Monday, December 10, 2012

Linda Presgrave makes fourth appearance
at Italian "Women In Jazz" festival

Linda Presgrave and Stan Chovnick in Frascati, Italy
Pianist, composer and St. Louis expat Linda Presgrave last month performed a concert in Frascati, Italy as part of the annual series Donne in Jazz (Women in Jazz), presented by the Italian cultural organization Fondazione Adkins Chiti.

The concert on November 4 was Presgrave's fourth appearance in Frascati. She first played there in 2003 as part of a five-woman ensemble affiliated with International Women in Jazz, and was asked to return to headline her own concert the following year. She and her quartet - which includes her husband, soprano saxophonist Stan Chovnick - returned onve again in 2007.

This year's gig, however, presented some new challenges, starting with just getting out of New York City, where Presgrave has lived since 1998. "We were lucky to make it out of New York since our flight to Rome was only a few days after Hurricane Sandy," she said.

In addition, the series' organizers had some new budget limitations this time around. "In the past I have played there with my whole quartet, but because of economic constraints in Italy we were fortunate to even go as a duo, and then needed to add a bassist in Italy."

That bassist turned out to be Euphemia Mascolo, who already was working with the presenting organization. "Euphemia was a wonderful bassist," said Presgrave. "The only problem was that she did not speak any English, and my Italian is very very very limited."

"I did not know until I arrived that (she) did not speak English but I was prepared in case she did not. I had emailed the lead sheets to Euphemia, which, as they are bass parts, they are not that much help until you actually play together," she said. "Also, with jazz of course the lead sheet is basically a guide - a vehicle for you to play over. And the pieces were not "standards" - (they were) all original and unfamiliar music written by women jazz artists."

Though the producers had a translator standing by, as it turned out, all Presgrave, Chovnick and Mascolo really needed to pull the music together was a little extra rehearsal time. "Of course musical terms being in Italian - that helps, and then what little bits of Italian I could put together from my Italian/English dictionary - we made it," said Presgrave.

In keeping with the theme of the festival, Presgrave performed a program of music all written by women composers. "One of the highlights was performing my composition "Rome" for an Italian audience," she said. The trio also performed Presgrave's "Place Picasso," "Colors of Collioure," and "Asakusa View (for Japan)," as well as works by Anat Cohen, Allison Miller, Gloria Cooper, Andrea Brachfeld and Renee Rosnes.

"The one great thing about music is that it is a truly universal language all of its own," said Presgrave. "We played to a packed house and sold out all the CDs that we brought to Italy, which is terrific considering that the music we performed is not that familiar to American audiences, much less European audiences."

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