GARANA Jazz Festival, Garana, Romania, Thursday, July 8, 2021
After the opening concert of the 25th anniversary GARANA JazzFest, we were immodestly expecting a second, similar, if possible even more interesting musical experience. Once again, the organizers aptly changed the order of four bands from four continents, which literally exceeded our expectations.
The first act, the Gaia Cuatro Quartet, consisting of Aska Kaneko – violin, vocals, Gerardo Di Giusto – piano, Carlos Buschini – bass and Tomohiro Yahiro – drums can simply be described as a surprising meeting of Argentina and Japan on the borders of jazz. The hot and intense character of Argentine music mixed with the sophistication of traditional Japanese music drives this exceptional foursome.
The exquisite virtuosity of violinist Asky Kaneko was accompanied by the sophisticated and colorful compositions of pianist Gerardo Di Giusto. Rhythms created and woven as a conversation between bassist Carlos Buschini and drummer Yahiro Tomohiro were perfectly matched with the other half of the quartet. The quartet of musicians took artistic improvisation to a whole new level, outside of all predictable formulas.
The first very powerful experience of the evening!
Michal Kratochvíl: This Argentinian-Japanese group was probably the biggest and best surprise of the whole festival for me. However, the seemingly disparate quartet builds on this contrast and the combination of two seemingly different worlds and proves that music transcends all boundaries. I hadn’t heard of Gaia Cuatro at all before Garana, but after this concert I’ve become an enthusiastic fan and I want you all to give it a listen. Asky Kaneko’s interesting vocal delivery added juice and color to the concert, as did her violin playing. She sang the melodies in a very novel way and all together it sounded divine. Although I was betting on a different horse on the day, I wondered after this concert if we had experienced an early highlight of the day.
The Italian-French Antonio Faraò Electric Trio launched their performance into full swing, thanks to an extremely energetic drummer who quickly went into several minutes of ecstasy. The highly sensitive pianist Antonio Faraò with a remarkable talent for melodic improvisation was joined in Garana by Federico Malaman – electric bass and Yoann Schmidt – drums. His style is unique: flawless technical skill, unbridled creativity and exciting vitality.
A very impressive continuation of the second evening.
Michal Kratochvíl: As I found out, Antonio has already played with some top musicians. However, his name has remained a mystery to me so far and it’s a pity. This was one hell of an electric ride that made me think of Pino Jodice’s bravura concert with Blewitt in Timișoara. Opening with a blast of (Used To Be A) Cha Cha by Jaco himself, they thoroughly blew the hot air in the Garana until they attracted another in a series of uninvited guests to the stage. Suddenly a dog appeared, as it had the previous day. Moments like that only highlight the uniqueness and atmosphere of this great festival. During the concert they didn’t take their foot off the gas and kept going at a frantic pace and since the audience reaction was appropriately warm, they were even allowed an encore. Already the second discovery of the day. And the best was yet to come.
The main attraction of the evening for perhaps 2,000 eager spectators was Sounds of Mirrors, the latest project of Tunisian oud master Dhafer Youssef, who was accompanied in Garana by frenetic Italian saxophonist Raffaele Casarano, lively Brazilian percussionist Adriano Dos Santos and Norwegian electronic wizard Eivind Aarset in the background. Dhafer attuned the audience with his calm, incredibly expressive vocals to make the most of the first powerful wave and then many more waves of his rhythmic music based on the oriental tradition with influences from jazz, world music and electronic music. Sounds of Mirrors was an ode to friendship and brotherhood in Garana. It was clearly discernible how much the musicians are kindred spirits that reflect each other, hence the project’s name: Sounds of Mirrors.
An extraordinary experience, definitely the best concert of the first two nights at the Wolf’s Meadow!
Michal Kratochvíl: It is difficult to describe this performance in words. It started with a magical intro when Dhafer Youssef introduced us to his mesmerizing voice. The whole band was unconventionally supported from behind by guitar wizard Eivind Aarset, saxophonist Raffaele Casarano was on one side and on the other side was a wall of drums and percussion by Adrian Dos Santos. Dhafer Youssef, who is clearly the front man of the project, whether he is singing or playing oud or conducting everything appropriately, has a large space reserved in the middle. He thoroughly enjoyed interacting and collaborating with everyone involved, constantly moving around the stage and oozing energy. Repeated motifs created hypnotic patterns to which the audience reacted tumultuously and let themselves be carried away by them. The whole festival cauldron was boiling and almost everyone in the audience was in raptures. Bravo!
Long after midnight came the Slovenian Vasko Atanasovski Quartet consisting of Vasko Atanasovski – sax, flute, Ariel Vei Atanasovski – guitar, Marko Korošec – bass, Marjan Stanić – drums. A very pleasant surprise, Ariel’s son’s imaginative compositions were interpreted convincingly by the quartet with great enthusiasm.
A beautiful end to the second excellent concert at the Wolf’s Meadow!
Michal Kratochvíl: And that was not all. After such a great previous concert, one would think that it’s time to go to sleep, that nothing better can come anyway. Many visitors did so, but we persevered and were rewarded with a very beautiful performance at the end of the second day of the festival. Vasko didn’t shy away from playing at the end of the evening and performed his Balkan-infused jazz with a great deal of enthusiasm. His affective speech and at times smiling dances, virtuoso playing on flute, clarinet, alto or tenor saxophone left no one left in doubt that we were witnessing another amazing performance. The quartet included Vasko’s son, Ariel, who played really fantastic. And he says he only plays guitar in his spare time, as he mainly plays cello. Beautiful melodies, intense expression, interesting rhythms and animal solos all graced this concert. This was a dream day. We fell asleep beautifully after such a rich experience!