The Swinging Rhythms of ‘MetJazz’ 2020

Alexander Hawkins, a guest artist at MetJazz

The new decade also brings the 25th MetJazz festival, which focuses on the theme “Things Change.”  Through the years MetJazz, organized by Prato’s Metastasio Theatre with director Stefan Zenni, has hosted jazz talents from Italy and around the world, presenting diverse styles of jazz from classics to contemporary and improvisational jazz.  This year’s event offers three orchestras, four pianists, six concerts and two conferences.

MetJazz 2020 kicks off on January 29 with a performance at the Pecci Center for Contemporary Art, viale della Repubblica 277 at 9 pm.  Stefano Tamborrino AKA Don Karate entertains with a mix of hip hop, afrobeat, house and even punk music.  Tamborrino, a multi-instrumentalist known for improvisation and creativity, should get the festival off to a dynamic start.  Rapper Millelimmi (Francesco Morini) joins the performance and video artist Paolo Pinaglia adds a visual sense to the music.

Next, the Martini Big Band performs drawing on the influence of the Liberation Music Orchestra.  Carla Bley founded the Orchestra in 1969 with an explicitly political repertoire featuring songs such as “We Shall Overcome” and Spanish Civil War songs.  Martini Big Band director Michele Corcella re-orchestrated Bley’s arrangements for this concert with trombonist Gianluca Petrella providing solos (Monday, February 3: Metastasio Theatre, Prato.  9 pm).

The following week jazz lovers can be treated to an evening dedicated to the piano with three of Europe’s most creative and original artists.  Frenchwoman Eve Risser and Kaja Draksler from Slovenia collaborate in To Pianos, exploring various sounds and tempos.  Alexander Hawkins, one of Britain’s most brilliant pianists, follows with “Iron into the Wind” (Monday: February 10, Fabbricone Theatre, Prato. 9 pm).

MetJazz 2020 presents the Fonterossa Open Orchestra led by Silvia Bolognesi, a leading double bass player, currently a member of the Chicago Art Ensemble.  The evening’s repertoire embraces jazz, pop, soul and rock (Monday, February 17:  Metastasio Theatre, Prato. 9 pm).

A special event on February 27 comes to Prato’s Politeama with two performances.  The premiere of composer Paoli Silvestri’s “Green Souls Hope: Escape of Hearts and Minds,” with the Camerata Strumentale Città di Prato, encompasses a suite in 10 segments without interruption, each inspired by a jazz great.  The spirit of Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Carla Bley and Wayne Shorter flow through the musical performance.  The evening ends with a rendition of Duke Ellington’s composition “The River.”  Commissioned in 1970 by the American Ballet Theatre for choreographer Alvin Ailey, Ellington intended “The River” to be a metaphor for the life cycle, a beginning from the source, journey and transformation from meandering stream to whirlpool and gurgling rapids on to a large watercourse surging to the sea (Thursday, February 27: Politeama Theatre, Prato. 9 pm).

For more details, visit the website.  (rita kungel)