Under the auspices of the Brass Group and Orchestra Jazz Siciliana, was held in Palermo for the first time, the Anteprime Festival, the winter edition of the summer festival, which will celebrate next June, its third edition.
Jazz has been present in Palermo for many years and the most important figures of the international jazz scene have animated the evenings dedicated to this music on the island. Carla Bley, Ron Carter, Paolo Fresu… Just to name a few.
Quite recently, the association The Brass Group has obtained from the authorities of the Sicilian Region and the city of Palermo, a place dedicated to Jazz performances, the Real Teatro Santa Cecilia. A superb jazz club that adjoins a library dedicated to jazz scores and arrangements, an efficient tool for performances and rehearsals.
It is in a way the home of the Orchestra Jazz Siciliana, in a place full of history.
How was this unique place born?
Luca Luzzo & Ignacio Garsia
Thanks to the President Ignacio Garsia, a man who could not be more determined.
In 2004, he chained himself in front of the theater and played Jazz piano every day for a week, so that his request for a place finally dedicated to contemporary music, would be attributed to the association he was presiding.
Not satisfied with this spectacular action, after having sent many unanswered requests to the deputies of the region (one of the oldest parliaments in the world, since it dates back to Frederick II), he set up his piano in front of the said parliament until he won his case and a law was finally passed.
His claim: that Jazz, like other music (opera, classical music and even dramatic arts) which have had their own venues for ages, should also have a dedicated venue…
The Brass Group Foundation was thus consecrated and finally acquired its own place.
In fact, the specificity of Jazz creation in Sicily is the energy devoted above all to Big bands. Thus, 5 conservatories of the island have their own big bands: Conservatorio di Musica “Arcangelo Corelli”, Conservatorio di Musica “Alessandro Scarlatti”, Istituto di Studi Musicali “A. Toscanini”,Conservatorio di Musica “Antonio Scontrino”, Istituto di Studi Musicali “Vincenzo Bellini”, all partners of the Festival.
This is also, logically, the signature of the Sicilia Jazz Festival, whose conductor Luca Luzzo is the artistic director.
The dominant idea in the various editions of the Sicilia Jazz Festival is to invite international jazz stars (Christian McBride, Paolo Fresu, or stars of Italian popular music, in 2022).
These few days spent in Palermo for this first winter edition of the Festival were punctuated with many beautiful surprises.
Saturday January 21st.
Arriving on the island on Saturday afternoon, we were invited to attend a trio concert of the singer, composer and pianist, Janysett McPherson, the Jany McPherson Trio.
This charismatic Cuban artist set the audience on fire. Beautiful piano solos on her own compositions, as well as on covers, in particular a pretty and singular interpretation of Jacques Prévert’s words on a music of Joseph Kosma made famous by Yves Montand, or even Frank Sinatra…. And many other artists.”C’est une Chanson qui nous ressemble… ” you know the rest.
©Photo Arturo di Vita
This famous melody, “Les Feuilles Mortes” is called “Autumn Leaves” in English-American (we don’t talk about angry words in this country, however so alert with the six shots) and this evening, the piece was called “In Your Arms“.
The rhythmic was high level with Tony Sgro on the double bass and a drummer well known to our department, Yoann Serra.
Elegance in the music as well as in the dress, with in particular those sparkling red high heels. The room of the Real Teatro Santa Cecilia was all to its joy.
What a pleasure to find this place left last summer, so friendly, with impeccable acoustics, with always an audience of enthusiasts jazz lovers!
I had to go all the way to Palermo to meet for the first time this artist who usually lives in Nice. A beautiful discovery for this first evening.
Sunday, January 22
Palermo is a first choice destination all year round. But even in the heart of the cold and rainy winter, the sun and the blue sky are out every day for at least a few hours. Ideal to visit with better conditions compared to the summer heat waves, the squares, alleys and monuments with so many different styles where several civilizations, Greek, Byzantine, Muslim, Norman who have occupied the island.
Virginia Turco, our guide, showed us many secrets and hidden treasures of her city.
The capital is full of so many richnesses and places of great interest that it would be vain in this paper to list them all. Follow our guide* on your next visit!
If one can link the tourist attraction of such a city to listening to jazz concerts in the evening… What could be better?
Our meeting place, for lunch and dinner during our stay, was the “Buatta, Cucina Popolana” excellent welcome, modern decoration, refined typical cuisine, excellent wines and craft beer on draught to satisfy our Nordic colleagues. Perfect! We highly recommend this address, as does the Guide Michelin….
Evening concert at the “Spasimo” (Chiesa di Santa Maria dello Spasimo) another jazz club in the capital which also serves as a rehearsal room for the Brass Group Foundation.
Another friendly place with excellent acoustics. An ideal place for young bands like this sextet of the crooner singer with well-calibrated vocal chords, Alessandro Visco and his TJ Quintet. They are presented by the Conservatory of Ribera.
One can reproach a lack of originality in the repertoire (reflection of very spoiled journalists we belong to) but we spend a very pleasant evening listening to covers of standards of Cole Porter or Frank Sinatra… We are in Sicily after all.
A very credible interpretation of “Night & Day“.
I liked the chorus of the young guitarist whose name is Roberto Sclafani and the saxophonist Alessandro Scibetta.
The future of jazz in Sicily is played in these conservatories.
Monday, January 23rd
After a second visit of the city with Virginia, our guide, art historian and specialist of the Middle Ages (graduated from the Sorbonne in Paris, among others) trilingual, Italian-French-English. We perceive that we are clearly privileged! by penetrating in places outside the classic tourist circuits like this Monastery of Santa Catarina Church, a peace haven in the middle of the city center, with among other things a pastry shop held by nuns (which could return like a tarte Tatin, the most convinced atheist!… But there it is the canolo and other cassata which are honored).
In the evening, the Golden Teatro of Palermo, the largest private theater-cinema on the island (about 1,000 seats), dating from the 1950s, opens its doors to us to listen to the Sicilian Jazz Orchestra with guest star Malika Ayane, Italian-Moroccan pop-soul singer.
©Photo Arturo Di Vita
The recipe does works even before the first note. The public almost fills the theater.
The Sicilians know this star from the continent. The phones are lit in great numbers to film the hits interpreted in a very professional way by this artist visibly recognized in her country.
The acoustics are excellent, although the volume is excessive, (it is the pop-variety side which undoubtedly requires it). It is obviously the aesthetic chosen for this concert.
Speaking of aesthetics, the artist, Mrs. Ayane is simply resplendent in her black dress with soft fabric that perfectly highlights her movements on the stage. Her huge stilettos and her braided hairstyle are a wonder for the eyes. Malika Ayane benefits from a crazy charm and a strong charisma, acting effectively on an audience already won to her cause; we can not sulk our pleasure. Especially since the arrangements of “The Brass” small diminutive of the Sicilia Jazz Orchestra are at work and in a very beautiful way, led by the maestro conductor, Domenico Riina.
The themes are mostly covers of the pop repertoire of the artist, with a slightly veiled voice, almost hoarse. Note the chorus of the soprano saxophonist Carla Restivo, as well as those of Gaspare Palazzolo and the performance of the trio of choir, Antonella Schiro, Valentina Migliore and Manfredi Messina.
A concert finally in the air of time, that is to say a popisant jazz style, to bring a wide audience, to the subtleties of the most learned of popular music or simply to encourage the public to go to festivals to listen to music? For this second goal, it is a total success.
Tuesday, January 24th
Thanks to the partners of the Festival, the Valle dei Templi and the Costa del Mito, we will have a spectacular trip to the south of the island to visit the archaeological site of Selinunte
Built on a high plain, overlooking the sea, the place is really great. You can discover the remains and ruins of the temples, the Acropolis and the Agora. One can only imagine its past splendor!
With the valley of the temples of Agrigento that my fellow journalists were able to visit the next day, and if you are a history lover, the temples of Selinunte are part of the must see sites in Sicily.
After the culture, the food… and a surprise in the village of Castelvetrano and the small fishing port of Marinella.
The fishermen are waiting for us with food worthy of the ancient gods and a very Sicilian welcome. Their buckwheat bread is exquisitely flavored with ricotta cheese, anchovy-style sardines and crushed olives.
We will then have lunch in Menfi, at the Vinoteca Maharia in this village of winegrowers, as a must on the Wine Route. Here again we will be welcomed and will discover the local wines and food.
This visit reminds us that jazz festivals, like vineyards, are regional products, not exportable. They are strongly anchored in a territory, their own.
In our media, we have always defended this idea that jazz is not only the most elaborate of current and popular music, it is also an art of living, a way of being.
The organizers of the Sicilia Jazz Festival and their local partners have perfectly integrated it in their approach.
For my last evening at the Festival, we return to the magnificent Teatro Santa Cecilia, to attend the Symphony Jazz Orchestra Show. On a piece created with the main theme: “La Suite Dei Templi” by the Orchestra Jazz e Sinfonia, which gives even more meaning to the visits organized in these impressive archaeological sites.
The work, a kind of symphonic Jazz opera and “musical” journey in the great History of the “Costa del Mito” is signed by the Toscanini Conservatory of Ribera-Agrigento.
A new symphonic concept for an Orchestral Formation of modern conception, involving all the departments of the Conservatory, Classical, Jazz and Pop rock under the Artistic Direction of Professor Mariangela Longo, the Production Direction of Professor Simone Piraino and the supervision of the Director of the Conservatory, Professor Riccardo Ferrara.
The forty or so musicians completely filled the stage of the Santa Cecilia and it was truly the most wonderful concert of our stay. It was hard to imagine that these young musicians were students and not yet seasoned professionals. But “For souls nobly born, valor doesn’t await the passing of years“ according to our playwright Pierre Corneille.
It was a magnificent concert, as much for the originality as for the quality of the big band and the soloists, masterfully directed by the conductor Alberto Maniaci. Passion and communicating enthusiasm characterized his fiery conduct.
This suite in 7 movements, each of which bears the name of one of the times to the gods of Olympus, are the work of different composers and the whole is perfectly coherent.
At the back of the stage, on a large screen, were projected images of the temples of the valley where one could see jazz performances that had taken place in the near past.
The pieces are extremely well worked out and contain a number of sumptuous flashes and choruses of high quality, mainly those of the impressive trumpeter Giacomo Tantillo, sometimes in duet with the excellent Salvatore Sciarratta on trombone.
Some good rock fusion points were distilled in particular through the electric guitar of Felice Amodio.
The voices were those of Ernesto Marciante, Maria Concetta Maggio and Valeria Milazzo.
This hour and a half of intense and twirling passed at an incredible speed, so many events were happening on the stage. We ask for more! 2 or 3 encores were necessary to put an end to this concert.
Such a creation would deserve to go on tour throughout the world. But obviously it is not easy to make travel such a huge group.
So you must go to Palermo next summer to have the chance to listen to these different great bands, music lovers and regular readers of Couleurs Jazz Media.
We hope that this extraordinary jazz creation machine, Brass in Jazz, will continue to produce great ensembles, it is not the easiest way.
It is the price to pay, and it is worth it…
We cannot suggest enough to produce live Cds during the numerous concerts taking place during the Festival. This remains the best support for the diffusion of jazz music. By the way, Couleurs Jazz Radio is committed to broadcasting these upcoming albums in the 160 countries where this radio is listened to by more than one million unique listeners.
To finish and give you even more the desire to organize the beginning of your summer 2023, we can reveal that Marcus Miller will play on June 23 with the Orchestra Jazz Siciliana at Palazzo Steri, Gregory Porter will be at the Teatro di Verdura, on June 26 and on July 2 the Big Band will invite The Manhattan Transfer, still in the Teatro di Verdura that we described to you last June, during the edition 2022.
Translated with the help of DeepL
©unless otherwise notified, photos Jacques Pauper for Couleurs Jazz