3rd Zbigniew Seifert International Jazz Violin Competition
Krzysztof Penderecki European Centre for Music
July 25-28, 2018
"An international jazz violin competition? Really
?" That is usually came as a surprise to the applicants, and eventual participants themselves, that an international jazz violin competition should exist says a lot about the rarity of such an event. Yet as the bi-annual Zbigniew Seifert International Jazz Violin Competition has demonstrated, there is certainly no shortage of truly outstanding jazz violinists in the world. The first two editions of the competitionwhich debuted in 2014
surprised even the judges, so impressed were they with the level of talent on show. The third edition, held as before in the Krzysztof Penderecki European Centre for Music in Luslawice, was no exception.
With uniformly excellent performances, the twelve finalists, hailing from North America, Europe and the Middle East, provided good-sized headaches for the esteemed panel of judges, Mark Feldman
, Michal Urbaniak
, Erik Friedlander
and Dominique Pifarély
, as well as uplifting and inspiring entertainment for the audience in the formal concert hall.
Entertainment? From its earliest days jazz was a music of entertainment, a mantle it hasn't quite shrugged off. Over the decades jazz has also assumed an altogether more artsy, high-brow image, and the music presented by twelve world-class violinists during the three days of competition was much more than just an agreeable diversion. For the competition finalists, professional musicians all, it represents not only a way of life, but a livelihood. For the winner, 10,000 Euros and the chance to record a CD was motivation enough to do something fairly unnatural for the majority of musiciansthat's to say, compete.
Then there is the prestige that comes with winning such an event. The Zbigniew Seifert International Jazz Violin Competition may be the only one of its kind, but already, in just three editions, it has gained an international reputation. Most of this year's finalists had heard of the competition through word of mouth. Whilst competition is anathema to most musicians, a first prize in the bag from a prestigious competition is often the first item on their bios. So, there was a lot at stake during four days of intensive practise and performance.
The dual aims of the competition, founded by the Zbigniew Seifert Foundation, are to promote outstanding young musicians (violinists, cellists and violists) and to promote the legacy of Zbigniew Seifert, the virtuoso Polish violinist who died aged 32, in 1979. Like nearly all this year's competition participants, Seifert was classically trained before switching to jazz. A key member of Tomasz Stanko
's first great quintet from 1968 to 1973, Seifert's tragically short solo career, nevertheless produced some incredible music, of which Man Of the Light
(MPS, 1976) and Solo Violin
(EMI, 1976) are two highly recommended entry points for anyone unfamiliar with the violinist's talent.
The recent, exciting discovery of a long-lost recording of Seifert's short-lived, jazz-fusion band Variospheres, resulted in the release Variospheres: Live in Solothurn
(Zbigniew Seifert Foundation, 2017). These CD releases and reissues, together with the English translation of Aneta Norek-Skrycka's Seifert biography, Man of the Light: The Life and Work of Zbigniew Seifert
(Zbigniew Seifert Foundation, 2016), are playing a significant role in promoting Seifert's legacy -not only to an international audience, but within his native Poland as well.
To an older jazz generation, in the pre-CD era, Seifert was well respected by his peers on both sides of the Atlantic. Those his time was short, Seifert recorded with the likes of Eberhard Weber
, Philip Catherine
, Joachim Kuhn
, Cecil McBee
, Billy Hart
, Charlie Mariano
, Jack DeJohnette
, the band Oregon, and John Scofield
, amongst others.
In a nice piece of symmetry, Scofield, along with John Medeski
and the 19-piece Konglomerat Big Band, paid homage to Seifert and his music with a gala concert in Kraków that concluded the 3rd Zbigniew Seifert International Jazz Violin Competition in style.