Text and photos by Andreas Wandfluh
It is not easy to explain where Ascona is. When one says it is in the southern part of Switzerland, many people think: "Oh Switzerland, yes you mean Sweden...!" And when you try to explain that this country is surrounded by Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein and that it has four official langagues (German, French, Italian and Romantsch), then people think that you are joking. And if you go further and explain that Ascona is in the Swiss Italian part of Switzerland, then people often assume that this is in Italy... So, Ascona is a little medieval town, situated at the Lago Maggiore and near to Locarno. For more than 30 years Ascona has been very well known for its commitment to Jazz; and the JAZZASCONA Festival this year celebrates its 25th anniversary. It is the most important festival in the traditional style in Switzerland.
First Day / June 25th

The festival had a pre-opening in Stresa/Italy on June 24th, 2009 and started on June 25th in Ascona/Switzerland. The JazzAscona festival opened with the fantastic Italian Ambrosia Brass Band -- marching through the streets of Ascona. A first concert at the Hotel Castello (Seeschloss) had been held by the German Frank Muschalla Trio, featuring Matthias Seuffert and Alex Schulz. A great German group, fantastic groove and swing. Then after 2100h jazz activities spread over the whole medevial town. Only a few to name: Othella Dallas, The Bohém Ragtime Jazz Band (Hungary), Niki Haris Quintet featuring Herlin Riley, etc., etc.

The main event started at the Jazz Club at Piazza Torre with Topsy Chapman & Solid Harmony. Gospel and Blues at its best! Top of the bill was the the 25th anniversary opening concert with the Big Chris Barber Band. The jazz club was overcrowded, when Chris started with Bourbon Street Parade. This great concert till midnight ended the first day... but just after midnight a jam session started at the Hotel Tamaro. Some Barber band members were playing, but we also noticed also Trevor Richards, John Defferary and many, many others.

Here are a few pictures of the first day.

John Defferary & Uncle Lionel Batiste Bohém Ragtime Jazz Band Trevor Richards
Ambrosia Brass Band, Milan
Topsy Chapman & Solid Harmony
Second Day / June 26th

Just for lunchtime various bands started to play. So I listened to the Creole Clarinets "Naquele Tempo" with former Chris Barber drummer Norman Emberson and later the Trevor Richards Trio with John Defferary. For me it was almost impossible to follow all the different bands in different places. But I did not miss the great Frank Muschalla Trio featuring Matthias Seufert and Alex Schulz. I'm sure we will hear from them in the future.

On stage at "The Debarcadero" was the Ticinum Jazz Band. While I had the chance to listen to this interesting Italian band, I missed the Chigaco Stompers as I was at the Gala Night at the Hotel Eden Roc, one of the top 5-star Hotels in Switzerland. The Gala night featured the Dutch Hurricane Brass Band with Grand Marshal Uncle Lionel Batiste and later The Big Chris Barber Band. Remarkably, the band played Ice Cream -- not heard very often these days after Pat Halcox left the band in 2008. Of course, Peter Rudeforth took over Pat's singing part.

Back in town after midnight, it was a must to go to the Hotel Tamaro for the jam sessions.

Third Day / June 27th

I spent more than an hour going through the Exhibition by SwissJazzOrama/Jazz Shop, featuring 100 years of Benny Goodman. Lots of music and video clips, representing careful research of the life of Benny.

As it was Saturday, all activites had already started just before noon and ended up on Sunday morning shortly before sunrise. The Hurricane Brass Band with Uncle Lionel Batiste were marching almost the whole day through the streets of Ascona. A special concert was held by the Olympia Ragtime Band from Italy.

By coincidence I met Chris Barber in the streets of Ascona, waiting for a TV interview by Swiss Italian TV. This interview will be broadcasted in October/November 2009 in Switzerland in a special programme celebrating the 25th Jubilee of AsconaJazz.

Unfortunately I missed the Niki Haris Quintet (USA) featuring Red Holloway and Herlin Riley, as during that time I had a great meal with friends in a typical Ticino Restaurant. The main events this evening were the third and well attendended performance of The Big Chris Barber Band at the Piazza Elvezia and the Yallopin Hounds/USA at the Jazz Club at Piazza Torre. As a follower of the Chris Barber Band I missed the Yallopin Hounds.

This review of the three Ascona days cannot be complete and there are many more good bands to name. But I was not able to go to all the concerts, and I did not take my camera with me all three days. Anyway, AsconaJazz was for me a great event and I think I will return for a few days next year.

Chris Barber, interviewed by a young lady from Swiss TV The Hurricane Brass Band with ... ... Grand Marshal Uncle Lionel Batiste

Happy Feet Brass Band
  The Big Chris Barber Band
Note: The website will soon feature a slide show of photographs taken at the Ascona Jazz Festival.

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