“Jazz on the Dnieper”, like a good Ukrainian wedding, was celebrated for three days! Fortunately, all the instruments stayed sound and safe. Only the audience was touched.
The city on the Dnieper River hosted the Dnieper International Jazz Festival. The anniversary 50th festival took place on the Monastyrskyi island on 21, 22, 23 July.
This year, the festival lasted three days and started on the Festival Berth on the embankment (Naberezhna). Although the weather was trying to spoil the festival, jazz started as dusk had fallen.
People were patiently waiting for about two hours: they were talking, joking, taking selfies and photos of an incredible sunset in the evening.
Coryphées, founders of the first festival in a far 1968, came on the stage to apologize for the delay.
“Jazz on PIRS” – this stage combined experience and youth. It was possible only there: legends of The Dnieper jazz were playing as a warm-up for those who are only starting their musical career.
Coryphées, and they agree to be called so, were the first to perform. The “Kredo” band, Yurii Bilenko’s quartet, the “Artio” band, Oleksandr Liubchenko, a guitarist- virtuoso, the “Boogie Dance” band, Victor Relin with the band, “Roman Archakov Quartet”, Yuliia Mandych and the “Funky Fresh” band.
Young musicians were competing for the right to perform on the main stage of the “Jazz on the Dnieper” festival on 22 July and for the cash prize. The Big-Band of the National University of Civil Defence performed jazz in their own interpretation.
The jury was composed of participants and headliners of the festival: Allan Harris, Ina Dittke, Liudmyla and Mykhailo Krymovi, Jolanta Gulbe Pashkevich and Deniss Pashkevich.
The night was full of jazz and love… hugs, looks… the night, thick and sweet as honey, was covering the city in a dance…
It is hard to count how many guests came to the sound of jazz that night. The entrance was free, and even those who came there by chance – stayed until the last lick. Nobody was bored, even the youngest listeners danced until the late night.
The Dnieper waves were swinging notes almost until the dawn. At the next night, the main stage will host world jazz stars.
The Jazz on the Dnieper Festival as always took place down on the Monastyrskyi island. There were three ways to get there: walking across the island, getting there by a special bus or – romantically – by a boat across The Dnieper.
A deck-boy helps to step on the land, a wooden path on sand leads to the stage. Even women on high heels felt comfortable.
From shipboard straight into a ball! It was exactly so because this time there was no delay. However, guests did not take their seats at once, they were walking, drinking cocktails, champagne, taking selfies, checking in and just having fun.
Organizers cared about disabled people in particular. There were comfortable places, water and separate WC for them.
The children jazz band “LITTLE BAND” with the leader of a legendary Volodymyr Marhovsky were opening the concert. Mr. Marhovsky is a co-founder of the jazz festival Youth-1968 (Yunnist-1968 (Jazz on the Dnieper was called so then). The Grand Prix went to the Children Jazz Orchestra of the Dnieper VI Musical School, the holder of many international prizes and awards. The Orchestra drummer took part in the semi-final of Ukraine’s Got Talent TV show.
“We are very excited! It is the first time we perform on a stage of such a level. We are used to competitions, festivals, of course. But it is different! We are treated here like world-stars. It inspires! We are tired but very very happy!” the Orchestra solo-guitarist says, having just left the stage.
Yanika Merylo, a Mayor’s Councillor, was traditionally a host of the festival. Allan Harris was her partner on the stage this year.
Allan is a holder of the New York Nightlife Award for “Outstanding Jazz Vocalist” (which he won three times) the Backstage Bistro Award for “Ongoing Achievement in Jazz,” the Harlem Speaks “Jazz Museum of Harlem Award,” and the DownBeat Critic’s Poll Award for “Rising Star Vocalist.” An outstanding Tony Bennet says Allan Harris is his favourite singer, Stephen Holden from “New York Times” calls his talent “a protean” one.
This April, Allan released his new album “Genius of Eddie Jefferson”. He dedicated it to the 100th anniversary of a legendary Eddie Jefferson. He performed songs from this album at the festival.
A charming Yanika Merylo was freely speaking with guests and artists in Ukrainian as well as in English. Her smile was her main accessory, however, three dresses fitted her perfectly.
“These are my dresses. I have chosen them by myself. No stylists,” Yanika says.
Mykhailo and Liudmyla Krymovy have won many international jazz-festival awards. They used to play in the famous the Dnipro jazz-rock band “Kredo”. Musical critics say this duet is unique not only in Ukraine but in Europe either.
The festival had no age limits, dress code or any other limits at all. The main requirement was a proper mood.
Jazz Woman Band was sending strong and light vibes to the audience. Sheryl Bailey (the USA), Miki Hayama (Japan), Jolanta Gulbe Pashkevich (Latvia).
“I like it very much in Ukraine, in Dnipro. The atmosphere is easy, pleasant and strong here. Your city inspires and makes me want to come back. Ukrainian audience is very grateful, I felt how we were exchanging our inner light,” Jolanta says.
“I always prepare for a concert, I prepare emotionally to come on the stage and to know what to say to people. Do you know what audience gives little emotions to a musician? Latvian one! They are so reserved so it is hard to make out whether they are enjoying or not. As for Ukrainians, they are so sincere from the first chords. Even before I started to sing, I felt your sincerity and readiness for communication. It is very important for artists. I am grateful for that.
I will tell you something personal,” Jolanta smiles. “My closest friend in Latvia is a Ukrainian. Maybe that’s why it is so pleasant and easy for me here.
Jolanta has come to the festival with her husband Deniss Pashkevich.
Deniss Pashkevich is one of the best musicians in Latvia. He is an extremely gifted saxophonist, endorser and art-director of Riga Winds (London-Riga) company and of American Theo Wanne. He is also an official musician of Kay Siebold (Hamburg, Germany). He has already taken part in the Jazz at the Dnieper festival. This time, he performed with a new project “Argentum” by Dmytro Logvin.
Together with his wife Jolanta Gulbe Pashkevich, they teach at their own jazz “Performing Art School”.
Troy Roberts and NU-Jive band (the USA-Australia) also performed this day.
And incredible Allan Harris (the USA) with Vincent Bourgeyx`s trio (France).
The island was drowning in jazz until late night…
Participants of the last festival day were amazing! And the audience was ready to get amazed.
Hanna and Ahata from Kharkiv, winners of the “Jazz on PIRS” competition, opened the day.
A big amount of bodyguards within the event and near the stage, in particular, meant that Maria Maskakova will come on the stage soon. Last year, the singer visited the festival only as a guest. This year, she came on the stage. She performed Ukrainian song and classics in jazz interpretation.
One of the headliners appeared to miss his plane. Matthew Whitaker sent an apologizing video to the audience. Yanika Merylo shot the answer for him with the audience to tell him that we were waiting for him the next year.
“He appeared to miss his flight. Because of the problems with a local airport, he had no chances to take another flight,” Yevhen Hendin, a Mayor’s Councillor on Cultural Matters, says.
As soon as the video for Matthew was made, musicians of one who has got several GRAMMY awards came on the stage. A legendary Dee Dee Bridgewater was going to take the stage.
Passion, crazy energy, fervor, which was covering the audience more with every chord… here she is! Incredible, godlike Dee Dee. It is not just music, it is a theatre, action, almost magic. The audience was excited and surrendered to that magic.
As soon as the music ceased, guests and performers started to wait for the next year… from Jazz to Jazz, see you next time.
Text and photo by Tetiana Zaparia