New Orleans comes to Ascona
Mark Gilbert previews this year's edition of the Swiss jazz festival that brings the flavour of New Orleans and points beyond to the shores of Lake Maggiore for two weeks in June
The Ascona festival (21 June-1 July), renowned for its generous embrace of the traditional, this year stays true to its founding principles while adding more contemporary good-time touches in the form of Pee Wee Ellis, Till Brönner and others.
Set in an alluring waterfront setting on the edge of Lake Maggiore, bathed in midsummer Swiss-Italian warmth, AsconaJazz recreates much of the balmy musical atmosphere of New Orleans and has always had close practical ties with the city that gave birth to jazz, bringing in several Crescent City performers each year.
This year the festival features more than 200 concerts and jam sessions with at least 300 musicians, others among them being Charly Antolini, Irma Thomas, Lillian Boutté, Rhoda Scott, Jon Faddis, Wycliffe Gordon, Ehud Asherie, George Washingmachine, Herlin Riley and Warren Vaché.
The 2012 edition, subtitled Sophisticated Lady, also sets out to recognise women in jazz as more than just singers, including clarinettist Aurélie Tropez, trumpeter Bria Skonberg, French Canadian blues guitarist Nina Attal, bassist Nicki Parrott, organist Rhoda Scott and Swedish multi-instrumentalist Gunhild Carling. Full programme details are available at jazzascona.ch.
Aside from jazz, Ascona offers an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, boutiques, a large open-air swimming pool, numerous well-appointed hotels and restaurants, parkland walks, surfing, sailing and other water sports and boat trips on Lake Maggiore. As a curative to a night's jazz revelry, nearby valleys such as the Maggiatal and Centovalli offer hiking and biking excursions amidst wild scenery.
The town also has a rich cultural heritage, 20th century excavations revealing that the area was settled as far back as the 10th century BC. It is also the location of the Monte Verità (Hill of Truth), site of the early 20th century socialist and vegetarian colony that drew in a number of artists and intellectuals, among them Hermann Hesse, Carl Jung, Isadora Duncan, Paul Klee, Rudolf Steiner and Rudolf Laban. The colony was the subject of an eponymous short story by British author Daphne du Maurier.
For tickets and accommodation telephone +41 (0)91 791 00 91 or visit ascona-locarno.com.
AsconaJazz 2012: Traditional (Warren Vaché, above right) to modern (Till Brönner, above left), with long overdue recognition of female instrumentalists such as Nikki Parrott (top). Photos by www.jazzascona.ch.
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