A party atmosphere reigns supreme at Jazz à Vienne 2015

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One of the biggest French summer Festivals enjoyed the hottest weather for many years and as a result massive crowds enjoyed the predominantly outdoor venues from lunchtime to the early hours of the morning.

The giant Theatre Antique (a Roman Amphitheatre) provided an eclectic mix of top name acts from all genres and from across the world – highlights included a weekend of New Orleans Music from Dee Dee Bridgewater, Allen Toussaint, Lillian Boutte and Davell Crawford

A brilliant double gig from Marcus Miller – opening with the L’Orchestre national de Lyon and then continuing with his band playing material from his new album ‘Afrodeezia’ – the album (I thought) was rather pedestrian, but here live it took on a completely new life and was the pulsating and vibrant music that we have come to expect from Miller. Alex Han (bass) and Adam Agati (guitar) were outstanding – Miller classics Tutu, Jeckell & Hyde and Goree along with a barnstorming encore of the Beatles ‘Come together’ really got the crowd on their feet.

Avishai Cohen’s New York Division Sextet played an incredible set before George Benson (who was doing his tribute to Nat King Cole) – Cohen’s collaboration with Kurt Rosenwinkel is such a good mixture and the playing from all the band was exceptional.

The themed nights at Vienne always draw huge crowds and the Funk (The Family Stone, Maceo Parker and Malted Milk), Latin (Caetano Velso and Gilberto Gil followed by Chucho Valdes) African (Orchestra Baobab and Les Ambassadeurs) created a real party atmosphere.

Sting, Melody Gardot, Ibrahim Maalouf, Dhafer Youssef, the Cookers and Roy Hargrove rounded off the main shows in the Amphitheatre (which is the only ‘paid for’ venue at the festival – everything else is free)

For die hard jazz fans the midnight club had a very strong programme – new French singing sensation Cyrille Aimée, Julia Sarr, Chico Freeman, Leyla McCalla, Rhoda Scott, Mohamed Abozekry and creating quite a buzz were Go Go Penguin who played a brilliant set in an incredibly hot Club de Minuit to a very appreciative audience (it was around 40 Celsius when I left around 1.30am!)

The very late night venue ‘Jazz Mix’ features collaborations and off beat music that compliments the main program very well. Stand out shows were from Soweto Kinch – playing with 4 beat box artists, Fabiana Cozza playing her set with Roda de Samba ‘in the round’ rather than on stage and a wonderful set by French/Ivory Coast band ‘Vaudou Game’  - a jazz/rock mixture with totally infections Voodoo beats and hypnotic rhythms.

On a very sad note I saw the late John Taylor play two fantastic gigs here on the 3 July with bass player Stephane Kerecki. I chatted to him after the first gig which was on the free stage in the Cybele Gardens, as always – he was very happy to talk and enthuse about the music he was playing – the second gig was the opening gig in the Theatre Antique before Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil and he was genuinely excited to play in such a wonderful venue and in front of around 7000 people. He was a brilliant pianist and a very kind man…

Jazz à Vienne has music from 12pm till approx. 3am in venues across the town and as you would expect, during the festival the town is really buzzing, this year given the excellent weather (one night I drove home at 3am and the temperature was still 35 Celsius) It clearly was a resounding success and with what looks to be record attendances it all bodes very well for next year, which will be the 36th edition of this great festival.

– Tim Dickeson