JJ 06/71: Third International Jazz Parade at Bergamo

Fifty years ago, G. Bongiovanni reported from the third Bergamo jazz festival that there was applausi del numeroso pubblico sia per il «traditionale» che per il «free». First published in Jazz Journal June 1971

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JJ's 1971 caption read: 'Paul Bley and Annette Peacock, seemingly unperturbed by the proximity of the mighty Moog synthesiser'. Photo by Luciano Marchesselli

The Third International Jazz Parade at Bergamo ran from March 19th to the 21st, and the large audiences at the Donizetti Theatre were given a varied programme which spanned much of jazz history.

First on the March 19th bill was a trio led by Italy’s own Marco Di Marco, whose recent album Un Autunno A Parigi was very well received. Marco (pno), Jacky Samson (bs) and Charles Saudrais (dm), interpreted the leader’s compositions in a style which won the praise of both critics and audience.

Paul Bley, on the other hand, proved rather perplexing: armed with a Moog synthesiser and assisted by his wife Annette Peacock, who contributed some vocals, he bathed the audience in elaborate but rarely agreeable sounds which left them sceptical rather than satisfied. This is a pity, since we remember Paul Bley as one of the most interesting and sensitive pianists of the later modernist persuasion.

Joe Venuti was a great success; the seventy-year-old violinist, accompanied by Lou Stein on piano, delighted the audience with stunningly immediate versions of the favourites of 40 years ago.

Circle, Chick Corea’s new band, brought the evening to a close with some fiercely original music, featuring contrapuntal interplay between the leader’s piano and the angry, excited voice of Anthony Braxton’s alto. The quartet was completed by the excellent Dave Holland on bass and drummer Barry AJtschul.

Saturday’s programme opened with the Bergamo Sextet, led by pianist Gianni Bergamelli, and included an appearance by the American pianist Michael Smith (Sarah Vaughan’s ex-accompanist), but reached its highest point in the performance of the trio led by the English saxophonist John Surman. This young musician – a skilled instrumentalist and an intelligent artist – gave in intense per­formance (especially when playing soprano), brilliantly assisted by the very fine bassist Barre Philips and by Stu Martin on drums.

The evening ended with a meeting of ‘stars’ (or so it was on paper at any rate): trumpeter Charlie Shavers with tenorists Ben Webster and Johnny Griffin were backed by Joe Hayder (pno), Palle Danielsson (bs) and Art Taylor (dm).

The highlight of the last evening of the festival was a triumphant performance by Lionel Hampton: after music by Enrico Inra’s sextet, followed by the Blue Note Quartet of Rome (featuring Dizzy Reece on trumpet and pianist Franco D’Andrea), the American vibist led a procession of musicians through the theatre, played vibes, drums and piano, sang, and presented his famous soloists: tenorist Illinois Jacquet, pianist/organist Milt Buckner and William Mackel on guitar. The response was warmly enthusiastic.