GĂRÂNA Jazz Festival – Wednesday, July 5, 2023

GĂRÂNA Jazz Festival – Wednesday, July 5, 2023

XXVII. GĂRÂNA Jazz Festival, Gărâna, Romania, Wednesday, July 5th, 2023

This year’s XXVII. GĂRÂNA Jazz Festival offered an unprecedented showcase of primarily European jazz over five evenings, or rather nights, at the Wolf’s Meadow near the mountain village of Gărâna in the Semenic Cheile-Carasului National Park. Led by experienced organizers, with Marius Giura at the helm, they managed to assemble a highly attractive program, traditionally and uniquely introduced by jazz connoisseur Florian Lungu. Moreover, three double concerts in the nearby Văliugu church were a welcome addition to the program.

After an exceptionally heavy downpour on Tuesday, where the roads to Gărâna turned into streams that often concealed treacherous road potholes, the Wolf’s Meadow, the festival’s traditional venue, was thoroughly waterlogged. Water stood among the logs meant for seating, and mud of varying depths with each step intensified the extraordinary festival experience. At the entrance, a captivating black and white display greeted us, showcasing all the festival performers from its inaugural year in 1998.

Organizers occasionally change the order of the announced festival program unexpectedly, based on circumstances and the artists‘ preferences. Thus, the surprisingly first performing band was Marcin Wasilewski Trio, one of the brightest stars of the Polish jazz scene. The trio consists of pianist Marcin Wasilewski, bassist Sławomir Kurkiewicz, and drummer Michał Miśkiewicz. Their more than 30 years of playing together, especially alongside Tomasz Stanko, has contributed to their exceptional synergy, which they excellently showcased in Gărâna through their own compositions, primarily from their latest album „En attendant.“ A highly successful opening for the first evening of the festival, dedicated exclusively to Polish jazz!

Michal Kratochvíl: Marcin Wasilewski brought his trio to Gărâna, delivering exquisite and profound Polish jazz, expertly launching this year’s festival. One of the compositions was introduced by Marcin with a brief piano immersion, followed by the rest of the trio joining in, weaving intricate threads of another beautiful piece that gently sailed over the festival area, which had been turned muddy by previous intense storms. The beautiful sound resonated majestically throughout the space. The players‘ telepathic connection and their seamless interaction, both during solos and accompaniment, are truly exceptional, making it evident that we were witnessing a masterful concert. And when they pushed a bit harder, cries of enthusiasm erupted from the audience! This enthusiasm also swept over me, and I’m delighted for such a beautiful festival opening. Compositions came directly from Marcin as well as some from Tomasz Stańko.

The second representative of the Polish evening in Gărâna was the outstanding pianist and composer Leszek Możdżer, the greatest discovery of Polish jazz in recent decades. His solo concert began unusually with the accompaniment of an amplified metronome. Leszek’s virtuosity and passion in interpreting his own repertoire were truly captivating, and he also introduced themes from Frédéric Chopin, Krzysztof Komeda, and others. The smooth interweaving of sound aesthetics and the blending of classical music culture with the openness and energy of jazz, along with his sparkling and technically unparalleled playing style, completely enthralled us. For me, it was clearly the best performance of the first three days of the festival.

Michal Kratochvíl: During his solo performance, Leszek drew from the treasures created during his collaboration with Lars Danielsson, but he also wasn’t afraid to embrace Chopin or find inspiration in Romanian folklore, all to the delight of the local audience. In virtuosic execution, pieces like „It’s Easy with You“ or „Liberetto“ resonated beautifully. He also paid tribute to Krzysztof Komeda by selecting the hauntingly beautiful composition „Sleep Safe and Warm“ from the film „Rosemary’s Baby.“ Leszek truly warmed up to a fantastic performance and mentioned several times the exceptional nature of the Gărâna festival and his joy at being invited again. He revelled in the muted strings, achieving many intriguing effects, and his at times frenzied playing with the right hand brought the audience to ecstasy. This captivating performance was a clear testament for me that a solo piano concert can thoroughly captivate me as well!

The third Polish band of the opening festival evening, Marcin Pater Trio, consisting of Marcin Pater on vibraphone, Mateusz Szewczyk on double bass and electric bass, and Adam Wajdzik on drums, confidently launched into their purely original compositions drawing inspiration from jazz, jazz-rock, and fusion music. The band’s unique sound is crafted through the combination of the acoustic vibraphone with alternating electric bass guitar and acoustic double bass, accompanied by energetic drums. Particularly, the virtuoso Marcin Pater exuberantly shared joy and energy with the experienced audience through his extensive solo performances. A dignified conclusion to the evening of Polish jazz in Gărâna.

Michal Kratochvíl: To conclude the night, a trio adorned with numerous awards and a still-young hope on the Polish jazz scene presented themselves. However, Marcin Pater Trio is far from being inexperienced newcomers, and they confidently handled the role of the evening’s closing band after such excellent performances. They brought an incredible energy and a pumped-up performance to Gărâna, as is their custom. I might add that I might have grown a bit accustomed to them, having seen them for the fourth time in the last two years, but no. Their energy simply swept me away again, and it was impossible not to connect with that current. And indeed, they earned a standing ovation from the appreciative local audience just before midnight! They played from both of their previously released albums, perhaps only a pity that Leszek didn’t join them as a guest, especially since he contributed significantly to their second album „Between.“ I had kind of expected that, but I certainly wasn’t disappointed by the concert!