own way. The theatrical performance had a tremendous response and unexpected energy. It was somehow unrelieved in an Italian way, almost frantic at times, and I bloody loved it. We were introduced to all the songs at the beginning and then the music was played without any unnecessary delays. At times the avant-garde feel of the songs, the saxophone and trumpet soloing at once, the frantic backing of drums and bass. I found the musical treatment of this legend very personal and entertaining. A proper strong story requires different kinds of moods and the Italians showed that they can slow down and cut a moving and touching track as well. Drama as it should be! Then again, we found ourselves back at a rather rock concert, some proper earthy drums and soloists blending over them made for a proper sultry atmosphere. A hugely varied performance, with something always going on and the listener could expect a surprise every now and then. Another great discovery at this festival.

The third performance on Friday clearly confirmed the words of its main character Eivin Aarset: “A concert is a collective experience in which musicians and audience create and realize an exchange of energy.” The Norwegian trio Eivind Aarset Band, consisting of Eivind Aarset – electric guitar, electronics, Audun Erlien – bass, Erland Dahlen – drums, percussion, Sven Persson – sound, brought their unique musical vision to Garana, using the energy and willingness of the audience to listen to them to create music on the spot and transform it into a group masterpiece.

A clear highlight of Friday night!

Michal Kratochvíl: For this performance it was necessary to wait for darkness, because in the daytime this electric trip would not have stood out as it should. The great dramaturgy of the festival did not disappoint and after a long time of setting up and sounding all sorts of boxes and effects, which are abundantly represented in the music of these brilliant Norwegians, another of the highlights of the 25th anniversary edition of Garana Jazz Fest could begin. Eivind Aarset’s effects on the guitar create backgrounds and surfaces that give room for atmosphere building. A decent rock start to the concert sets the bar really high from the first notes and it doesn’t let up for a moment. What I admire about this music is how bravura the musicians can work with the atmosphere, dynamics and gradations of their songs. They go from calm to an excited state, then they seem to turn it all off again, and play with us like a cat and mouse. It works wonderfully and the audience is eating out of their hand. The multiple sound effects add colour to the band’s delivery, many times you wouldn’t even be able to identify that Eivind is playing guitar. The bass has a driving sound and the dense backing is complemented by the precise drumming of Erland Dahlen, who cut a double bill that night as he then played with Nils Petter Molvær. I completely succumbed to the magic of this music and it really is irresistible live.

The Norwegian-Swedish Nils Petter Molvær Band gave an excellent midnight ending to the third concert in Garana. The trio of musicians Nils Petter Molvær – trumpet, Jo Berger Myhre – bass and Erland Dahlen – drums, percussion in the intense light created quite naturally soundscapes of deep intensity, using musical devices of different genres with incredible ease. Listening to Nils Petter Molvær, one often forgets that he is actually playing the trumpet.

A beautiful end to a third successful evening at the Wolf’s Meadow.

Michal Kratochvíl: As I mentioned above, the drums didn’t change, so it didn’t take much time to rebuild the stage and Nils Petter Molvær could come in. It continued in a similar vein of electric jazz with a Nordic flavour that this pioneer of the genre helped define. Perhaps only now there wasn’t so much pressure and it was more of a chillout, perfect for the end of this nourishing day. Nils constantly modulates the sound of the trumpet, also using various effects, much like Eivind on guitar before him. The only thing that perhaps momentarily bummed me out is that he and Eivind didn’t cut something together, but that would have actually been the third gig of the festival for him.

A beautiful experience duly prepared us for a well-deserved sleep.