From the Mississipi to the Po, and back

Written by  Alessandro Mistri
A jam-session of jazz and charity in Ferrara
When Nicolas Gilliet, art director of 'Jazz Ascona New Orleans & Classics' launched a fundraising appeal for the musicians of New Orleans devastated by hurricane Katrina, it seemed only natural that Ferrara should be first in line to respond. The swift reaction of our town is not only due to geographic parallels between the two cities-both Ferrara and New Orleans are situated on the banks of rivers which have greatly shaped their history. It is due to the sole reason that jazz has had roots in Ferrara for more than 30 years.
There are many elements that explain the origin and the development of this art form based an entirely original language, such as the meeting and clash of different cultures land the infusion of elements until then unknown within the context of western music or the strong social and racial components.
Considering also that no other music has ever had the capacity to represent the per-fect synthesis between art and reality, it is jazz that has been the real driving innovative force of the XXth century. This brought about the spread of afro-american music in the second half of the last century when different styles coexisted and it was possible to directly take part in the artistic creations of musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Thelonius Monk and Miles Davis.
In its expansion jazz quickly reached Europe and also Italy, where the Emilia Romagna region immediately proved itself to be receptive to these new art forms coming from the across the Atlantic. Bologna in particular has had the privilege of witnessing the highest quality jazz, so much so as to be defined 'city of jazz'.
We are unable to safely say when 'the diminished fifth' was first used in concerts within the Estense walls, although it would be worth some in-depth research in this subject area. In the 1950s jazz was already well known in Ferrara when comparison could be easily drawn with the Dixieland style and when debates on black and white jazz were rife. By the way, I limit myself to the more recent history of which I have direct knowledge and which allows Ferrara to feel closer to New Orleans in this tragic circumstance.
I had the good fortune of having a cousin who was a great jazz fan and who, hoping to spark an interest also in me, introduced me aged 15 to his favourite jazz records. It was thanks to Time Out by Dave Brubeck I knew I had fallen under the spell!
Some years later I found myself responsible for a transmission on Radio Ferrara Centrale and on the anniversary of the radio station the managers asked me to organize a concert at Teatro Comunale. In the end the concert took place on 26th April - Marco di Marco ? Chris Woods Quartet. That one concert was enough to light the sacred fire, the embers of which had been burning under a surface of delusion, thus fusing a new generation of talent at the time represented by the likes of Giordano Balboni, Gino Neri, Franco Esposito, Federico Garberoglio, Pasquale Piganti, Glauco Farinella and Toto Delicato. In the same year, the 'Circolo Amici del Jazz' was born, and the following year saw the birth of the Roaring 20s Jazz Band and the 'Circolo' turned into the Ferrara Jazz Club. In the following years, the activities of the Club never ceased. The unforgettable moments are innumerable; in particular we remember the first Italian performance of Art Pepper who set the 1980 edition of 'Incontri Jazz Comacchio' on fire.
When I read the line-ups of those musicians who played in the concerts held by the Club, I feel as if I'm reading the enciclopedia of jazz. From Dexter Gordon to João Gilberto, from George Benson to Winton Marsalis, from Dizzy Gillespie to Elvin Jones, from McCoy Tyner to Miles Davis, from Chet Baker to Billy Higgins, all these great musicians visited our city. And, among the greeatest, Alberto Alberti.
It has been seven years since the Club found a permanent address, the prestigious ' Torrione San Giovanni', where more than 2000 members can lap up more than 90 concerts a year that take place from the beginning of October to the end of April. Today the club is considered one of the top five in the country due to the unique setting in which concerts are held. We no longer have to suffer inferiority complexes in the face of the competition such as Bologna.
Then came the fundraising in favour of New Orleans' reconstruction, which involved the entire city last December. For the whole of 2006 other fundraising events will be organized.