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Jazz at the Venice Biennale

‘ReMix Structures and Improvisations’ is Uri Caine’s visionary project as Director of the 47th Festival Internazionale di Musica Contemporanea (International Festival of Contemporary Music) to be held at the Venice Biennale, Italy (12-21 September 2003.) A bold turning point in terms of programme, it allows Contemporary Music to be experienced in all its kaleidoscopic forms. Caine musically translates Venice’s pensive beauty into the vertical suspension of New York’s skyline, into a stage of different voices and artistic projects embodying today’s musical diversity.

Caine will be an integral part of the programme as in London’s Meltdown Festival, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and before him Robert Wyatt (just to name a few) acted while Artistic Directors not only as the minds behind stage, but also as a recognizable presence on stage.
He will in fact be presenting his paradigmatic work ‘Othello Syndrome’, the first 75 minutes of which will be a World Premiere, and will then be performing in duo with trumpet player Dave Douglas (known for his collaboration with Zorn for ‘Masada’.)

Two ensembles will take residency at the Festival: ‘Bang on a Can’, a sublime project founded by some of the most compelling and challenging minds in New York’s Contemporary Music scene (David Lang, Julia Wolf and Michael Gordon) and ‘Speculum Musicae.’

Still, one of the most interesting aspects of this year’s Biennale is the sustained presence of Jazz throughout the Festival - the ‘improvisational’ angle in an event aiming to juxtapose ‘Structures and Improvisations:’ the notational and structured side of contemporary writing against the freely moving patterns of improvised music, and the acoustic ambience of tradition versus more than fifty years of electrified innovations (since Darmstadt and beyond).

Jazz is deliberately being approached from an experimental angle. Hence, it is no surprise that the British pianist Django Bates and his project Human Chain will take to the stage at the ‘Teatro Piccolo Arsenale’ on 20 September, together with the Smith Quartet (a classically shaped string quartet) for a crossover of Jazz, Electronics and Classical music not to be missed.
Clarinetist Don Byron and his Music for Six Musicians (17 September) will explore Latin and Afro-Caribbean styles from a traditional Jazz perspective; while alto saxophonist Steve Coleman & Five Elements’ crossover Jazz will have a funkier, more urban-driven edge (16 September.)
Elliott Sharp, as usual, will be involved with extreme experimentation (from free-jazz to Electronics/Djing, Classical and Minimalism) and will be on stage on 15 September.
With George Lewis, Muhal Richard Abrams and Roscoe Mitchell (20 September), Jazz becomes a fusion of predetermined deep, complex writing, against freely improvised patterns made up of live electronics and cutting edge cinematic quotations: a multi layered approach shared since their experience at the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.)
Henry Threadgill (19 September) will continue his exploration of new sounds in the Modern Jazz big-band genre.
Also on 19 September, a performance by an ‘all-Italian’ duo, Furio Di Castri and Gianluca Petrella (trombone, double-bass.)

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