Rhythm and Colour at the Vienna Jazz Fest

The American Big Band The Cookers will be at Porgy & Bess on 10 July | Photo: JazzFest Wien

The American Big Band The Cookers will be at Porgy & Bess on 10 July | Photo: JazzFest Wien

Jazz is having a mid-life crisis; you can see it in the jazz festival programmes.

To survive, some festivals have been throwing up a strange mix, programming heavily on the smooth-pop side of jazz.

But beneath all of the reverb and showbiz of the American media machine, there is interesting music to be heard.

Below, our picks for the last week of the Vienna Jazz Festival line-up.


5 July: Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet and Gregory Porter at Porgy & Bess

These two very different groups will make for a great evening of listening. 70-year-old trumpeter Stanko’s quartet has top-notch young players and plays a chill brand of modern jazz. Opening the evening is Porter, a singer with a true voice and forceful lyrics, whose music sits comfortably between R&B, soul and jazz.

Come for: the great interaction between these expert players. Stay for: the relaxed, deep listening atmosphere.


6 July: Iva Bittová solo and Zsófia Boros solo at Porgy and Bess

Violinist Bittová sings while playing the violin. Her rhythmic sense is rock solid, and she finds an enormously creative range of colours on both instruments. Just her voice alone is mesmerising, with a huge range from high to low, dark to light. Her songs have a quirky folk music vibe, mixed with sounds from indie rock and classical music.

Come for: beautiful and interesting songs. Stay for: a preview of Bittová’s new album on ECM.


7 July: Wang Li with Wu Wei and Kolintang Kawanua at City Hall/Arkadenhof 

Wang Li plays the jaw harp (also known as a Jew’s harp). But you’ve never heard the jaw harp played this way – imagine electronic trance music made only with a small metal appliance in the mouth. He’ll be playing with Wu Wei, an avant-garde Sheng soloist from Berlin. The Sheng is a Chinese wind instrument that is at least 3,000 years old – but has never sounded like this before.

Come for: the “what?! wow!” moment. Stay for: great music that you’ve never heard before.


9 July: Chris Dave & The Drumhedz at Rathausplatz

When most musicians describe themselves as the greatest whatever in the world, they’re not worth hearing. But drummer Chris Dave actually holds up to the bravado in his bio. He’s played with everyone from Beyoncé to Pat Metheny, adeptly laying down jazz, R&B, hip hop and pretty much everything else.

Come for: every groove ever danced to. Stay for: all the adorable drum nerds in the audience.


10 July: The Cookers at Porgy & Bess 

This American band of big names from the 1960s plays old-fashioned post-bop of the higher-faster-louder variety. Expect long solos full of technical fireworks and maximum testosterone.

Come for: authentic hard bop. Stay for: George Cables on piano, a sound rich and instantly recognisable.

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