Südtirol Jazzfestival Alto Adige, Fri 25 June–Sun 4 July 2021
Preview by Alison Bentley
It’s reassuring to know that jazz festivals are happening, even if some of us aren’t allowed to travel to them yet. The annual Südtirol Jazzfestival Alto Adige is forging ahead this year among the dramatic Dolomite mountains in northern Italy. Each year the festival focuses on cutting edge musicians from a particular country or group of countries. 2021 takes us along the Danube, bringing together musicians from Germany, Ukraine, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and Moldavia, as well as Italy.
The atmospheric old town of Bolzano/Bozen (all places have both Italian and German names) is sheltered among the mountains. It hosts the core of the festival, including the opening evening gigs on Friday 25 June: percussionists, singers and dancers from Slovenia, Austria and the Czech Republic will be in the Parco Cappuccini/Kapuzinerpark. The wonderfully-named Fatima Spar & The Freedom Fries (a “post-Ottoman swing band” from Vienna) will be there the following evening, plus Hungarian duo Kaltenecker-Markó. Sunday 29 June brings two quartets to the park: German-Romanian A Word Is A Swallow and Finnish Superposition.
One of the great things about the festival is that if you miss a band in one venue – or you love them and can’t wait to see them again – you can probably see them on another day elsewhere. Fatima Spar & The Freedom Fries, for example, will also be at three mountain refuges, including Trejer Hut Speikboden, on Sunday 29 June.
Festival organisers are keen to nurture musicians, and Nuova Generazione Jazz brings young Italian bands to Bolzano/Bozen’s Bonbonniere Auditorium on Monday 28 and Tuesday 29 June.
Other nearby towns provide beautiful venues: on Wednesday 30 June Orges & The Ockus-Rockus Band bring “rock ‘n’ roll and gypsy swing” to Brunico/Bruneck, and Hungarian violin-led Santa Diver play in Merano/Meran.
Many venues have spectacular mountain views. You can take the cable car to Renon/Ritten on Friday 2 July to hear Estonians Kadri Voorand (vocals/piano) and bassist Mihkel Mälgland. Or travel to the magnificent castle Castello di Silandro to hear them later in the day. On the final day, Hungarian band András Dés Rangers bring their jazz interpretation of a forest landscape to the mountains in three gigs.
It’s a wonderful festival, with an imaginative eye for matching music with venues. There’s a sense of musicians from different countries sharing ideas. There are always helpful people around to get you where you want to be, on foot, by shuttle bus or by public transport. With 50 gigs in 10 days it’s best to explore the programme yourself.