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01 June 2008

Greek Oriental Fusion Jazz

A visit to the 8th European Jazz Festival
iristho en parodo on stage at the 8th European Jazz Festival Athens

There probably isn't a Jazz festival anywhere with so many people and so little Jazz. Don't get me wrong, the 8th European Jazz Festival is a wonderful event. I went there yesterday evening with friends and I had a great time and listened to some very good Jazz. But the first thought that formed in my head was: "All those people do not really have any interest in Jazz!"

OK, let's start from the beginning, since maybe you haven't been there and maybe can't be there tonight (this Sunday evening is the last night for this year). The festival takes place at a former gas processing plant (it's called "Gazi"). There are big smokestacks, buildings full of pipes and furnaces, long buildings that could have housed offices, all with lots of space and wide roads amongst them. For many years this place has stood abandoned, until it was transmogrified into a something like a cultural center, which is named "Technopolis". I've seen some photo exhibitions there.

It's a wonderful place for a Jazz festival. When I heard of it, I thought that there might be multiple stages (they sure got the space) and that there would be no problem to get a lot of listeners in. In fact there is only one stage, but lots and lots of people. Some of them sit and stand in front of the stage, listening to the set. Most of them stroll around though, look at the accompanying exhibitions of photos and paintings, or simple sit in the cafés or just plain anywhere and have a cool drink. End of May in Athens is warm enough to sit outside all night. I wasn't feeling cold with only a t-shirt on, but you might want to bring a light sweater.

crowd atmosphere at the 8th European Jazz Festival Athens

Taking our own tour

So when we arrived, we had a look and listen in on the stage, where 12Twelve (from Spain) were playing. We then took a walk around the venue, looked at some air view photos of ancient and modern places around Athens, then at some painting exhibitions (which - sorry for the artists - didn't mean much to me). We then got into the spirit, fetched some drinks and went to sit on some grassy area. There we mostly crowd watched, meanwhile listening to the set from afar. The set moved on from the Spanish guys to the "Ondřej Pivec Organic quartet" from the Czech republic. More good and solid standard jazz. We had had the impression that the sound system was turned up loud enough to prefer to stay farther off, and the jazz sounded just standard enough to me not to draw me to get a closer listen.

Crowd watching was fun though. There were a lot of really young people there, mods and emos, some hard rock types with long hair and Motörhead shirts, chix with small dresses and high heels (please excuse the word, but "chix" just really describes them so well) and no way would anybody believe these people came here for the Jazz. In fact I expected any moment someone to pull out a ghetto blaster and turn on some of the traditional tunes of their very own tribe, ignoring all that strange sound from the main stage. I think they just called (sorry, sms'ed) each other, saying something like "there's something in the Gazi, let's go!" It doesn't really matter what it is, but the beer is cheap and everybody will be there.

The main reason: The oriental angle

Finally the czechs were rolling it up, and after a brief period of canned music (I imagined hectic activity going on on the stage at this point), the tune changed and the Greek group "ειρήσθω εν παρόδω" (iristho en parodo band site) took on. Due to the monsieurlu post I had gone and downloaded their sample album, which I really, really liked, and so they were the main reason I was there. These guys mix Jazz with oriental tunes, often sounding Greek, then again Arabic. I'm heavy into this stuff lately, so I dig it a lot. It was quite swinging and grooving too. We went to the stage to see them up close.

They have a big rhythm section - sometimes it worked out really, really well, as when the two drums etc. guys got their hand drums out and battled it on for a good while. I'm not a huge fan of drum solos (they rarely are really truly spectacular, and mostly fight against boredom fast), but this stuff rocked on and it was a joy to watch the connection between those two guys grooving it out.

Sometimes I would have wished for less drums and a deeper melodic set. The violin player is really, really good, and the sax/flute/clarinet player is good too, but sometimes I had the impression that many songs sounded alike - only in the concert, the downloadable album is divers. But whatever, we were enjoying the show, swinging along all the time. This music was really what I had come for. I can really recommend this band. Go and download their free album now!

Posted by betabug at 13:35 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
ch athens
Life in Athens (Greece) for a foreigner from the other side of the mountains. And with an interest in digital life and the feeling of change in a big city. Multilingual English - German - Greek.
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Re: Greek Oriental Fusion Jazz

Since the event was under the Athens municipality shield, it was free and had cheap drinks. Thus, the big indifferent croud for jazz.

Posted by: panagiotis at June 01,2008 14:25
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