Jazz Festival settled for good in Sopot! Review of SJF 2018 by Marta Jundziłł

Marta Jundziłł (transl.: B. Gagnon]

Last Saturday saw the finale of one of the most important jazz events of Tri-city [Gdansk–Sopot-Gdynia] – The Sopot Jazz Festival. It was the final year of Greg Osby's artistic directorship and the American saxophonist made sure it was one to remember. He invited eight various projects, seven of which were created especially for the purpose of the festival. The leading theme of this year's edition was music of different generations, openness to experiment, as well as showcasing the power of female musicians in jazz.

The festival took place over three days, form Thursday 04.10.2018 to Saturday 06.10.2018, gathering artists from fourteen countries. It was a group of excellent musicians varying in all aspects. It was interesting to see five out of eight projects lead by women, still a rare thing in jazz world.

Festival opened with Mn’JAM Experiment – an international project lead by the excellent singer Melissa Oliveira. The band presented an addictive fusion of jazzy electronic sounds enriched by live visualisations. It was a performance of sorts, based on the energetic layer of music, electronic effects and advanced vocal looping. The culmination of those proceedings was a piece called „Our Times” – polimetrically twisted, full of agogic changes, seasoned with crazy voice modulation of the singer (at times rapping in electronically modified „male” voice). The second performance of that evening was led by a female double bass player from Rome, also featuring a trumpeter Francesco Lento. The band was all the more original for an absence of a drummer. Contrasting with the first band, the minimalist playing of the Italians turned out to be very soothing and allowed the audience to catch a breath.   Particularly noteworthy was the pianist – Simone Maggio, whose poetic playing added color to the performance giving it a romantic flavour.


The second day of Sopot Jazz Festival was clearly dominated by the Alina Rostotskaya & Kuba Badach CONNECTED project. The vocalists were supported by extraordinary musicians: Dominik Wania, Daria Chernakova and Grzegorz Pałka. Even though created solely for the purpose of the festival, the team was perfectly harmonious  and logically met musical challenges, leading to a balanced sound. Instrumentally, the lead belonged to Dominik  Wania – a versatile pianist, who most of all honored the quality of the sound. In his playing, as well as jazz angle, you could hear the lightness of Ravel and Debussy, which allowed him to paint complete musical illustrations. The concert contained Alina's compositions (a gorgeous lullaby for her daughter –„Lullaby for Agafya”, as well as a remarkable version of sephardic „Morenika”), songs by Kuba Badach, and powerful instrumental arrangements of Tomasz Stańko. An excellent mix of Eastern-European energy made the Alina Rostotskaya & Kuba Badach CONNECTED concert not only the most popular but also the best concert of the festival.

The final day of the Sopot Jazz belonged in turn to an Israeli artist Tal Cohen. The pianist endeared himself to the public with storytelling of his variuos inspirations and anectodes from everyday life. Expressive Cohen did not hide the joy of playing with the band assembled for this project. He bounced on the piano stool all the time, exclaiming his approval of the following solos.

And no wonder. He did have an extraordinary team: on double bass – Barry Donohue, on trumpet – Tomasz Dąbrowski, on trumpet – Jakub Miarczyński. This quartet kept the audience in suspense for over an hour, presenting mostly Tal's compositions from his last album „Gentle Giants”. The finale of the festival belonged to the project AXON created specifically for this purpose, led by three women saxophonists. Tineke Postma, Lauren Sevian and Roxy Coss showed clearly that the future of jazz belongs to bold women. They played compositions form their albums, from which the most favoured was the material from „The Future is Female” by Roxy Coss.

And so, Saturday night concluded this edition of the Sopot Jazz Festival. Next year it will be led by a new curator. Regardless of who it is , it is worth to mark the beginning of October in your calendar for the next edition of the festival.