Upward Spiral concert review: Warsaw Summer Jazz

Warsaw Summer Jazz, which ran from 6 – 9 July, is a fairly recent offshoot of the much longer-established Warsaw Jazz Jamboree held each November by the same promoters. The venue was a converted factory in a large arts complex just outside Warsaw city centre.
Well organised and consistently well attended, it featured three bands nightly from 7pm to midnight (but only two on the last night with a slightly earlier finish). So in all, there were 11 groups of remarkably high quality.

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Sunday was the festival's big night with a slightly older crowd and a jam-packed house. Miguel Zenon was another top-notch Coltrane stylist with an excellent rhythm section. They avoided distractions by omitting announcements or any showboating. They just played for each other to create an intense and rewarding mood throughout their set.

There was no doubt about who the crowd had come to see when Kurt Elling and the Branford Marsalis Quartet took the stage to rapturous applause. After a bright instrumental opener, it was Kurt all the way – dominating proceedings with his amiable personality and captivating singing and scatting. In truth, every song was outstanding but his brilliance shone best on the slow ballads Blue Gardenia and I'm A Fool To Want You (the latter in duo with Branford with an echo of Billie and Pres) and his centrepiece Practical Arrangement (perhaps the most perfect marriage proposal in popular song). They finished with St James Infirmary where everyone was featured at length including Kurt's party-piece with paper cup “growl trumpet” and Branford's tribute to Sidney Bechet.

The concert was rewarded with the longest standing ovation of the festival but this honour was deserved by all the bands and the organisers for a truly impressive and enjoyable event.