How time flies. The Malta Jazz Festival is officially 21 years old, an annual milestone for many lovers of the finer things in life, when world class jazz meets a world heritage city by the water.
The Jazz Festival opens this Thursday 14th July, and runs for three consecutive nights at Ta’ Liesse in Valletta. The Festival Director, Paris-based jazz guitarist Sandro Zerafa, thinks this year’s edition is the most eclectic to date – a true melting-pot of world music, showcasing the contemporary jazz scene, with musicians from Brazil, Jamaica, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and Africa.
The Festival kicks off with Benin guitarist Lionel Loueke, a Blue Note recording artist and a frequent collaborator of Herbie Hancock. His unique blend of jazz and African elements will be followed by Monty Alexander and the Harlem-Kingston Express. In a career spanning five decades, Monty has built a reputation exploring and bridging the worlds of American jazz and reggae, the music of his native Jamaica.
The Malta Jazz Festival has always had a penchant for cutting-edge New York jazz – this year, it is the rising star Ambrose Akinmusire, another Blue Note recording artist and a winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. He will feature on Friday 15th July, in a double-bill with the charismatic Brazilian legend Joao Bosco, a must for lovers of samba, bossa-nova and MPB. This is the third time Bosco is playing in Malta, underlying the growing reputation of the Malta Jazz Festival on the international circuit.
Another familiar name on the New York scene featuring this year is sax player Seamus Blake, yet another laureate of the Thelonious Monk competition, who will be presenting his new electro/groove project featuring drummer Jorge Rossy.
The Festival will close with virtuoso bass-player and vocalist Avishai Cohen, whose blend of jazz, Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern influences has made him a prominent figure in world of jazz today.
The Festival will also include Maltese vocalist Nadine Axisa, the Argotti Jazz Ensemble (with musical direction by renowned musician Dominic Galea) and the quintet of guitarist Marc Galea (featuring saxophone player Robin Nicaise).
The Festival is organised by the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts. You can check out the festival website at www.maltajazzfestival.org. For more jazz, see the Off Jazz events.