by Ian Mann
November 16, 2022
Guest contributor Colin May enjoys performances by seven different up and coming acts at this year's showcase event.
Photograph of the Wajdi Riahi Trio sourced from https://jammin.jazzajuan.com/
Palais des Congrès, Juan-les-Pins, France
2nd, 3rd and 4th November 2022
Publicised as a scene to discover young jazz talent, the 5th edition of Jammin’ features 21 groups each playing a 35 minute showcase, and another 3 more established bands in concert. It’s three jam packed afternoons and evenings.
There were bands based in Holland, Belgium, Spain, Switzerland and Israel as well as France playing to an audience including festival directors from as far apart as the Canaries, Tampere in Finland and La Réunion in the Indian Ocean all looking for fresh talent.
This year 145 groups applied to play a showcase so getting selected must count as success as only 14.5% of the applicants did.
There were no UK bands on the programme but there was a representative of a well known UK venue present for all three days, raising the possibility that a group or groups could earn themselves a UK appearance.
What follows is a my pick in no particular order from the 18 showcases I heard. I restricted myself to seven short reports with the result that some good groups don’t get a mention.
WAJDI RIAHI TRIO
All three of the Brussels based Wajdi Riahi Trio led by the 27 year old Tunisian pianist/ composer from whom the band takes its name, are strong players. Bassist Basile Rahola and drummer Pierre Hurty’s touch and feel are as impressive as that of Riahi. They formed the trio in 2020, though the three members have known each other for longer and it shows in how cohesive they are in a set which has a good deal of attractive and sophisticated rhythmic and melodic variation, and tunes that are very appealing and accessible.
Their opening number (or it might have been two numbers played as one) begins contemplatively, even sounding like a thoughtful lullaby, then becomes more high energy with a sharp drum solo. Then there’s a tender ballad like tune which is enhanced by Riahi singing gentle, wordless and rather lovely harmonies.
The trio’s final tune references Wajdi’s Tunisian origins with him plucking the piano’s strings making it sound momentarily like an oud followed by a drum solo with African rhythms after which the trio builds to very danceable and joyful climax. Overall it’s a very pleasurable and engrossing 35 minutes.
DANIEL GARCIA TRIO
The Daniel Garcia Trio is led by a Spanish pianist who has been a prizewinner at Berklee, mentored by Danilo Perez and the first Spanish jazz artist to be signed by the prestigious German Act label.
He’s ventured across a number of musical styles including rock and electronica .The music that he and his two Cuban colleagues on drums and on bass bring to Jammin’ Juan is predominately an encounter between the language of the contemporary jazz trio and various musical languages from his homeland.
The first number is a tribute to an icon of Spanish music Paco de Lucia. This is followed by a tango done flamenco style. Then comes a piece based on rhythms and melodies from Salamanca from where Garcia originates. This is an intriguing number with what seems to be folkloric elements, and also what could be echoes of playful of children’s songs. Over this Garcia uses a vocoder to add tender wordless vocal harmonies.
Led by Garcia’s high quality pianism this is a very classy trio and Garcia’s take on his Spanish roots help them stand out even more.
FANOU TORRACINTA QUARTET
The 26 year old Fanou Torracinta’s lively “Gypsy Guitar From Corsica” is a pleasure from start to finish. His is a set in which rhythm rules most of the time. I’ve since learnt that the mazurka and the waltz are the hallmark of Corsican guitarists, but it’s the influence of Django Reinhardt my ear keeps picking up.
Torracinta’s technique is superb as one might expect, but it’s technique fused with heart and soul. The unobtrusiveness of his rhythm section, a second guitar and double bass, just serves to highlight his virtuosity even more. The fourth member of the group though, pianist Bastien Brisson, is Torracinta’s companion in swing and in the final number his sparing partner as piano and
guitar engage in some teasing interplay.
Before that they complement each other in a delightful re-imagining of “How About You”, and also in a number that could be music for a sinister film noir as it starts with the guitar sounding like a zither and later there are some menacing sounds from Brisson’s piano.
It’s a fun set that leaves me with a grin from ear to ear.
Dutch singer, percussionist and composer Sanne Huijbregts and her quartet Sanne Sanne, (not to be confused with Sanne Group which is an asset management firm) bring together influences from experimental pop and alt-folk with jazz. By doing so they create a sound world that’s different from any of the other bands doing a showcase.
Sanne’s voice and phrasing is at times reminiscent of Joni Mitchell, and some of her lyrics don’t make for easy listening for example, “Paper thin skin the snake has shed, it’s still thicker than mine”. But her bravery in putting her apparent vulnerability out there is part of her appeal.
This vulnerability is reflected in some of the music from an unusual line-up of drums, double
bass, plucked viola, Sanne on vibraphone, bells and kalimba thumb piano and the supporting voices of two other band members. There’s a lot of multi-layered atmospheric tinkling going on but also some very organic and earthy double bass.
The last song, “Tremble”, a love song, becomes a three part harmony with the voices coming together in unison for the finale. Its beautiful.
While Sanne Sanne might not be a band for the jazz purist, what they do they do well. They have something going that could make them a group that breaks out beyond the jazz world.
FRANÇOIS POITOU QUARTET and PUMPKIN
François Poitou and Pumpkin is a collaboration between a quartet led by double bassist Poitou with a saxophone and trumpet front line, and a female hip hop artist, Pumpkin, who began her French hip hop career in the 1990s.
The band draw on the influences as far apart as free jazz and the legacy of New Orleans marching bands, but whatever their style the sound of Pumpkin’s raps blend in organically. She does a call and response with the saxophonist, and a high speed rap in tandem with the drummer.
Pumpkin has presence on stage, and interacts both with other band members and the audience. Because of the energy and tension they generate between them, François Poitou and Pumpkin probably are at their best live.
I was told that some of Pumpkin’s language, which I did not understand, was unnecessarily vulgar. If that’s so it’s a pity for she and the band show they are well able to generate electricity without this.
The five strong DAÏDA are a young band that play a high voltage fusion of nu-jazz, electronica and urban beats. They have a front line of trumpet and electric guitar and when the trumpeter Arno de Casanove, who has a glorious tone, plays drawn out mournful notes they sound similar to one of the biggest stars of French jazz, French Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf’s band.
Their default setting seems to be intense, jagged music near to the edge of the abyss. (They take their name from a giant creature in Japanese mythology, so large that it’s movements shape the world). So when their guitarist plays a lovely contemplative solo, his skill making his electric guitar sound like an acoustic one, it comes as a surprise. As does the waves of spell- binding gentle electronica overlaid with keyboard swirls at the start of “Huitres” (Oysters) which take you on an imagined journey under the waves into the oyster’s world that is peaceful until a return of the default music signals a change (perhaps it’s the oysters struggling to escape capture).
Dynamic, exciting, engrossing and also subtle, they are another band that’s almost
certainly best sampled live.
TAL GAMLIELI TRIO
What’s striking about this from Israel led by double bassist Tal Gamlieli is the contrast between soft and loud in their music. This is because when they are loud they are very loud for an acoustic trio, and they can work themselves into an almost frenzied state. Especially Amir Bar Akiva who hits the various elements of his drum kit with a ferocity that could earn him a place in a heavy metal band. They can play delicately too though, as in “Ordinary Girl”, which Gamelieli composed following the tragic deaths of two young girls, one Israeli one Palestinian, with the trio sensitively and effectively conveying the emotion of the song.
Gamlieli can write a good tune, and also has lively exchanges with drummer Akiva and pianist Char Bar David whose soloing conveys a sense of space. The trio are a fine jazz unit as well at times a ferocious one, and their expressive body language and facial expressions makes them good to watch as well. They end on the charge, bringing a memorable set to a fiery conclusion.
Jammin’ Juan is superbly organised and partially funded by the Office of Tourism Antibes Juan-les-Pins who had the idea for the event. Remarkably from a UK perspective, public money and resources are being used to give opportunities to young and to relatively unknown jazz talent. Praise be, and let’s hope in the current financial environment that Jammin’ Juan can continue to do so.
To find out more about Jammin’ Juan 2022 visit https://jammin.jazzajuan.com/
All the bands feature on the web and on YouTube.
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