A is for Afterparty. I want to place the Valamar Jazz Festival afterparty, in the splendidly atmospheric gardens of the Villa Polesini (above), a Valamar-owned property, straight up there among the all-time most atmospheric and enticing jazz hangs in the world. And the fourth night was something very special indeed.
B is for the Bell tower of the Euphrasian Basilica. The bell tower, standing tall above all the other buildings of the town, is its most visible landmark. As you return from the island stage you feel welcomed back by the magic of the harbour lights reflected in the water, and by the reassuring ever-presence of the tower. (see also W)
C is for the particular undefinable charm of Poreč. You have to experience it (See – among others – B and U)
D is for Lars Danielsson. Caecilie Norby’s bassist husband, playing on borrowed equipment because an airline had screwed up, shone in his appearance in the official programme slot, accompanying Norby in How High the Moon at about crotchet equals 400, and at the afterparty.
E is for Elvis Penava, a 32-year old guitarist from Rijeka, a regular presence in the house band at the afterparty jam sessions . One of the by-products of the festival is that it gives local musicians exposure. Croatia has a small scene, but Tamara Obrovac is extrmely pro-active in helping to nurture it. Check out Elvis Penava on video:
F is for the little ferryboat which brings the audience to and from the little island of Sveti Nikola where the main stage is. It’s an efficient service, running to an exact timetable which in my experience never got missed. (see also S)
G is for Gelateria, serving an absolute essential in the summer heat of Poreč (it was hot, the weather perfect this year). There’s masses of choice, including Italian artisan ice cream. This is a competitive market which requires huge energy and long hours from sellers of ice-cream (and noise – check out this video)
H is for the history of a town which has been Greek, Roman, Venetian, Austrian, Italian, Yugoslav, Croatian. Stroll and you’ll find Roman remains from the first century AD. The Euphrasian basilica has had a religious building on its site since the third century AD.
I is for Italy. It’s close. Venice is just two and a half hours by high speed catamaran ferry. And it’s culturally close, too. Luckily for the rest of us, the Italians have a very short holiday season. I like Poreč in June (see U)
J is for the JB Horns of Fred Wesley (above) who played their brand of 70s funk on the final night of the festival. Electric bass player Dwayne Dolphin is a powerful voice in the lower octaves. Depending on your point of view, it’s either evergreen or in a time-warp. Fun, though. “Bop to the boogie / Boogie to the bop bop / To the Boogie Bop Bop”, we rapped. You get the idea.
K is for Klagenfurt …or K.u.K, or in other words Austria. Just as Italy is culturally and geographically close, so is Austria. This mix of influences and cultural proximity adds to the charm (see C and also I)
L is for Lonely Planet. Festival Director Tamara Obrovac (above) gets a mention in the Lonely Planet guide for Croatia. In appointing her and her team to run the Festival, Valamar have found someone unique, with huge energy and good experience and judgement. I’ve been enjoying her most recent album too.
M is for Hugh Masekela. The charisma, the warmth, the great band, and probably the crowning glory of the festival. (See review)
N is for Sveti Nikola. The island which houses the main festival stage right by the sea. You hear the lapping of the waves as you wait for the band to come on stage.
O is for the corporate objectives of Valamar. It is incredibly enlightened of a corporation like Valamar to host this festival. This could indeed be a case study for good corporate sponsorship. Large corporations are capable of pouring money away,but the more I saw of this association, the more I became persuaded that this is money VERY well spent, and that the positive brand associations of this music festival for Valamar as it develops can be far-reaching. Valamar have got hold of the right people to run it, to build it. The festival gives Valamar’s suppliers, corporate guests a good time, but there is untapped potential through annual reinforcing of the message via this festival of the unique appeal of the region.
P is for the programming and production (see also Q)
Q is for the sheer quality of that programming, and the clever use of venues such as the Euphrasian basilica, and the stage by the sea (above). And for the sound quality. Studio sound quality on a beach. Yes. And a sign of what can happen when the team running a festival are given sanction and the budget to deliver quality.
R is for Enrico Rava. The great Italian trumpeter was the inspiration of a young band. These bands led by the veterans, the story-tellers of European jazz, handing on the precious flame, are inspiring and give hope.
S is for swallows. Flocks of them take to the air as the audience is settling for the concert. You can just about set your watch by them. (For after the concert see H)
T is for Tamara Obrovac, and also for the lively and professional team spirit of her small programming and production staff. They work seamlessly to create a good experience. Messages given get passed on, things get taken care of, it’s been a privilege to watch them in action.
U is for unhurried. Poreč in June is anything but rushed. It’s a delightful town with retro charm. (see also C)
V is for Valamar. Valamar, “the leading Croatian hospitality management company, operating 40 properties situated on the Adriatic coast” have branded this festival cleverly. They are in the hospitality trade, it’s a business they understand in depth.
W is for World Heritage. To go to a gig (by Ralph Towner – reviewed here) in a UNESCO World Heritage Site with over 1500 years of history in its walls felt like a privilege.
X is for a nice exhibition of photos by Željko Jelenski, concurrent with the festival
Z is for Zagreb, the capital of this country of 4 1/2 million people, which is blessed with some of the finest coastline in Europe. Their history is far from simple – while I’ve been here there have been two national holidays which commemorate events in Croatian history – but what I’m taking home from this festival is its potential to become more visible and show of the charm of the region. A large corporation has taken a bold step and combined with the energy of an inspiring, small programming/ production team. This commercially instigated but artistically-led festival, in its third year, deserves the opportunity to gather momentum in the years ahead. (see P and Q)
Sebastian Scotney was the guest of Valamar Jazz Festival