The 24th edition of JazzAscona, New Orleans & Classics, June 26 to July 6, presented nearly 300 artists from 12 countries in over 200 concerts and 400 hours of music. The festival's Gazette, printed in four languages, reported that it featured "a record number of very young musicians."
My wife, Ruth, and I went to the scenic city of Ascona on Switzerland's Lake Maggiore in a fan group with the Capital Focus Jazz Band from the Washington, D.C., area. The band of college-age players, directed by Dave Robinson, drew appreciative crowds at five venues. It also played a date in Zurich, where five fine European players joined in a rousing jam session.
Our stay was limited to the first five days of the festival, and we had to miss favorites who came later, such as Dan Barrett, Peter Appleyard, Scott Hamilton, Bob Wilber and several bands. So, I can only report on those I heard, which offered an enticing variety of styles.
The festival was dedicated to Lionel Hampton and exhibited films and photos from his career. Vibists were prominent in seven musical tributes to the legendary jazzman. Vibist Marco Bianchi's band effectively echoed Hampton's style in its tribute. Ebullient drummer Duffy Jackson's quintet recaptured the great swing bands, including Hamp's. But I was disappointed by the Frits Landesbergen quintet's many long solos and its noisy drummer.
Creole Clarinets was sparked by empathetic clarinet and saxophone playing by Thomas L'Etienne and Uli Wunner. I didn't know many but enjoyed all of their tunes, which swung nicely with some Caribbean flavors.
Australian cornetist Bob Barnard was a guest star I heard with pianist David Paquette's trio. But I wish Paquette had not sung all the tunes. Three brass bands marched joyously on the streets during days. Criterion Brass of New Orleans also played the reception at a "gala opener" that was a dinner party for well-heeled festival supporters.
Romping boogie woogie pianist Sylvan Zingg led a trio at that event and other sets. He also has initiated a boogie festival at Lugano. The Abstract Quartet from New Orleans, led by drummer/vocalist Gerald French, also featured singer Tanya Boutte mingling with fans in the crowd.
The Pfister Sisters of New Orleans were popular for imaginative vocal harmonies and vivacity. Trumpeter Charlie Miller's backing was superb. The trio began in 1978 and was inspired by the 1920s-30s Boswell Sisters.
My admiration was renewed for the powerful Allotria band of Munich that I heard often at Sacramento Jubilees. Its great players and swing/trad arrangements makes it a candidate for "top band" at many festivals.