Hot Sounds for Summer

Columns | Jean-Pascal Vachon | June 2009

American singer Madeleine Peyroux, in Vienna on July 8 (Photo: Bruno Bollert)

Well, summer is almost here, and our favorite clubs are about to go on summer break. Do jazz fans have to resort to their record collections for their regular doses of their favorite music? Of course not. Summer is also when the jazz festival season begins.

For the enterprising, Europe turns into one gigantic jazz show with festivals held in several cities, from Austria to Italy, England or France. While some festivals are organized thematically (modern jazz, "ethno-jazz"), some others go for quantity (without necessarily forgetting quality – think of the world – renowned Montreal Jazz Fest in Canada), and others go for a little bit of this and a little bit of that…

The Jazz Fest Wien belongs to that category. Let’s clear away my usual gripe with the number of non-jazz concerts presented under the banner of "jazz" (Would you want Eminem at the Salzburg Festival? The Vienna Philharmonic at Nova Rock? So why are there so much music that has with nothing to do with jazz in a JAZZ FESTIVAL?!?). Let’s concentrate instead on some of the jazzier moments offered by the Viennese festival held this year between Jun. 29 and Jul. 9 spread over more than ten venues :

On Jul. 8, singer Madeleine Peyroux will bring her intimate and delicate art to the Arkadenhof at the Rathaus. With a voice strongly reminiscent of Billie Holiday’s, Peyroux (who owes her first name to a father who loved Proust) covers a repertoire that spreads between Bessie Smith and standards from the 1930s to Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, along with some original material. Master of the "less is more," Peyroux has managed to create a sizeable fan base around the world with her four solo albums recorded over the last thirteen years.

At the WUK, on Jun. 30, John Scofield – not unknown to Viennese audiences – will perform as part of the "Piety Street" tour (from his latest opus, this time dedicated to gospel). One of the big three of modern jazz guitar (with Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell), Scofield is one of those musicians who can be recognized in the first notes: With his "saturated" and dirty sound, his bluesy and funky licks and his hard-swinging phrases, his concert will be standing-room only. This is music where you need to be able to move, dance and shake whatever you’ve got!

As it was to be expected, the series presented by the top club Porgy & Bess presents the "jazziest" of the artists present in this year’s edition of the Jazzfest Wien. Starting with the Lionel Loueke Trio on June 29, the Viennese will be given the opportunity to hear with their own ears why this young musician’s name has been on everyone’s lips lately. Part of the Herbie Hancock group that performed at the Konzerthaus last Fall, the Benin-born Loueke gets the spotlight this time with the more intimate setting of a trio (with bass and drum) a unique and innovative fusion of African roots and contemporary jazz.

On Jul. 2, Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel will perform in the most difficult setting of all: alone. Acknowledging influences by French composer Olivier Messiaen, Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, Bach’s lute works, renaissance choral and Austrian folk music as well as Miles Davis, Prince and Bill Evans, he isn’t afraid to incorporate sophisticated electronic loops, samples and other sound sources with his guitars and violin. An evening for the connoisseur.

On Jul. 5, the master of tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, David Murray, will perform together with his Black Saint Quartet. Murray is one of today’s most recorded and most appreciated jazzmen. Over the years, he has developed a style that owes as much to the audacities of free jazz as to older and more orthodox forms. "Freebop" could be the best way to describe his music – adventurous and hard-swinging, modern and classical.

And a personal favorite: OK, she isn’t a jazzwoman per se. But she can reach the emotional depth of a Billie Holiday. This is the legendary Marianne Faithfull (Jul. 4 at the Staatsoper). Forced to cancel last year due to ill health, she’s back with a marvelous album ("Easy Come, Easy Go") with subtle jazz undertones. In Vienna as part of her album tour, Marianne Faithfull will present a mix of songs by Billie Holiday, Randy Newman, Smokey Robinson, Leonard Bernstein, Brian Eno and Dolly Parton accompanied by a small band. Definitely a "not to be missed" concert!


For more information and full schedule:

(01)-408 60 30


Recommended discography:

Madeleine Peyroux: Bare Bones 

(Rounder, 2009)

John Scofield: Piety Street (EmArcy, 2009)

Lionel Loueke: Karibu (Blue Note, 2008)

Wolfgang Muthspiel: Solo

(Material Records, 2004)

David Murray: Sacred Ground

(Justin Time, 2007)

Marianne Faithfull: Easy Come, Easy Go

(Naïve, 2008)


Musicologist Jean-Pascal Vachon teaches at Webster University Vienna and gives lectures on the history of music at various venues around the city. In addition, he also contributes texts and works as a translator for the Swedish classical label, BIS.

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