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Bill Charlap & Gary Hobbs at the Earshot Jazz Festival

Gebhard Ullmann

In an increasingly globalized music business that commodifies culture for mass consumption, it’s reassuring that Jazz em Agosto upholds its distinctive identity and high artistic standards. The annual avant music festival takes place over nine days in Lisbon at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, which provides a beautiful setting for creative musicians and open-minded audiences to come together. The deep pockets of the Foundation make it possible to present uncompromising music without having to shill for corporate interests (no commercial announcements from the stage or tacky merchandising). The visionary programming of artistic director Rui Neves makes Jazz em Agosto a haven for international audiences with adventurous tastes, and the festival has such a good reputation among the locals that many attend the concerts regularly, whether they know the musicians or not.

Last year’s festival featured many of the modern musicians of Vancouver. This year’s concerts showcased groups from Portugal, Germany, UK, USA, France, Canada, Switzerland, Denmark and Norway, as well as a couple of cross-cultural collaborations. There were generally three concerts a day, all on the grounds of the Foundation; an afternoon show in an intimate 150-seat room, a 6:30 pm. concert in the grand auditorium, and the evening programs in a bucolic, outdoor amphitheater surrounded by lush vegetation with a duck pond behind the stage.

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