The 4th Valamar Jazz Festival is coming to an end, just 24 hours before Croatia becomes the 28th member of the EU. Croatia’s saga of joining the EU has been the longest-ever accession process, with discussions starting in the 1990’s and a formal application first having been made in 2003. The majority of Croatians I have met here see the move as positive: it will above all give them, and in some cases their businesses, easier and cheaper access to the single market. It’s clearly good for tourism, which is a strategically important industry. Bookings are significantly up on last year, the vibe of the town is much busier. Meanwhile this week the Croatian press has been gripped by other things: Angela Merkel’s decision not to show up for tonight’s accession bash in Zagreb, which may or may not be related to the complexities of the Perkovic extradition saga. This is not a simple country..
It was a relief, then, that things on the final night of the Valamar Jazz Festival were kept so straightforward. This jazz festival, which makes such effective use of two of the things Croatia has in abundance – history and a stunning coastline – brought ferryload after ferryload of people over to the island of Sveti Nikola to sample a night of unashamedly infectious rhythm and the opportunity to get up and dance. This is my fifth and last report – there should also be a round-up on the Telegraph website later.
The energetic young Berlin-based funk unit Mo’Blow (above) did exactly in the live context what Laurence Jones in his Jazz Breakfast in his CD review said they had done on record: delivered a “full-on quality work-out” of 21st century funk, the sax/Rhodes/ electric bass line-up complemented with the use of electronics such as looping, a sax wah-wah pedal… and a didgeridoo. The band has its regular gig at Quasimodo in Berlin, tours a lot, and has recently put out a Nils Landgren-produced third album, their second for Siggi Loch’s ACT Music label.
Rounding off proceedings was a rousing set from Eddie Palmieri‘s seven-piece touring band, including three percussionists. The sound which mainly echoed round the bay was that of Jonathan Powell, an inheritor of astonishing, blazing Maynard Ferguson trumpet chops. My ear was also caught by the playing of saxophonist Louis Fouché, whose interesting life-story I have been reading HERE. As the percussion engine was roaring around him, as front-line colleague Powell hit the high notes, Fouché was catching the attention by standing impassively, improbably still. Without histrionics, without stage antics, he was delivering playing of real quality. More please.