Bergamo Jazz Festival Readies for Live Event

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The Jakob Bro Trio with, from left, Jorge Rossy, Bro and Arve Henriksen

(Photo: Courtesy Bergamo Jazz Festival)

During its prior 42 editions, Bergamo Jazz — situated in a medieval city of 120,000 souls an hour northeast from Milan in Italy’s Lombardy region — has developed a reputation for presenting programs that juxtapose A-list American improvisers with European counterparts of greater or lesser repute. Curated for the second year by vocalist Maria Pia De Vito, herself a stylistic polymath, Bergamo #43, running March 17–20 through a variety of local venues, continues that tradition.

The proceedings begin with a solo recital by Greek pianist Tania Giannouli, whose conception melds the Euro-canon, jazz and her native folkloric music, in the Sant’Andrea Theater, an old, recently renovated space with pristine acoustics. A few hours later, at Teatro Sociale, built in 1809, pianist Vijay Iyer presents a recently configured trio with bass virtuoso Matt Brewer and young drummer Jeremy Dutton, whose credits include a long association with Joel Ross. Performing opposite is well-known Roman drummer Roberto Gatto’s all-Italian quartet, with clarion trumpeter Alessandro Presti, pianist Alessandro Lanzoni and bassist Matteo Bortone. Between those concerts, woodwind artist Guido Bombardieri and guitarist Marco Pasinetti play a duo program of music by Charles Mingus celebrating the bassist-composer’s centennial at the Circolino of Città Alta, a monastery in the Middle Ages, subsequently a prison, and now a restaurant.

First up on Friday, March 18, is a set at Auditorium di Piazza della Libertà by Danish guitarist Jakob Bro’s nuanced trio with trumpeter Arve Henriksen and Catalan drummer Jorge Rossy (now a resident of Basel), who convened for the stimulating 2021 ECM album Uma Elmo. Rossy’s successor in the Brad Mehldau Trio, Jeff Ballard, leads an all-star American-expat quartet with alto saxophonist Logan Richardson, guitarist Charles Altura and bassist Joe Sanders at Teatro Donizetti, an opera house built in 1800 and later named for the composer Gaetano Donizetti, a Bergamo native who composed 70 operas during his half-century on the planet. On the same bill is Fred Hersch, reuniting with past partners Drew Gress on bass and Joey Baron on drums, with Italian icon Enrico Rava on flugelhorn. (Rava was Bergamo’s artistic director after Uri Caine and Paolo Fresu held the position, and right before Dave Douglas — De Vito’s immediate predecessor — assumed it.) After the festivities, bassist and Bergamo native Marco Rottoli helms a quartet with tenor saxophonist Michele Polga (Dee Dee Bridgewater) at Dieci, a local jazz club with a kitchen that stays open late.

On Saturday, March 19, the ambiance turns speculative on a late-morning recital by New York-based guitarist Ava Mendoza, who melds blues, noise, distortion and harmonics into her well-wrought flow. Sustaining that mood is French violinist Régis Huby, leading his sonically expansive veteran plugged-in quintet with English trumpeter Tom Arthurs, Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset, French bassist Claude Tchamitchian and Italian drum adventurer Michele Rabbia. The evening’s climax is a solo piano concert by Brad Mehldau, Hersch’s one-time mentee, who had been scheduled to play in Bergamo with his trio in March 2020, precisely when Bergamo was at the peak of its devastating, widely reported experience as the global epicenter of COVID-19, resulting in the cancellation of that year’s festival, which was to have been De Vito’s debut.

The wakeup call at 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 20 comes from the rampantly creative brass-and-electronics Star Splitter Duo, as Chicago outcat stalwart Rob Mazurek and 30-something Gabriele Mitelli (Brescia, Italy) call their partnership. Later, speculative improvisation remains the watchword with the reunion of Giornale di Bordo (Ship’s Log), consisting of veteran Chicago drum hero Hamid Drake and like-minded Sardinian luminaries Antonello Salis on piano and harmonica, Paolo Angeli on prepared guitar and Gavino Murgia on saxophone.

Sunday’s three other concerts feature voices framed in contrasting contexts. The virtuosic, Jobim-centric Trio Correnteza — Perugian clarinetist Gabriele Mirabassi, Brazilian guitarist Roberto Taufic and Abruzzese vocalist Cristina Renzetti — performs at the Sala Piatti, an intimate 1903 Art Nouveau space well-suited for chamber performance. Rising-star New York-based vocalist Michael Mayo brings his quartet (with keyboardist Andrew Freedman, bassist Nick Campbell, drummer Robin Baytas) to Teatro Donizetti for a concert opposite “Viento Y Tiempo,” piano maestro Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s project with singer Aymée Nuviola, who delivers Yoruban sensibility and vocal power the way Celia Cruz did it in her prime. DB



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February 2023
Lakecia Benjamin
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