Marseille Jazz of the 5 Continents: Herbie Hancock, Diana Krall, Stacey Kent or Rhoda Scott, but not only…
Thishe 21st edition is an edition of reunions: between artists and the public, in Marseille as in all the places visited, from Saintes-Maries de la Mer to small Provençal towns which did not expect so much
At the Five Continents Festival in Marseille, there are obviously the essentials, from Herbie Hancock to Diana Krall, from Stacey Kent to Rhoda Scott, the familiar ones, from Céline Bonacina to Robin McKelle, from Portico Quartet to Anne Paceo, from Tigran Hamasyan to Magma, the unexpected, Edouard Ferlet, Nicolas Folmer, Sylvain Rifflet, the expected, Pierrick Pedron, Charley Rose Trio, and then the finds including Nduduzo Makhathini who could single-handedly illustrate the approach of this festival which is celebrating its 21st edition.
A festival that starts gently at the end of April, rises in the towers in June and passes the 4th from July 7 to 23, before gently slowing down to stop at the beginning of August.
A multiple festival, first of all by its way of irrigating its “territory”: not content with multiplying the concerts on five different stages in Marseille itself, the event goes far beyond, from Saintes-Maries de la Mer to Eygalières, from Salon-de-Provence (with Randy Brecker in person) to Joucques via Cornillon-Confoux. On each stage, on each stage, a unique approach and the desire to match the audience, venue and guest artists. On the one hand, for a fortnight, a central space, labeled with an easily identifiable program, on the other, a swarm of encounters, more intimate concerts which take place throughout the Bouches-du-Rhône over a period of longer.
Privileged axes: meeting, diversity and the prices charged
Privileged axes of the small team at the head of the Five Continents, meeting (music, artists, audiences), diversity while remaining accessible whether by location or by the prices charged (from free to 30 euros for the most expensive concerts).
Here, no festival concentrated on a fortnight like in Marciac or Vienna, nor disproportionate gauges. It is in the schoolyard that JP Bimeni & The Black Belts are expected on July 29 in Cornillon-Confoux for a free concert. At the same time, unlike these festivals which are alone on the track when they are held, the Five Continents have to deal with a multitude of artistic and musical events which take place at the same time in Marseille, Aix and the surrounding area but not only. “There are no festival-goers here in the proper sense like in Marciac or in Vienne”, explains Hugues Kieffer, the director of the event for 6 years.
Still, the event welcomes 25,000 spectators on the festival part, or even between 50,000 and 60,000 people if we include all the concerts organized (free or not). Here, the festival does not forget that it is primarily financed by public money (city, metropolis, department, region), Sacem and a few private partners and that the objective is to remain balanced . “It’s an obligation,” says Hughes Kieffer; it is money that does not belong to us but belongs to everyone”.
Recovering from two years of pandemic
On closer inspection, the festival model that most appeals to the Five Continents is Coutances and its Jazz under the Apple Trees: for its programming of course, but also for this way of associating an entire territory with the event: is the best festival, they manage to capture the whole of a region”.
Hence perhaps also the humility and lucidity that inspire the soul of the Five Continents: “we are not Marciac or Antibes, emphasizes Hugues Kieffer, but there are plenty of magnificent things to do”.
No doubt, like the others, this festival must first recover from the two years of pandemic which, here as elsewhere, leave their mark (audience habits, various reluctance, new ways of approaching music). For this, he can no doubt count on the vitality of a very active local jazz scene, while keeping in mind that such a festival must “move”: “this is the basis, especially in Marseille. We must be constantly on the move; it’s up to us to think about how to reformat the encounter between the musician and the public, with obviously the economic in the middle”.