When I was first invited over to cover the Jazz Composers Forum I was not too sure what to expect. I knew that The Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos had arranged a series of eight concerts each headed by a contemporary international composer which were to take place at the Cine-Teatro Constantino Nery in Matosinhos.
The OJM (The Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos) also commissioned each composer to premiere an original piece at the festival, with a view to later releasing a CD containing the eight original works played by the OJM. Prior to explaining the work of each composer it is necessary to briefly describe the important role the OJM plays in the cultural growth of Jazz in the region of Porto.
Musical directors Pedro Guedes and Carlos Azevedo have spearheaded the expansion of the OJM over the last 15 years from big band innovation to a staple in the regional Jazz diet, beating down a now well worn path for future generations of Jazz musicians and composers to follow. With this in mind, and still keen on further elevating the possibilities for regional musicians, The Jazz Composers Forum was born.
My introduction to the series came with Belgian melodist composer, Frank Vaganée, artistic director of the Brussels Jazz Orchestra. Each composer meets the 18-piece orchestra when they are fresh from the plane and has 2/3 days with which to impart their knowledge, practise their chosen works and refine their festival premiere piece.
During this time the theatre is closed but I was lucky enough to gain access to witness the trials and deliberations that go on behind closed doors in order for the performance to go ahead and I must say it was eye-opening. Not only for the unmistakable professionalism that is clearly on display but also the minute attention to detail which this process demands.
Frank Vaganee himself treads the more traditional route conducting the merry band of OJM with his brand of Charlie Parker & Ornette Coleman inspired instrumental work. He first studied classical music at the Mechelen Conservatory, and then at the Royal Antwerp Conservatory. Since the early 80s playing the saxophone in various orchestras which saw him grace the TV and travel the world prior to being named the most important jazz talent in Belgium and winning several awards including the CERA Jeugd en Muziek Prijs, the Prix Nicolas d'Or with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, the Django d’Or and recently honoured by your hometown of Mechelen.
Music-News.com caught up with Frank Vaganee after his exceptional performance at the Jazz Composers Forum to find out more about his multi-facetted career.