GĂRÂNA Jazz Festival – Friday, July 7, 2023

GĂRÂNA Jazz Festival – Friday, July 7, 2023

XXVII. GĂRÂNA Jazz Festival, Gărâna, Romania, Friday, July 7th, 2023

Friday’s festival program returned to the established and proven concept from before Covid: noon concerts in the church in the nearby Văliug and a diverse evening series at the Wolf’s Meadow in Gărâna.

The first performance in the church belonged to a young jazz band 7th SENSE from Bucharest led by bassist Laura Benedek. In Valiugu, they were accompanied by Sergiu Bivol – trumpet, Lucas Contreras – guitar, Gabi Matei – drums. They convincingly presented their fresh jazz compositions with a distinct trumpet from last year’s debut album „Light In Chaos„. A very nice start to the Friday program.

The second Friday performance by the band Marquis Noir strongly resembled the style of Candy Dulfer, albeit purely instrumental. The elegant saxophonist Patricia Marchiș, in her sparkling pantsuit, was very well supported during her extended solos by Ioana Dîrvă on keyboards, David Vshayn on bass guitar, and Sebastian Arvai on drums. Especially the skillful bassist was brimming with ideas and energetically interacted with Patricia. A pleasant electrifying boost before lunchtime.

The evening festival program was supposed to begin with the Italian saxophonist Enzo Favata and his quartet, but the start was delayed several times because the vibraphone had not arrived – the traveller mistakenly went to a different airport. In the end, the organizers managed to rearrange the order of performers and find a replacement vibraphone. To entertain the waiting audience, a self-proclaimed guardian came to inspect the deserted stage, while there was plenty of time for discussions below the stage.

With considerable delay, we welcomed the duo Camille Bertault & David Helbock as the first on the stage. The very charming French singer Camille, accompanied by the excellent Austrian pianist David, quickly captured the attention of the patient audience with her inventive singing. In the middle of their concert, black clouds burst, as is customary in the hot summer in the Romanian mountains. However, most resilient spectators in raincoats remained in the audience and enthusiastically appreciated the inventive duets of both masterful musicians, who, in turn, incredulously praised the perseverance of the audience. I managed to endure the worst part of the storm on the right side of the stage, so most of the photos are from the same perspective. Despite the unfavourable weather, the voice-piano duo with an extraordinary level of invention from both musicians was an excellent start to the third evening of the festival.

Michal Kratochvíl: So far, everything at the festival was going smoothly, and miraculously, the weather favoured us, as storms were raging all around but not a drop fell over Garana during the first two days of the festival. However, that unfortunately changed on the third day, and along with flight delays and performers‘ luggage issues, the start of the program suddenly faced a two-hour delay. The audience in Garana, however, is not easily swayed by such minor setbacks, and most spectators are well-prepared for the whims of the weather. They pull out their raincoats and ponchos, while we timidly seek shelter under the roof. We managed to do so just in time before a heavy downpour began. Camille and David were already on the stage, and I was curious how it would turn out on such a large stage. Unfortunately, I couldn’t enjoy the concert as much, precisely due to seeking shelter under the roof and then watching from a distance. However, the setlist was quite similar to their recent performance in Prague, which I can calmly refer you to.

After a substantial storm, the long-awaited Italian quartet of Enzo Favata took the stage of the once again damp Wolf’s Meadow. The highly curated project „The Crossing“ showcased Enzo Favata on soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, and electronics, Pasquale Mirra on vibraphone, midi marimba, and percussion, Simone Graziano on piano, Fender Rhodes, synthesizer, and Marco Frattini on drums. The remarkably intriguing jazz music from Italy greatly resonated with us and uplifted our spirits. The presented „The Crossing“ project was an engaging journey through space and time, where intricate layers and themes intertwined. An excellently performed show by these experienced Italian jazz musicians.

Michal Kratochvíl: Next in the program was Enzo Favata, the unfortunate one for whom a vibraphone had to be hastily brought in from Timișoara (referring to the delay mentioned at the beginning). I was greatly looking forward to his presentation of the album „The Crossing“ because I hadn’t known about it before the festival. When I listened to it, I was thrilled. Fortunately, my expectations were met, and it was truly fantastic even in a live performance. The music had a strong impact right from the start and sounded quite original and innovative. The drums in most of the compositions provide a powerful foundation, over which solos or the band’s interplay take place. Enzo also occasionally plays with electronics, and when he takes my favourite bass clarinet into his hands and mouth, everything seems to be in perfect order. Even the weather improved, adding to the enjoyment of the concert. The compositions gradually build from the ground up, allowing them to swell and intensify until they reach an ecstatic climax. A highly successful performance!

The Romanian trio JazzyBIT, consisting of Teodor Pop on piano and keyboard instruments, Mihai Moldoveanu on bass guitar, and Szabó Csongor-Zsolt on drums, then presented their energetic combination of jazz and rock, sprinkled at times with blues, Latin, and funk. Their „loud jazz“ sounded partially like if Hiromi played with Snarky Puppy, but as a trio. The successful final blues with the familiar „Smoke on the Water“ can be found in the video excerpt starting from 06:50. A well-executed fusion vibe that marked the peak of the evening.

Michal Kratochvíl: JazzyBIT is an enjoyable trio from Timișoara, which recently performed at JazzDock as well. At Garana, they took the stage to present their still current album, „Drive„. Their lively fusion moments with space for serene (at times even romantic) piano, contrasting against dense electric bass, are the hallmark attributes of their music. At times, it even ventures into pleasantly uncomplicated rock or suddenly breaks into Latin rhythms. Overall, it’s quite a pleasant listening experience, though nothing overly groundbreaking or revolutionary. Unfortunately, there was an awkward part of the concert where they attempted to engage the audience in singing along (which didn’t quite succeed), momentarily causing the performance to lose its momentum. Fortunately, they managed to lift the quality again with a successful blues segment, and in the end, even included a snippet from „Smoke on the Water“ and other rock classics.

The last super band of Friday evening, Per Mathisen & Jan Gunnar Hoff feat. Nguyên Lê & Gary Husband, fully met the expectations of an exceptional fusion concert. Norwegian „BASS VIKING“ Per Mathisen assembled this powerful quartet with his long-time musical collaborator, Norwegian keyboardist Jan Gunnar Hoff, the exceptional French guitarist of Vietnamese heritage Nguyên Lê, and the living legend Englishman Gary Husband on drums. This European star-studded lineup presented music ranging from lyrical acoustic landscapes to high-tension rock jazz. All four musicians convincingly showcased their individual virtuosic abilities, and their interplay was captivating and explosive, as seen in the video excerpt below.

Michal Kratochvíl: After midnight, as well as the high anticipation for the Per Mathisen supergroup, an unpleasantly creeping chill began to infiltrate the festival grounds. Fortunately, this music managed to invigorate us and the high-energy band met all my expectations. Per introduced his supergroup and began the performance with the double bass. Before our eyes, a masterful fusion showcase unfolded in its highest quality. Excellent solos from all participants, driven forward by the energetic Gary on drums, each had room to shine while contributing to a cohesive whole. Per is clearly the leader of the band, guiding changes. After two songs, he takes up the bass and the royal journey continues. These musicians fear no genre, as they demonstrated in pieces like Hans Zimmer’s „Now We Are Free“ or when Per unexpectedly invited us to dance in the pumped-up version of Michael Jackson’s „Off the Wall„. Masters of their craft showcased their talents in a royal manner, and the evening couldn’t have ended better. Bravo!