19. June 2012
Jazz Fest Wien
Standing up to comparison
Jazz Fest Wien boasts a many many high-profile names as any other festival in Vienna. The term ‘jazz’ is synonymous here with ‘outstanding musicians and singers’.
Although – or maybe because – the music recording industry is on the slide, there is no shortage of great musicians plying their trade. Naturally, some of those featured here are pure jazz musicians, as the festival’s name suggests, but charismatic virtuosos from the realms of pop, rock, funk, blues, soul, world music and everything else even remotely connected to jazz will also be appearing at the festival. The special thing about the Vienna Jazz Festival is that it features a wide selection of top-class musicians performing in first-class Viennese venues. Whether it’s in the Vienna State Opera, the courtyard of the Vienna City Hall or the Fernwärme district heating plant, an extra-special atmosphere is guaranteed.
New discoveriesSometimes, one is pleasantly surprised by more or less unknown musicians, whom one might well have not discovered so soon had they not performed at the Jazz Festival. Mina Agossi, for instance, the French jazz singer with African roots, gave such a brilliant performance in the City Hall’s Arkadenhof in 2006 that her CD table was overwhelmed with buyers afterwards. The American soul singer Sharon Jones could provide a similar sensation this year, appearing in the same venue on 9 July. As a warden in the infamous prison on Rikers Island (New York), she has had plenty of exposure to the hard side of life, which helps to make her music soulful, but never overly sentimental. The insider tip for the 2012 Jazz Festival.
The top tipIt’s no secret that the acoustic concert given by Joe Bonamassa and his band in the State Opera on 3 July will be one of the festival’s absolute highlights. Last year, he appeared with his other band, Black Country Communion, in the opera house. While Bonamassa is widely celebrated as the new guitar-playing god, this praise doesn’t actually do him full justice, ignoring the fact that he is one of the few musicians around who are able to use both their guitar and their voice to communicate intense feeling through music. In other words, he doesn’t just spend two hours playing at breakneck speed to please all the guitar fetishists in the audience – he makes music that goes straight to the heart. Normally, he delights audiences with his electric guitar, but this time he will be playing the acoustic guitar – definitely something not to be missed.
The greatsSometimes, though, it is the absolute greats who provide further proof at the Jazz Festival of why exactly they are so highly regarded. In the State Opera in 2007, Beach Boy Brian Wilson showed us why he is considered to be an eccentric genius. The way he used awkward gestures to lead his huge band through a dozen of his hits, exploring all their instrumental and vocal harmonies, made his concert an unforgettable occasion. Just like when the grand master of jazz Herbie Hancock appeared in socks in 2010; because his violinist Lili Haydn had problems with her heels and a hole in the stage, the master promptly took off his shoes too, playing cheerfully – and so beautifully – in his socks. When he appears on 5 July with his quartet in the State Opera, the newly-appointed UNESCO ambassador will probably keep his fine shoes on, but his piano-playing is sure to entrance the audience once again. Those who enjoy music will probably get goose bumps just from thinking about the concert!
The rare greatsGoose bumps won’t do justice to the concert in Vienna’s Konzerthaus on 8 July, which is akin to a historic event and is bound to have audiences raving about it. Not only will Keith Jarrett, the ultimate star of jazz piano improvisation, be giving one of a total of six (!) European concerts in Vienna, but he will be performing for the first time in 23 years with the great double-bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette. On top of that, he released the album ‘Rio’ just a few months ago, hailed by fans and critics as the long-awaited follow-up album to the hit ‘The Köln concert’ from 1975. A great band in great form in a great venue, but – it has to be said – with prices to match. However, an evening with Keith Jarrett is still cheaper than buying tickets for a top football match or taking the family to a big show. And while a Vienna Jazz Festival concert has a good chance of being a truly intense experience that will live long in the memory, your favourite football team could always lose and fireworks could destroy your hairdo, or the children moan during the show because there is no ice cream and no dinosaur tramping across the stage, so the Jazz Festival definitely stands up to comparison.
P.S. There are lots of other great concerts at the Jazz Festival!
Jakob Blickenstaff, Jazz Fest Wien, Marianna Proestou, Sven Thielmann ECM Records, Christie Goodwin