Pančevo Jazz Festival 2022 (Serbia) – London Jazz News
Pancevo Jazz Festival
(Kulturrog center Pančeva, Serbia. November 4-6 2022. Review and photos by John Watson)
There is certainly a lot of great music on the international jazz scene – but once in a while a performance is so wonderful that you know it will be etched in your memory forever.
And this was the case when the Polish piano master Marcin Wasilewski launched into an uptempo solo with incredible ferocity, creating massive waves of sound, advancing relentlessly like a tropical storm, piling chord upon chord with prodigious rhythmic punch.
The Pianist – with bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz – has long been celebrated for its beautifully crafted, slow-paced, smooth-paced creations (with six ECM albums to its credit). But on this occasion, during the twenty-fifth Pančevo Jazz Festival in Serbia, a surprising move to musical overdrive was launched, and it was wonderful. They were billed as the American saxophonist’s backing trio Joe Lovanoand it was his song “Forth Worth” that provided the launch pad for the trio’s explosive performance.
The feathery and abstract improvisations of the saxophonist had sometimes been quite touching earlier in the concert at the Cultural Center. But following Wasilewski’s impressive solo was quite a challenge, and the saxophonist certainly set his style on fire, even if the horns and shouts he briefly indulged towards the end of the track sounded a little desperate.
The festival always has delicious surprises in store, and this year again a Polish group, the young quintet EABS, thrilled the crowd with a performance in the center foyer that demonstrated considerable technical mastery as well as dynamism. They told me later that they were coming to Ronnie Scott’s for New Years, so watch the dates. Another young group in the foyer, Kuhn Fuled by German guitarist and singer Christian Kuhngave a wildly entertaining and energetic performance heavily tinged with humor.
Cellist by Erik Friedlander the electronics setup was hit with technical issues at the start of his US band’s performance To throw it, but a tightly controlled and often inspired performance followed, with excellent contributions from the pianist Uri Cainbass player Marc Helias and the brilliant drummer Ches Smith. Caine, in particular, is always a joy to hear, and Smith’s drumming and percussion playing is at a surprisingly high level, while Helias keeps the depth of the music flawless.
The festival opened with beautifully romantic bandoneon sounds Daniele Di Bonaventura and his Italian band unionwhile Simsa Funf – led by an Austrian drummer Sebastien Simsa – drew on a wide musical palette, with a particularly fine and technically flawless solo from the soprano saxophonist Stepan Flagar.
Israeli Ofer Mizrahi – on a double neck multi-string guitar, trumpet and vocals – brought distinctive world music to the festival. Not jazz, admittedly, but beautiful playing. And – no doubt to give the festival an essential financial boost – there was even a performance by a moderately popular Serbian pop star, Alexander Bwith his group The Fergusonswho were later joined for catchy gospel sounds by the delightfully named Happy gospel choir.
LINK: Festival website