funchal jazz festival - DAY 1 - funchal, portugal, jul 13

  • photography by © Clara Pereira / text by Filipe Freitas

Funchal Jazz Festival takes place every year on the beautiful Madeira Island, Portugal, featuring relevant names of the local and international jazz scene.
As usual, this year's edition featured six bands whose performances were divided into three days.

Day 1 - Thursday, July 13th

The festival kicked in with Joao Barradas Directions featuring Greg Osby, a set we missed due to a late flight.
However, we managed to be there for the second set, which featured Saxophone Summit, a super jazz group comprising Dave Liebman on soprano saxophone and flute, Joe Lovano on tenor saxophone and flute, Greg Osby on alto saxophone (filling in for Ravi Coltrane) , Phil Markowitz on piano, Cecil McBee on acoustic bass, and Billy Hart on drums.

The show began with a junction of "Subconscious Lee" by Lee Konitz / Todd Dameron and "What Is This Thing Called Love" by Cole Porter. The full-flavored rendition, advancing with a brisk swing and tasteful three-horn counterpoints, also featured outstanding solos by the masters. Liebman gave the example with his ardent in/out approach, followed by Osby, who blew my mind with a type of phrasing that felt so unorthodox and beautiful at the same time. The tail of his solo was seamlessly caught by Lovano, who progressed with a similar line of view, drilling in quotes from other bop tunes. There was still time for Markowitz and McBee to give wings to their improvisational veins, with the former alluding to "Lush Life" in between dotted and streaming melodic lines. Before reassuming the main theme with flamboyant spirit, the group trades eights with the creatively aesthetic Billy Hart, who operates with lightness from behind the drum kit.

Before proceeding, Liebman thanked his former teacher, the consecrated saxophonist Charles Lloyd, who was backstage. "A teacher around makes you straight!" - he said.
The next piece was Markowitz's "Point", a levitating and beseeching piece, featuring Liebman's explorative sounds on soprano and a scalding tete-a-tete between Lovano and Osby.

"Partition" by Liebman, a static piece with a two-flute introduction, and the stirring "Visitation" by Lovano, anticipated the enlightening finale, which arrived with Coltrane's "Seraphic Light", a fantastic, spiritual, and evocative journey whose introductory section featured McBee's beautiful solo recital in groove and transparency of ideas.

Even rewarded with a standing ovation, the band didn't return to the bandstand for an encore.