Peter Lipa, Slovakia's popular graying and stubbled jazz singer and the organizer of Bratislava's annual orgy of jazz music, "Bratislava Jazz Days," claims this year's event is the most star-studded yet.
He may be right. The 23rd annual festival, which will run October 25-27 at PKO, the culture and trade fair grounds on the left bank of the Danube, has the usual mix of old and new. But there's definitely a retro backbeat this year, with legends such as Brian Augur and Jon Hendricks on tap at the festival, whose main sponsor is the Corgoň brewery.
As well as these giants from the past, there will be hot new talent that harkens back to the 1960's and whose showcase piece is the Hammond organ, a heavy electric organ that has not been manufactured in two decades. Barbara Dennerlein of Germany (currently living in the US) will be playing - with foot pedals - on opening night.
Her sound is sometimes compared with that of Jimmy Smith, best known as a bluesman. But Lipa said Dennerlein plays jazz, not blues, and that she won the "Talent Deserving Wider Recognition '96" award by the American jazz magazine Downbeat.
Perhaps the biggest attraction will be Britain's Brian Augur, who resides in the pantheon of Hammond organists from the 1960's. He and vocalist Julie Drisscoll and their band Trinity were the first major international artists to appear here. They jammed in the same hall in June 1968 as Alexander Dubček's "Socialism with a human face" flowered across then-Czechoslovakia.
Twenty-eight years later, Augur is back in the fold - though falling behind fellow British organist Georgie Fame in providing progeny for the backup band (Fame had two sons on stage with him in his last Bratislava performance).
Headlining Saturday night is Arturo Sandoval and The Latin Train. Best known for his stratospherically high notes, "he's as much a great equilibrist as he is a great musician," Lipa said. Jon Hendricks, the American lyricist for a host of standards such as Centerpiece (Hendricks, Lambert and Ross) and who just celebrated his 70th birthday in gala fashion in the US, appears Saturday along with Benny Golson and Curtis Fuller.
On a more contemporary note, headlining Friday night are The Yellowjackets, a former fusion band from the USA that has mellowed during the past decade into a jazz band. Sunday night it's saxophonist Bill Evans, who introduces rap to the jazz milieu.
Tickets to Bratislava Jazz Days can be bought in advance for 160 Sk through the PKO box office at Hviezdoslavovo nám. 18 or on the day of the concert for 180 Sk.
9. Oct 1996 at 0:00 | Terry Moran