Turn the music OFF!
What does the Malta Jazz Festival mean to you?
Now in its 21st edition, the Malta Jazz Festival has become a cultural flagship that should be supported and upheld as an example of a high quality, internationally renowned event. The festival displays quality in musicianship and entertainment in its programming mainly due to the artistic direction.
The festival, founded and run by Charles ‘City’ Gatt from 1991 to 2006, has also been important in instilling a passion for jazz in local youngsters and has been instrumental in the education of a couple of generations of musicians including the current artistic director, Sandro Zerafa.
On a personal note, having been present in the early days of the festival, I remember it being an inspiration both artistically and in terms of my eventual career choice.
What have been your personal highlights of the Malta Jazz Festival?
My personal highlights are many. Clearly, the festival is the highlight of my summer calendar, and I have very vivid and dear memories of witnessing some of the giants of jazz in the company of close friends – sadly, some of these, like Nicky Doublet and Bernard Scerri, have passed away.
I especially will never forget watching Michel Petrucciani, Chick Corea, Elvin Jones, Jack DeJohnette, Steve Coleman and Five Elements, and Joe Henderson – all memorable performances.
Then again, it’s not just about the past because the festival continues to spin out great performances by contemporary musicians.
As a musician, what do you appreciate about the Malta Jazz Festival?
I appreciate the musicianship and level of artistry. In the early days of the festival, when I knew nothing about jazz, it still had a very profound impact on me.
Some argue that jazz is not everybody’s music because you need an understanding of what’s going on – to some extent this is true, especially with the more intellectual stuff. However I think that with good programming, the festival has something for everyone. Also, in many cases, jazz is a point of departure – it’s an umbrella term for good music and artistry.
Is this the first time that a fringe festival for the Malta Jazz Festival is being organised?
It is the first time that the OFF! fringe festival is being organised on these levels. Last year we had a smaller, yet still valid, initiative.
What are the main aims of the OFF! fringe festival?
The OFF! fringe festival is a more conscious organisation of an idea that aims to create more awareness of the Malta Jazz Festival. The idea is to exploit the opportunity such a festival creates in terms of workshops, gigs and after festival parties and performances. It also gives the opportunity to many local musicians who are not programmed for the year’s edition of the Malta Jazz Festival to be a part of the whole idea.
The OFF! fringe festival has a relatively small budget which is mainly dedicated to coordinate musicians and venue owners. However, the festival encourages people to employ musicians and consolidate their musical reputation.
How does the OFF! fringe festival complement the main event?
The festivals complement and promote each other. The OFF! fringe festival will also generate interest in the running up to the main festival through small evening gigs in local bars, restaurants and music venues around the island. The night after the Malta Jazz Festival, we’ll also set up a stage at the Birgu Waterfront for a free concert featuring Sandro Zerafa and Rino Cirinna. This concert is being held with the support of the Birgu Local Council. For this concert, transport will be available by boat from Valletta Customs House to Birgu at a nominal €3 per person.
The OFF! fringe festival also includes jazz masterclasses for musicians and the general public, which will be held at the Euro Institute of Music in Ħamrun on July 20. Masterclasses will be conducted by Rino Cirinna, Matyas Szandai, and Lionel Boccara.
The OFF! fringe festival is sponsored by Malta International Airport. The Malta Jazz Festival is sponsored by GO, MSV Life, Cyberpass, Switch, Marsovin and the Phoenicia Hotel.
The OFF! fringe festival and the Malta Jazz Festival are supported by the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts.
OFF! gets on stage
The daily festival programme kicks off on July 10 and plays until July 23, excluding Malta Jazz Festival dates. Gigs start at 9 p.m.
July 10: Marc Galea, Joe ‘Bibi’ Camilleri and Alan Portelli at Taverna Sugu, Birgu.
July 11: Walter Vella and friends at BJs, Paceville.
July 12: Joe Debono, Carlo Muscat, Laurie Simpson and Charles ‘City’ Gatt at Veċċja Wine Bar, Xemxija.
July 13: Francesca Galea and Sandro Zerafa at Trabuxu Wine Bar, Valletta.
July 14: The Massimo De Majo trio at Margos, Mistra Bay.
July 14: Nadine Axisa at Angelica Café, Valletta.
July 15: Noir at Tat-Taraġ Wine Bar, Rabat.
July 16: Cusp at Sharma restaurant, Mdina.
July 17: Dominic Galea and Charles ‘City’ Gatt at MIA arrivals lounge.
July 18: Joe ‘Bibi’ Camilleri and London Co at Bridge Bar, Valletta.
July 22: Sandro Zerafa and Rino Cirinna at Birgu Waterfront.
July 23: Michael Galea and Andrew Alamango at Palazzo Depiro, Mdina.