Jazz festival in groove for fans and musicians – Article by David Schembri, The Times of Malta, 20th July 2010

Richard Bona Photo: Gege Gatt

One trick in music is that if you hit a wrong note while playing, repeat it, and then it’s jazz.

If that were indeed the case, there must be something right with that “wrong note”, as the 20th edition of the three-day Malta Jazz Festival struck a chord with the music fans who turned up night after night to listen to the world-class line-up.

The festival kicked off with a bang on Thursday with Francesca Galea accompanied by Leonardo Montana, followed by nu-jazz trio The Bad Plus, after which fusion legend Mike Stern and his band hit the stage.

Also going off with a bang were the fireworks from the Kalkara feast, which had been postponed due to the World Cup. It was only after the fireworks’ display that young songbird Esperanza Spalding could do her set after Joshua Redman and his double trio, on Friday.

Ms Spalding had shown a particular appreciation for Malta and its history saying: “It’s beautiful. I understand why people wanna fight for this place; it’s gorgeous.”

The last night was opened by jazz veteran Charles “City” Gatt and his quartet, who injected a strong Maltese flavour with a jazzed-up traditional tune by the late Charles Camilleri.

Drummer Ari Hoenig of the Ari Hoenig Punk Bop Trio, renowned for playing melodies by altering the pressure on the drum, kept adding to the local flavour by playing Maltese folk tune Lanċa Ġejja w Oħra Sejra on his kit, then going on to fuse it with a jazz standard.

“I learnt it today,” Mr Hoenig told The Times, adding that as musicians they were used to “quoting” other songs while improvising.

Speaking on his technique of altering the pitch of the drums using his elbows, Mr Hoenig said he practised it “like any violin or cello player would, by learning at what positions different notes are”.

Quotations were also present in Richard Bona’s closing set, where at some point Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water was heard.

Mr Bona proved to be a true showman, interacting with the people who gathered on the bastions overlooking Ta’ Liesse to follow the show. He ended his set with people dancing in front of the stage and singing along – apart from when he asked the women over 40 in the audience to sing along with him and there was no response leading him to jokingly ask whether women of this age group had all been executed in Malta.

Speaking to this newspaper afterwards, the bassist, weary from signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans, said he would be back any day.

His approach to music, as technical as it might be to play, is simple. “Music should be fun,” he says.

For further information, kindly contact 77 Great Estates on (00356) 2125 2455; (00356) 9944 7444; skype: info.77GreatEstates or info@77GreatEstates.com.

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