WHAT IF...

In February 1917, while an unruly group of young white musicians was recording in New York City, under the unconvinced gaze of the Victor management, the music that would be published as the first record with the word “jazz” on the label, another group of musicians, African-Americans from Harlem, were fighting in Europe’s muddy trenches in a war so bloody and tragic that to justify it they called it “the war to end all wars”. They were the 369th Infantry, also known as the "Hellfighters” and their band was led by Lt. James Reese Europe. Their concerts in Versailles disrupted the rigid diplomatic code, and their victorious parade across all the length of Manhattan was a historical first, like Europe’s concert in Carnegie Hall.
 
Unfortunately not only was that war not the last, but in a mere 20 years there would be another war across Europe’. After that, the ideal of an unified Europe kept war outside the heart of the Old World, even when it raged on its borders.
 
In these 100 years jazz changed with the times and managed surprisingly not only to survive, but even to thrive and develop. It provided a stage for the oppressed and the disenfranchised. The bright smile of Louis Armstrong, the scintillating pyrotechnics of Ella Fitzgerald, the brooding humour of Miles Davis, the sensuality of Josephine Baker and the visionary music of Django Reinhardt spoke to the hearts of the world way beyond their words. And when Dizzy Gillespie or Benny Goodman toured in the name of “jazz diplomacy” it was always a tug-of-war between the message they wanted to convey, the will of officials to control them, and what the audience expected.
 
Jazz at its best has been a pain in the ass, a subversive music, turning upside down not only the world of entertainment but the bureaucracies and the dictators that found it in the most unexpected places. It has been for generations of listeners and musicians a path to the discovery of new musical worlds, an inspiration to break the accepted rules, to welcome the unexpected not only in sound, but also in text, poetry, image, film.
 
Hovering on the borders of the Empire, jazz allowed itself to be filled with new contents, making those borders more porous, dancing over the walls while weakening their foundations. It brought together people from different walks of life, different class, ethnic, national backgrounds.
 
After 100 years jazz has to reinvent itself yet again to face new and different challenges. More digitally united and interconnected the world is becoming more divided with walls and barbed wire. The resulting pent-up energies, rage, and inequalities cannot be contained under the smooth veneer of soothing music, but must be released and expressed to allow celebration. That is the space that we – promoters, operators, writers, all the agents in the field – need to create, in order to allow jazz to be as it always has been, a place of understanding where contradictions come out in the open and are reinterpreted by current, urgent art. No better place than Ljubljana, with its past, present and future, to reflect on who we are, why we are together, and where we want to go.

 
Francesco Martinelli

EUROPEAN JAZZ CONFERENCE 2017
21-24 September, Ljubljana, Slovenia

WHAT IF...

More info> http://www.europejazz.net/project/european-jazz-conference

 
Thursday, March 16, 2017 - 15:30