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Although festival organizer Vladimir Mak refutes the idea of a unicultural approach to the third annual Jazz Globus Festival (November 29 - December 14) at Jerusalem's Cultures Center, there is a clear ethnic theme running through the event. Almost all 19 shows in the lineup feature jazz musicians who live in Russia, were born there or have Russian parents.
"I don't know if the festival is a sort of Russian jazz festival," says Mak. "There are people coming from all over the world."
A quick run down the program does indicate the presence of Swedish trombonist Elias Faingersh, who will mix electronics with his acoustic output in the Magic Trombone show on Wednesday, but that's about it for the non-Russian contingent.
Not that Russians don't have anything to offer on the improvised music scene. The lineup is certainly an impressive one. Possibly the biggest name is multi-instrumentalist Slava Ganellin, who was already a world-renowned artist before making aliya from Moscow in the late Eighties. Since then he has continued to perform all over the world at the cutting edge of the risk-taking exploratory domain, while bringing up new generations in our own jazz community.
At the festival, Ganellin will perform with Lithuanian saxophonist Petras Vysniaukas.
Elsewhere on the program there is the young high-energy Jazz-n-Roll foursome, though fans of more traditional fare will probably go for the Retro-Jazz slot on December 9, with a quintet including Haifa resident saxophonist Boris Gammer. And there is even a Jewish slant to the festival, courtesy of cantor and opera singer Robert Bloch, who will be accompanied by jazz pianist Shimon Lipkovich.
Besides his own Soviet origins, what made Mak go for such a Russian-oriented event?
"I think there is something about Russian jazz musicians that makes them hungry to perform," he notes. "They just want to play and are always looking for new directions, things they haven't tried before."
And if that lineup wasn't quite enough to whet the average jazz fan's appetite, there is the small matter of nine-year-old pianist Ariel Lanyi, who will perform on the first day of the festival.
"I have come across a few wunderkinds in classical music, but never in jazz. Ariel is something else," says Mak.
Lanyi has been studying piano and violin since the age of four,
and appears regularly at places such as Jerusalem's Art-El club. He is also starting to attract notice outside the country.
"He was with me at a master class with Mingus Dynasty double-bass player Boris Kozlov at the Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat this year," Mak recalls. "I asked Boris if he'd like to hear Ariel play, and he was amazed. The kid certainly has a bright future, and I expect him to be one of the hits at our festival."
All things considered, Mak has done well to put the Globus Festival together at all. While he is not complaining, he is working on a shoestring budget and is very grateful for the support he gets from MK Yosef Chagall (Israel Beitenu), the Lithuanian embassy and The Jerusalem Club. Mak has also tried to turn the lack of funds into an artistic advantage.
"I don't have the money to bring whole bands over like they did at this year's Jerusalem Jazz Festival or in Eilat. So I bring individuals, and they get together with other musicians to rehearse and perform."
That, surely, leaves things a bit up in the air.
"That's true. I don't know for certain what I and the people who come to the shows will get, but that's part of the fascination with the Globus Festival. It's sort of taking a risk, but that's the nature of this area of the arts anyway - where jazz and alternative music mix."
Rehov Hillel 27 (piazza of Museum of Italian Jewish Art); www.jazzglobus.com