Report by Mary James
The exotic sounding Palm Jazz Festival, Gliwice, Poland got its name from a happy accident. The first concert, back in 2010, was held in the Palm House in Gliwice. The idea was good, the acoustics and humidity weren’t brilliant but the name stuck. Now the leisurely month-long festival comprising 17 concerts spread over four weeks is held in two comfortable venues – the purpose built Cultural Centre Jazovia and the Municipal Theatre.
The festival is the brainchild of composer and pianist Krzysztof Kobyliński and showcases the best of Polish jazz alongside international artists with global reach. This year that included Hiromi, Dave Douglas, Stanley Clarke, Eric Truffaz, Sons of Kemet, Yasmin Levy and Yaron Herman amongst others.
Gliwice is an industrial town in Silesia. It might be an unlikely place for a festival but the warmth and enthusiasm for a festival which offers free and ticketed events was apparent.
The free events took place in the intimate Jazovia on the main square. I was puzzled why concerts such as Sons of Kemet and Dave Douglas’ New Sanctuary project were free events, why more than half of the events were free. It is simply that these artists are not known in Poland. They gather mostly full houses because the core fan base of the festival trusts that it will hear music of the highest quality since they have done so in the past.
It works. Of course it is risky financially. The ticketed events need sponsors too. Consequently the list of sponsors is extensive.
The timetable meant I caught two concerts, Maciek Pysz and Daniele di Bonaventura on 27 October and Hiromi: The Trio Project on 28 October.
In Jazovia, the duo of Maciek Pysz and Daniele di Bonaventura provided us with perfect miniatures of concentrated emotion, a state of happy melancholy. The joy of a duo is its intimacy, for performers and audience alike. The harmonious pairing of guitar and bandoneon (and piano on two pieces) allowed these two virtuosi the space to explore a rich palette of colouring and sentiment, aided sometimes by the most discreet of electronics. Bonaventura is as accomplished a pianist as he is a bandoneonist and his beautiful Tango dell’Assenza was a highlight as was Pysz’s Undeniable. The sound quality in the venue was outstanding, notes like tiny breaths heard and savoured.
By contrast to this intimacy, Hiromi’s golden shoes provided only a momentary distraction in her customary display of fireworks of stabbing fingers, elbows and fists on keys; arms, feet and hair flying. Her Trio Project with powerhouse Jimmy Johnson on bass and Simon Phillips on percussion filled the Municipal Theatre and the audience were not disappointed, they hardly needed goading into applause. It wasn’t just flawless technique. I’d never seen Hiromi before, what struck me most was the lack of surprises – not in the sense of being unexciting or unadverturous but more in the sense of every note being absolutely right. She allowed herself one solo – the beautiful Schmannesque Wake Up And Dream.
- For further information about Palm Jazz Festival, go HERE.
Mary’s hotel room was provided by the festival. She is Maciek Pysz’s manager but her visit to the festival was a more general one.
Categories: Live review