I always make it a point to attend a few concerts when I’m away from Malta. When I spotted the poster for this Jazz Kamp in Kranj, fourth largest city in Slovenia, I knew I had to have this event on my to-do list. There were a number of concerts on the programme, so I picked the opening night featuring Slovenian singer Ana Soklič.
The concert took place in a garden cafe in the old town centre that boasts pretty narrow streets, aligned with townhouses and richly decorated facades. Not only was it an entertaining jazz concert in an atmospheric setting, I was highly impressed by the main guest for the night. Ana has a good, deep jazz voice, with a striking similarity to that of Tina Turner’s, and amplified by a remarkable stage presence. She performed together with Big Band DOM (‘dom’ meaning home in Slovene) under the direction of veteran saxophonist Braco Doblekar.
She gave a good interpretation of Jack Keller’s Caught a Touch of Your Love of which you may have heard versions by Ray Charles or B.B. King. Cherokee, a swinging jazz standard made popular by a number of musicians including Charlie Parker and female vocalist Sarah Vaughan, was also sung with much verve.
Certain jazz concerts stand out from others when they feature standards that are not so frequently played, and this was one of them. Indian Summer, a traditional song arranged by Sammy Nestico, and Stephen Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns were a joy to listen to. Ana is also capable of adding her own touch to the songs she sings.
I interviewed her right after the concert, and I asked her about the process that she implements in her improvisation. She said: “Take Nina Simone for example. She did a mind-blowing interpretation of Barbra Streisand’s Papa can you hear me? [composed by Michel Legrand]… I quite often analyse such interpretations or covers, and then put what I’ve listened to behind me and upgrade the song with my performance, and my feelings about that song. This process takes quite some time, but I would say it’s a way of living.”
It was also interesting to see how the wishes of artists like her can be paralleled with those of Maltese artists. Ana said that she aims to travel to be able to fulfil her goals as an artist since Slovenia is too small. Rings a bell right?
“I’m looking for an agent,” she said, “someone who is not actually a musician at all – someone who’d know how to sell my project, that’s the most important thing for me at this particular moment.” She said that in writing her own music, she wants to focus on good mainstream, which for her is the complete opposite of electronic or house music.
Ana takes inspiration from musicians like Sting, Nina Simone, guitarist Jeff Beck, who performed the solo in Tina Turner’s Private Dancer, gospel queen Yolanda Adams, Sarah Vaughan, Nina Simone, Dinah Washington, Etta James, Billy Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Bettye Lavette… the list is endless.
I suggest you jazz up your day and listen to some of Ana’s music.
Excerpts from the concert at Jazz Kamp Kranj