Exploring Iberia - Südtirol Jazzfestival Alto Adige 2019

‘Sketches of Spain’: avantgarde music from Portugal and plenty of new stages. Between 28 June and 7 July, the Südtirol Jazzfestival will be playing across an entire region.

‘All across the chain of the Pyrenees, granite exploded, the rifts increased greatly, streets became riven all at once, and rivers, brooks, and waterfalls dived underground,’ is how Portuguese novelist José Saramago described what happens in his ‘fantastical’ novel, The Stone Raft, when the Pyrenees suddenly rise and the Iberian peninsula is driven out into the Atlantic like a small continent swimming away from mainland. It doesn’t have to go that far with us, even in music: the Südtirol Jazzfestival 2019 ties Portugal and Spain, both border countries in the West, to the central European Alpine region, bringing the cosmopolitan ‘Iberian’ scene into the limelight as part of the festival’s yearly country focus. Between 28 June and 7 July, a good 58 concerts will take place across the region and around 50 musicians will be travelling this summer from Spain and Portugal to perform in the Alps.
The opening ceremony at the Casa della Cultura ‘Walther von der Vogelweide’, one of the Festival’s traditional stages, will see the colourful ‘Iberian Connection’ taking to the stage for the first time. This overture represents the preface behind the programmes’ entire leitmotif. The ‘Iberian’ highlight is one of the main themes, together with the uniqueness of many concerts, their experimental nature, the melding of music into an Alpine ‘epicurean’ landscape or the comeback of bands and solo musicians who performed in South Tyrol over the last few years. These artists include the likes of Reinier Baas and Joris Roelofs (The Netherlands), French voice acrobat Leïla Martial and her ‘Baa Box’ trio, guitarist and band leader Francesco Diodati from Italy or the four members of the young Viennese avantgarde combo ‘Kompost 3’.
On 28 June, pianist Marco Mezquida will kick off the exclusive opening ceremony which will feature 14 musicians from Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands and Mexico. Mezquida is a star from the young Spanish jazz scene and was chosen as ‘Musician of the Year’ four times over the course of five years by the Asociación de Músicos de Jazz y Moderna in Catalonia. In South Tyrol he will be performing at the opening concert as well as at other four events: his concert at the Lago di Costalovara focuses on the moon’s influence on popular music; at the Castel d’Appiano – which debuts as a stage – he’ll be performing together with flamenco guitarist Juan Gómez ‘Chicuelo’; at the Museion, he’ll be playing with his trio, ‘Ravel’s Dreams’, and reinterpreting the ‘classics’ written by the French composer; and in the Pacher Hof vineyard in the Valle Isarco the audience can treat themselves to his solo performance.
Pedro Melo Alves is a drummer from Porto, the port city in Portugal, and represents a musical generation that boldly sets sail for new musical shores. In Bolzano, Pedro Melo Alves will perform in five concerts featuring different players: melodic prog-rock springs forth from his joint performance with the ‘Catacombe’ quartet, while he links ‘free’ and sheet music with the sound of electroacoustic piano trio ‘Symph’; his appearance with the ‘Rite of Trio’ delivers a mix of non-conformist post-rock, punk, and jazz, and he creates improvised chamber music with guitarist Pedro Branco. At the NOI Techpark we’ll get to hear the world premiere of his new ensemble, ‘In Igma’, featuring Beatriz Nunes, who took over the position of singer in the ‘Madredeus’ band. The Techpark turns into the ‘playground’ of avantgarde performances: Lisa Hofmaninger and Judith Schwarz come together to converse with the saxophone, bass clarinet and drums, a dialogue whose outcome still isn’t defined, while Albert Cirera (sax) and Ramon Prats (dr) from Catalonia will overcome harmonic hurdles with their free and improvised performance, and Portuguese trumpeter Susana Santos Silva carries on the free jazz tradition from the 60s with her trio, delivering unique soundscapes.
Many locations will premiere during this edition of the Festival, such as the BASIS innovation and entrepreneurial centre in Silandro, the Cantina Val d’Isarco in Chiusa, the Museo di Scienze Naturali in Bolzano, the Hotel La Perla in Corvara, the Alperia hydroelectric power plant in Bressanone, the Ost West Country Club in the Marconi Park in Merano and the new building of the Cantina Bolzano wine cellar. Besides these debuts, the Festival is happy to welcome for the first time the hut concerts at the Monte Spico in Campo Tures and a jazz excursion to the Ansitz Velseck in Tires. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’: the jazz party at the Parkhotel Laurin in Bolzano continues to feature on the programme, with Belgian duo ‘Juicy’ delighting the audience with an explosive, humourful and feminist style of hip hop inviting people to dance; the jazz workshops; the ‘quirky’ Late Night concerts at the Batzen Sudwerk or the creative union of art and jazz at the Museion.
The EUREGIO jazz workshop, which was founded by the Südtirol Jazzfestival two years ago, will also feature during summer 2019. The workshop team will be performing in the former Druso barracks in Silandro with the quintet ‘Mn'JAM experiment’ whose vocal loops, guitar solos, complex rhythms, improvised sound patterns and abstract pictorial constructions melt smoothly into a multi-layered synthesis of the arts.
‘We introduce young musicians that go down new paths, and that attracts other event organisers who travel to South Tyrol and listen to our concerts. We don’t follow any fads, but set trends,’ says the Festival’s artistic director, Klaus Widmann. The Südtirol Jazzfestival – the link between northern and southern Europe – sews together innovative music scenes from many countries. Paths and roads are not riven here, and even the chain of the Pyrenees continues hanging on to the European mainland. In other words, the Südtirol Jazzfestival will keep on holding the continent together even this year.