Manu Katché and Dado Moroni get Bari in Jazz bopping

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This year’s edition of Bari in Jazz marked a transition of the festival from being held mainly in Bari
to a more regionally inclusive festival that moved from town to town making use of the fabulous locations
that are available in these ancient Italian towns. For the five nights of my visit to the festival I was lucky enough
to be able to visit four wonderful and completely different settings for the concerts – Alberobello (the town famous
for the Apulia Trulli), Turi, Conversano and Bari itself.

The first concert, in a modern version of the Roman Amphitheatre built within the structure of a supermarket complex featured a lively quartet led by drummer/percussionist Manu Katché with Norwegian saxophone player Tore Brunborg, Italian trumpeter Luca Aquino and Alfio Origlio on Hammond organ. The following two nights featured concerts held in the beautiful town of Alborobello – the first featured the multi national ‘Bridge Quintet’ led by American trumpeter Jim Rotondi (whose first pro gigs were in the Ray Charles band in the early 1990’s) Dutch saxophonist Barend Middelhoff and Italians Guido Le Leone (Guitar) and Renato Chicco (Organ) and lastly American Andy Watson (drums) – a real multi national band with decades of experience playing beautiful tight straight ahead jazz – there was an brilliant atmosphere on stage that you only get from great players who are really comfortable around each other and are prepared to push each other – a great concert.

On the same stage the following night and by great contrast we had drummer/percussionist Hamid Drake playing in a duet with Pasquale Mirra on Vibes – the two have been collaborating for around eight years so the chemistry between them is pretty special – Mirra is a very laid back and economical player but he can let out a tirade of notes to punctuate the music in a delicious way – the concert is a conversation at times between friends – at time passive at times explosive – but always fascinating and like the best conversations always interesting. The show was over far too soon and the audience definitely left wanting more.

By total contrast the concert by Dado Moroni in the Piazza Gonnelli in Turi was a conversation not between musicians but between the musician and his audience. Set in a wonderful small square in front of a former school house with four story buildings on all sides – the atmosphere was perfect for Moroni to seduce the audience with stories and music in this very intimate atmosphere – he is a very classical player - like the best he is economical in his notes and in this solo setting very lyrical in his playing – the concert was interspersed by short monologues (obviously in Italian – so I missed the total meaning) but carried on the theme of this conversation between Moroni and his audience – a very special evening. Moroni told me he was very excited to be playing in Umbria Jazz in a few weeks time with Italian guitarist Franco Cerri – whom he describes as probably the worlds oldest gigging guitarist!

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The last show of the series I saw featured Italian singer Cristina Zavalloni with her trio – playing in front of the magnificent Castle in Conversano – a classically trained opera singer she mixes contemporary jazz & pop influences but with an incredible range on her voice and a nicely quirky take on standards – ‘My Favourite Things’, a really neat re-working of the classic song. With partner Cristiano Arcelli on alto sax, Daniele Mencarelli on bass and Alessandro Paternesi on drums and in front of a beautifully lit ancient building it was a nice was to end my stay at the festival, which continues unilt the 25 July.

– Tim Dickeson (report and photos)