The Nice Jazz Festival has come to a close and, overall, the results have been positive at least for visitor numbers. With a record 38,000 attendees the festival clearly has no trouble filling the Jardins Albert 1er where the festival now takes place since moving from Cimiez two years ago. For the first time the ticket windows displayed a Complet (Full) sign on the evening of July 10 when C2C, the French turntable group, helped draw 9,000 visitors. OK, it’s not really jazz but branching out into other genres seems to be the formula for success at this festival.
Fortunately jazz-lovers also had a lot to celebrate. Presenting jazz artists such as Christian Scott, Chick Corea & The Vigil, Grammy-winner Esperanza Spalding, and the delightfully avant-garde Youn Sun Nah displayed a sense of adventure in keeping with the festival’s traditions. Those who prefer their jazz mixed with soul, groove or funk bopped along with George Benson, Earth, Wind and Fire and Maceo Parker. Local pride was also on the program in the person of legendary drummer André Ceccarelli, born in Nice and the festival’s parrain (godfather).
Certain structural problems have yet to be solved. Construction of Nice’s new garden promenade through the Jardins Albert 1er was not yet finished which left parts of the venue looking like a hastily-decorated parking lot. The shrubbery and palms that appeared to be installed only hours before the first concert provided a touch of greenery that one can only hope will expand. As always, the crowded and standing-only Scene Massena was an extraordinarily uncomfortable way to experience music. Perhaps as the festival evolves organizers will find a way to install some sort of seating space in the rear as the sight lines are good.
In the past, the musicians in the Theatre de Verdure struggled to compete with the much louder music emanating from the Scene Massena. It’s still a problem but it helped that the programming schedule was changed to allow the Theatre de Verdure to start 30-minutes earlier. Several groups clearly made the decision to play their softer, more contemplative pieces at the beginning.