Souillac Jazz Festival 2015 – 40th Year of Jazz, Great Jazz, Nothing But Jazz
The 40th Souillac Jazz Festival takes place this year in the same spirit that has guided it since 1976: jazz, great jazz, and nothing but jazz.
The 40th edition of the festival promises to be a major event, marking 40 years of jazz – from Memphis Slim to Kenny Garrett – in a small town in the centre of France.
This year’s programme is truly an event: over the course of a single week, it will feature one of the orchestras that performed in 1976, the Swing Machine Big Band of Cahors, with the voice of Sara Lazarus; a new duo of female musicians in a cave, Isabelle Olivier and Lisa Cat-Berro; the music of Sun Ra, revived by Thomas de Pourquery; the hybrid melodies of the pianist Jerry Leonide; the creative Factory of the Moutin Brothers; and the genius of Kenny Garrett. Pure, exciting jazz.
How has a small town in the French countryside managed to bring together so many jazz greats?
Well apart from the commitment of a group of jazz fanatics and volunteers drawing inspiration from the exuberant enthusiasm of Sim Copans, a US Army non-combatant in the Allied offensive that liberated France 71 years ago, it has been the quality of the jazz contributors who say the organisers, have built the success of this festival year on year.
Sim Copans travelled around Normandy in his sound truck during the weeks after D-Day 1944, reassuring the population that it was “OK to come out now” and playing V-discs (mostly jazz records) to attract their attention and is credited with being instrumental in helping spread the popularity of jazz across France.
Copans (see this homage first published in French News Online in 2012) created the international jazz festival in 1976 in Souillac, a market town in a popular tourist region renowned for its unique natural and cultural heritage. He lived at nearby Lanzac between 1980 and his death in 2000.
The spirit of that festival, as conceived by Sim Copans and his co-founders, has been lovingly preserved; it promises jazz, great jazz, and nothing but jazz. No kiosks or products for sale – only the participation of local tradespeople; no screens – simply a direct exchange between musicians and the public; no concessions to more commercial music – but rather a selection of the best contemporary jazz; no financial dependence, but partnerships with local cultural organizations, with a view to providing ever more jazz.
The budget – relatively modest compared to that of similar festivals – covers free daily concerts, a large stage with a high-quality sound system, and daytime jazz-related activities throughout the week.
Souillac en jazz is the oldest jazz festival in France to function solely through the efforts of an association of volunteers. Some of them have departed, leaving their mark, and new ones have taken their place, with bold new ideas. Each year, the association takes up the challenge of putting together an even finer festival, ever richer in music, and with ever more jazz.
The festival’s ability to adapt and evolve is a major factor behind its longevity. Hybrid music like jazz, anchored as it is in both Africa and America, cannot be defined by a strict formula. The festival is proud that its communication materials are produced solely by volunteers.
The 40th festival venerates jazz as music of reconciliation; a mixture of cultures and peoples; living music that constantly welcomes new influences.
In the words of Kenny Garrett: “And I’m definitely conscious that the music is bigger than us. We’re like the messengers and the music is coming through us” (interview with David M. Greenberg for the webzine Something Else!, 10 Nov. 2014).
- Sat. 18 July: jazz walk with Le Mystère des éléphants (21h in Souillac)
- Sun. 19 July: jazz picnic with Le Mystère des éléphants (12h30 in Lachapelle-Auzac); organ hour with “The Charles Balayer/Hervé Roblès Duo invites Marjolaine Paitel” (18h in Souillac); free concert with “Bluemary Swing invites Michel Herblin” (21h15 in Pinsac)
- Mon. 20 July: jazz picnic with Jazz’Azimut (12h30 in Cazoulès); music and readings from De jazz en page with Philippe Fréchet (15h at the Souillac Municipal Library); Isabelle Olivier (harp) and Lisa Cat-Berro (saxophone) duo (20h30 in the caves of Lacave)
- Tues. 21 July: music and readings from Les enfants du jazz with Philippe Fréchet (15h at the Souillac Municipal Library); special 40th anniversary concert with “Swing Machine Big Band invites Sara Lazarus” (21h15 in Souillac)
- Wed. 22 July: from the market to the table, a supper-concert performed by Le Mystère des éléphants and Karima & Olivier (19h in Souillac)
- Thurs. 23 July: parade with Le Grand N’Dolé; Thomas de Pourquery Supersonic (21h15 in Souillac)
- Fri. 24 July: Jerry Leonide piano solo, followed by Moutin Factory Lucky People (21h15 in Souillac)
- Sat. 26 July: The Kenny Garrett Quintet (21h15 in Souillac)
- Throughout the week: a retrospective exhibition on 40 years of Souillac en jazz (Salle Saint-Martin in Souillac)
- Thurs. to Sat.: free concerts in Souillac with The Doo-Wap rdv, Le Mystère des éléphants and Karima & Olivier.
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