A Boisterous Euro Jazz Circuit


John Zorn’s Masada performing at Jazz em Agosto in Lisbon.

(Photo: Petra Cvelbar)

In the summer of 2022, our jazz festivals will be free to run without nearly as many of the social distancing restrictions that had to be put in place during the previous two years. Around Europe, the festival lineups that have been released already feature a strong North American element, as well as artists drawn together from around the European Union, and even the Southern Hemisphere.

Not to say that all festivals were outright canceled in recent times. Organizers rapidly adapted, making everything continually flexible with the energy of free improvisation. Dates were moved around the calendar, entire programs were repeatedly recalibrated to suit what was allowed, and hybrid live-and-streamed existences manifested themselves.

One positive side-effect was a year or more of festivals concentrating on their own country’s indigenous talent, allowing a deeper discovery of bands that would normally give way to international stars.

This summer, the Americans are fully returning. There’s a Chicago cellisst already rooted in Europe since the start of this year. Tomeka Reid is the Improviser in Residence at the Moers Festival in Germany, which involves her dwelling in a dedicated house for the entire year, interacting with local musicians, setting up gigs and workshops, perhaps even forming new groups. She will also present her own selection of artist configurations during the actual Moers Festival (June 3–6), so far including her regular quartet of Mary Halvorson, Jason Roebke and Tomas Fujiwara and the Artifacts trio (with Nicole Mitchell and Mike Reed). This year marks the 50th anniversary of the festival, which began as a hardcore free-jazz weekender, but has gradually evolved to include compatible musics from the zones of rock, electronic, ethno-folk and modern classical. Other acts confirmed so far include the exciting New York violinist Sana Nagano and her Smashing Humans band, featuring Peter Apfelbaum, and the Weave 4 group with French pianist Benoît Delbecq and British drummer Steve Argüelles.

Still in Germany, the Monheim Triennale (June 22–26) will make its full debut following The Prequel in 2021, when the invited artists interpreted Carla Bley’s Escalator Over The Hill, performing on a moored ship. Monheim is another small city, with an adventurous mayor, the Triennale inviting 16 artists to create their signature formations. The group includes Kris Davis, Greg Fox, Sofia Jernberg, Ingrid Laubrock, Ava Mendoza, Colin Stetson and Stian Westerhus. Pianist Davis will debut her Emergence Quartet; singer Jernberg will premiere her Hymns And Laments with Peter Evans and Okkyung Lee. Fast-rising Belgian bassist Farida Amadou will perform with vocalist Moor Mother and Sam Amidon will be joined by fellow guitarist Marc Ribot.

Rīgas Ritmi (June 30–July 2) will be moving back outdoors this year, after a smaller indoor incarnation in 2021. The 22nd edition sets out to give equal emphasis to jazz, improvisation and global sounds. Lined up, to date, are the Jamaican pianist Monty Alexander and the excellent new band Ayom, which is from Portugal, but also dedicated to the styles of Angola, Brazil and Cape Verde.

In England, the Love Supreme Festival (July 1–3) is another relative newcomer, starting in 2013. It’s an outdoor weekender with the trappings of a rock fest: multiple stages, self-contained catering and camping areas. Situated in Glynde Place, East Sussex, it boasts starry artists on the main stage, and some imaginative choices on satellite platforms. Erykah Badu and Gregory Porter will draw the punters; Charles Lloyd, Gary Bartz, Julian Lage, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Melissa Aldana will attract the hardcore; and Mulatu Astatke, Matthew Halsall, Emma-Jean Thackray and Soccer 96 will have some tamper with the fences.

Nearly two decades ago, Gent Jazz used to call itself the Blue Note Festival, and it still favors a marathon 10-day stretch, featuring around five acts daily (July 7–17). This Belgian festival happens outdoors, with two covered stages letting in the sun, keeping out any rain.

To go with jazz, Gent has an imaginative way of selecting artists who are a touch more alternative, such as Grace Jones, Morcheeba, Gary Clark Jr. and Einstürzende Neubauten. This year, they’ve confirmed Archie Shepp and Jason Moran, Gary Bartz with Maisha, Charles Lloyd with Bill Frisell, Sound Prints featuring Dave Douglas and Joe Lovano, and bassmen Christian McBride and Avishai Cohen.

The very day that Gent concludes, sail to Norway for Moldejazz (July 18–23). The small West Coast town is, indeed, a scenic cruise ship stop-off, and has been operating Europe’s oldest continually running jazz festival, celebrating its 60th anniversary. It’s another prime example of combining stages large and small such as the long-running Storyville Jazz Club.

John Zorn, this year’s artist in residence, will lead his New Masada Quintet, play the organ of Molde Cathedral and oversee a Bagatelles marathon, as well as three other sets of his music. John McLaughlin will be making his return, and there will be appearances by Gov’t Mule, Charles Lloyd, Emma-Jean Thackray, the Tord Gustavsen Trio and the more extreme Emmeluth’s Amoeba, combining Danish and Norwegian players.

In the summer, temperatures are so high in Lisbon that its Jazz em Agosto (July 30–Aug. 7) shows mostly begin at 9 p.m., outdoors in the amphitheater of the Gulbenkian Foundation gardens. This setting provides a potent atmosphere for the performances, with subtle lighting effects bathing the trees and the rushes. For its 38th edition, the festival will return to its usual ratio of international artists, following a couple of editions that concentrated more on Portuguese acts. This is a festival that’s guaranteed to present the best in adventurous jazz, including established forces as well as rising newcomers. DB

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