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Down Beat - 2001
International Summer Festival Guide

By Fred Bouchard

Faves and Raves:
The Artists Weigh In On The Festivals

Every artists has a favorite jazz festival to play, with indelible memories of high moments before huge audiences, or backstages kindnesses. And you know that if an artist is having a good time, it will come across in the music. With this in mind, we asked tow questions to a number of prominent jazz musicians, to help you gauge where the hot jazz spots have been, and where will be this summer. The questions we asked were:

- What is your favorite jazz festival, and why?

- What is a wonderful high point that you've had at any jazz festival?

The musicians answers follow:

Roy Haynes, drummer

Favorite: This January I played with Danilo Perez and Christian McBride, and it was great. Perhaps one of the greatest musically. We were on a farm in Uruguay, it was over 90 degrees, the doors were open, the audience was responsive, the producer was very happy to have us, there was home-cooked food and lots of beautiful ladies, and I got to see lots of people I hadn't seen in years, like Johnny Griffin and Jon Faddis. What more can you ask?

High Pont: One great moment was at a festival in Lisbon some years ago with my Hip Ensamble. The audience showed it was very glad to see me, even before we played a note, it was like coming home to Boston. Another year at San Sebastian, the audience seemed cool and quiet, but when me finished, they all got out their lighters and lit them. Whew!

Joe Lovano, tenor saxophonist

Favorite: UmbríaJazz in the summer has a very different character from the winter version. I just did the winter festival between Christmas and New Year's, and it was incredible. I played four different nights with my trio with Cameron Brown and Idris Muhammad, Greg Osby and Jason Moran joined us for a quintet. I did this tango project with Pablo Ziegler, Richard Galliano and Paquito D'Rivera also. I love Montreal Jazz Festival. I've been able to present four different groups in one week there.

High Point: The San Francisco Jazz Festival is also incredible. I did a concert there last year that Joshua Redman organized playing Wayne Shorter's music with Branford Marsalis, Wayne's group joined us. These unique events are beautiful for both performe and audience. Last spring I played Grace Cathedral, a solo saxophone concert-that was phenomenal. All I could think of with that feeling and that space was Duke Ellington performed his Sacred Concerts there. It was something to prepare for, I played Billy Strayhorn's "Passion Flower."

Donald Harrison, alto saxophonist

Favorite: I'm from New Orleans, so my favorite is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. It's the first festival I ever saw. It's huge, like Mardi Gras, and the music encompasses all types, but jazz has a high profile. I love the food, the people and it's home for me. People come looking for r&b and other music, but they wander into the tent and get turned on to jazz.

High Point: I remember being at UmbriaJazz and all the great musicians would gather for lunch at La Rosetta. You'd look over, and there'd be Elvin Jones Sitting with Roy Haynes and Art Blakey. At another table, Herbie Hancock would be sitting with Barry Harris and Joe Williams. I don't have any pictures, but I do have memories. It was so great to sit down and talk with those guys in a natural setting.

Nneena Freelon, singer

Favorite: The San Jose and Jacksonville festivals are both very professional in the way they handle a lot of acts coming in and out. It's like running a smaill city!

High Point: At a wonderful small festival last summer in Pomigliano (near Napoli, Italy) it rained the first night. We were ready to go, and did play a little bit, but the storm got heay and dangerous, so they said, "No". So we just relaxed the next day, and they took us to the ruins of Pompeii. These people treated us like family, with hospitality I'd never experienced. The audiance was new to this music, but the response was so heartwarming that I nearly cried. The best part is that after you play, you eat all night! The producer's mother made us a lemon cake! Can you believe that?

James Williams, pianist

Favorite: Monterrey is one of the more exciting festivals because Tim Jackson runs it so well. They are so sensitive about the art, you know they love the music first and foremost. They keep reinventing themselves and stay contemporary, but at the same time they don't lose connection with the soul of the music. They keep the jzz in jazz and don't try to be something for everybody. They cleverly keep their lineups unpredictable but balanced, showcasing lesser known bands that actually have roots in with the greats, instead of just parading a series of all-star packages. That's very important because all the innovators had working bands. Monterrey's thoughtful programming also keep an eye on the future.


Ir al Sitio Oficial del Festival Internacional de Jazz de Punta del Este.